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Aligning Technology and Demography to Effect Positive Change in Wholesaling

The often quoted dictum “demography is destiny” has its roots in political analysis, but it's taking on a whole new meaning in today's business; as wholesalers respond to increasingly volatile business conditions, the most successful ones are looking to demography and aligning it with technological developments to keep ahead of the competition.

Keeping pace with change across the business ecosystem is increasingly a concern of wholesalers and distributors. In a report by Aberdeen Group, the need to innovate and update outdated ways of doing business is identified as the top driver within the sector. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed identified this need, as opposed to 38 percent who identified the need to maximize return on assets and simplify and/or reduce risks from business processes.

Here's how Aberdeen describes the landscape that is resulting in this change-focused orientation:

The wholesale and distribution industries, as well as the people they employ, are in a state of change. Online commerce and the prevalence of third-party logistics partners have altered the ways that organizations take orders and get their products into the hands of their customers. … While ERP technology has long aided wholesalers and distributors in their quest for profits, the new business environment calls for technology that is more collaborative, more predictive, and enables enhanced agility. 

Aligning this new technology with the workforce is key from two perspectives: first, new skillsets will be required of employees; second, the technology itself becomes a differentiator for companies looking to acquire new talent.

Not surprisingly, top wholesalers are targeting millennials for recruitment because of their ability to impact change in the organization. This strategy is driven by a desire to add those who can facilitate change to the personnel mix, as well as the fact that both the lack of skilled labor and the advancing age of the current workforce are growing concerns. Of all available groups, millennials are most aligned with the use of emerging technology and undaunted by the pace of technological change. 

The Aberdeen study found that top-performing wholesalers and distributors were providing intuitive, attractive, and flexible technology to attract and support these “change agents,” and at the same time are more likely to provide social, mobile, and analytic technology for their operations.

Four Steps to Success

Based on its study, Aberdeen recommends four steps to improve wholesaling and distribution performance in these challenging times:

  • Identify potential employees (or existing employees) who can be catalysts for change. Top-performing organizations target millennials in their talent acquisition strategies, but also do not forget to uncover and encourage any existing top-performing employees who may not be providing their full potential.
  • Provide simple, usable, modern technology. The new generation of employees wants to work for organizations that provide technology that makes it easier for them to do their jobs and supports their ability to impact change. They do not want to struggle with rigid software and expect technology that mirrors the consumer tools they use outside of work.
  • Enable change agents to drive continuous improvement. An innovative employee is useless without a structure designed to take their ideas and turn them into business change. Best-in-class wholesalers and distributors are 50 percent more likely to have cross-functional continuous improvement teams.
  • Implement emerging, innovative technology. It's not about just having technology that is easy to use. It's about having technology that supports the ways that change agents want to do business. Best-in-class wholesalers and distributors are more likely to have business analytics, mobile access, and social business capabilities integrated into ERP.


Posted by Epicor Distribution Insights Team


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