Speaking about the onset of the digital age, the author and entrepreneur Daniel Priestley noted how for the last decade we have been talking about how technology and the digital age have changed everything.
From now however, he warns, it’s going to get “very real”:
“Right now the business world (is continuing) to have break-throughs in speech recognition, automation, robotics, logistics, processing power, data management... A tipping point has (been) hit...”
Yet the circle isn’t squared unless the way we buy from the supply-side is equally innovative.
In China, according to China Daily, the government's (thirteenth) Five Year Plan sets out ambitious e-commerce targets for 2020, including increasing the trading volume of e-commerce to 40 trillion yuan (£4.5 trillion) and the expectation that 50 million people will be employed in the sector.
Yet this is not the most interesting thrust of the plan. The Chinese are looking to drive transformation by deepening supply-side reform and achieving the integration of the internet and the real economy. By ‘real’ they mean traditional industries.
As Lu Zhenwang. Wanquing Consultancy, Shanghai puts it: “The next step ... how to better integrate traditional industry with e-commerce.”?
The Chinese recognise the benefits – freeing up staff time; cross border collaboration, ease of sourcing products and information, instant costing, quick turnaround and delivery. But traditional industries in the UK have been slow to fully embrace e-commerce for buying parts or services.
While an individual will happily buy what they need through eBay or Amazon, buying for a company is seen as much more difficult. It isn’t a case of an e-commerce offering being insecure, or in any way unreliable but about the customer side purchasing and accounting practices - the fear of a shortened process leaving those with fiduciary responsibility exposed.
The other elephant in the room is the average age of a board director in the UK - still 59 (62 in the largest companies), which may go some way to explaining the reluctance to “risk” changing purchasing and reporting systems.
“Never get into a business you don’t understand” the old adage goes but change we must because innovation is making those up and coming companies and countries, leaner, faster and more competitive; by reaching resources quickly and more cost effectively than their bigger established competitors – mainly because of e-commerce.
“You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and still be in business tomorrow,” Steve Pearson, owner of Valve & Process Solutions Ltd, explains.
“We have customers who know exactly what they want and they want it quick. While others need a conversation about exact specifications and solutions with someone who has the knowledge to give advice and has the resources to provide the products required - made up and ready to go”
While his firm had the latter covered, with a service proven over a decade of successful client partnerships, Pearson recognised there was a better way of helping the former. In doing so, the company found its customers wanted access to both aspects.
The upshot was the launch of the company’s first ecommerce website - Valve Express - which has proven so popular that V&PS have now launched Switchbox Express.
The difference between these two and other online resources is that Valve & Process Solutions is not a ‘pick & pack warehouse’. Everything available at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen on Switchbox Express has been chosen with the same engineering experience customers have become accustomed to from V&PS – with the added benefit of the World’s largest inventory of industry leading Westlock Controls products.
Says Pearson: “With every successful clickthrough transaction, we are proving to our customers in traditional industries there is nothing to fear from adding an efficient online service to their purchasing armoury – while always being available to discuss the bigger and more complex solutions needed to deal with any required outcome”