To survive in the digital world we are all now part of, office products resellers must take steps to enter it and, the longer this is put off, the more urgent it becomes. Digital transformation is not an "opt-out" program for resellers. We know the ongoing switch from analog is not going away and we know resellers, who elect to stay in the analog world, are (sooner or later) destined to fail.
These days it's pretty easy to deploy an e-commerce site with a full complement of office products. It's pretty easy to integrate the technology to link these products to suppliers and to set it up for conducting transactions online.
The problem is, that because it's relatively easy to get all this done, this is what has been done and it's what has, unfortunately, failed - many, many times! These actions have proven to be inadequate as a foundation for a digital business transformation.
Why does this strategy fail?
Because this effort has all been geared to the final (decision) stage of the buying process and, because it lacks the other elements necessary for a successful digital strategy, it's turned out to be of little to no value.
As we all know, it has become the norm for anyone interested in buying anything to research online first. All of this buyer research transmits intent that correlates to the different stages of the buyer's journey.
The fundamental mistake typical office products resellers are making is the failure to create content targeted at the awareness and consideration stages of the buying process. These are the critical stages that must be leveraged to qualify a business in readiness for future buying decisions.
The following two requirements are vital to establishing the foundation for a digital business transformation:
- Developing brand awareness through the process of leveraging high-quality content designed to build web traffic and;
- Thereby qualifying a business as a potential supplier for when the buyer reaches his or her decision point.
It's really simple, if content for the first two stages is not deployed, there is no foundation to qualify a business for a transaction when a buyer is ready to buy.
It used to be the physical, brick and mortar store that qualified a business for potential buyer transactions. As a buyer prepared to buy, the buyer went shopping. There was no online option - they literally went shopping. A poorly maintained or positioned store was (and remains) less likely to transact than a well positioned, well-maintained store. Store owners were thereby heavily incentivized to make the most of their real estate.
What has changed?
Very little! In fact, the only part of the buying process that has substantially changed is:
- The buyer's access to information, and;
- Fewer buyers leaving their houses or offices to shop.
Unfortunately, though, these two changes have profound implications.
Instead of investing in brick and mortar and stocking a physical store to run a business, it has become necessary to invest and establish an online presence.
It used to only be the biggest players who could afford the highest rents, in the prime locations, and best position themselves to benefit from the highest volumes of foot traffic. Today, however, it's much more of a level playing field. The vast majority of potential buyers and sellers have access to the internet and, it really doesn't cost any more for the smallest of companies to "rent" some space on the internet, than it does for the largest of companies.
As a result, the barriers to establishing a basic website are low and there are now nearly one billion sites proliferating the internet. The issue for business owners has become one of developing awareness for their sites. Unfortunately, there's almost zero chance to have qualified traffic organically arriving and ready to transact without them doing so.
It used to be, as buyers, our choice was limited to what was stocked in the local stores we chose to drive to. This gradually changed as, (for example) in its day, the Sears catalog became a huge success because it expanded the product offering and increased consumer choice. The internet has now taken this process to an entirely new level, evolving to provide almost unlimited information and unlimited choice.
The problem has always been to stand out from the crowd and a prime location in the High Street used to help accomplish this. Now, the real estate environment has changed and it's no longer the High Street and it's no longer about being able to afford the highest rent. It's about the internet and it's about developing awareness for a website, and its brand, within this new platform of "digital" real estate.
This is where every digital transformation must start - with a website and with the realization that it, alone, is not enough to separate anyone from the crowd. Without a comprehensive strategy to develop relevant, qualified traffic, it may just as well not exist.
The foundation for a digital transformation must be the company's website and the value proposition that it must communicate. There are technical, content, and automation standards necessary to accomplish these requirements that, based on hundreds of evaluations, appear to be beyond the current understanding, or resources, of most independent office products resellers.
Without a strong foundation (website) to build a digital business transformation strategy upon, then attempts to transform will fail. Ask yourself:
- How well does my website perform today?
- Shouldn't I test it to learn how strong my existing digital foundation is?
Are you an "analog" reseller or have you already taken the necessary steps to become "digital"? Please click the button below to open a SlideShare that defines the difference between analog and digital.
What are the implications of ignoring the requirements to transform from analog to digital? Please click the link below to interact with our proprietary E and S Solutions Market Share Business Calculator developed exclusively for the North American office products reseller.