Technology has changed everything: the way we find a holiday for example. Back in the day, the only way was to visit a high street travel agency, we now go online and browse flights, hotels or packages and compare thousands from the comfort of the sofa.
Technology has changed the way we shop by a significant amount and this is not set to stop. Even in relationships, people often rely on the Internet to find a new partner. But the digital revolution did not touch only individuals, it has affected and reshaped businesses: To sell cars, or home appliances, to advertise services or to find employees, online is the primary route. A business either adapt to that or they are scheduled to extinguish within a few years.
But how about a vital part of business operation: Procurement?
Yes, businesses go again online to find products they need for their stores or their customers. They shop around like everyone else and more and more businesses have a dedicated B2B store for these savvy clients. One part of this business is lagging though: cross border procurement.
So, if a business wants to sell in another country, this is by and large what they do: they prepare a nice set of paper brochures, have a few boxes of samples, book a trade show in the target country for a large amount of money and send their export manager to that country. This rep stays there for a few days, tries to meet a maximum number of keen buyers at the show and does the follow-up in the hope of finding a distributor.
Seems reasonable? Why not? But this has been the case of decades now and if something remains untouched during the fourth industrial revolution; it does not feel right.
A simple comparison: what is better and more efficient? Sharing a WhatsApp link to the brochure or handing the paper one. To start, the link allows you to get your potential client contact number. 1 – nil. The link allows saving on printing costs 2 – nil. The link is always in your phone i.e. in your pocket: 3 – nil. The link can be shared instantly with many people and be forwarded 4 – nil and shall we go on? Ah, the brochure has a better feel to it and can be read even if there is no network. So, let us settle for 6 – 2!
And this is just a tiny element of business interaction between visitors and exhibitors so imagine what can be done if the technology is used wisely to digitalise more features of this effort.
For a producer, having a “gadget” that is on his/her laptop or iPad, organised in an ergonomic way, simple, complete and appealing with which he can market his company and products physically or remotely, can have access without browsing outdated pdfs or incomplete brochures designed by external agencies, would be a good thing right? We have visited many producers before launching our products and asked them whether this is of interest. The reaction was initially a bit disappointing. It was like trying to sell an Amazon Echo or a Google Home. Answers were: why do I need this? Na, I prefer to use my pen and notepad. Is this safe? But perhaps the most enlightening answers were not a judgement on the idea, it was a remake of it: Most of those we approached, were obsessed with one thing: more sales! Cost almost did not matter or was not properly quantified. What they cared about is to boost the bottom line but how to get there was almost secondary. Surely this is not a well-rounded business strategy but we cannot change habits overnight so we adapted our product.
More to come.