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DISTRIBUTORS IN TRANSITION -- E-enabled Dealers

September 2001
BY CAROLINE MILLER


When Imaging Supplies & Equipment e-enabled their Website six months ago, they didn't see themselves as trailblazers. Instead, the $34 million Fuji dealer, based just outside of Los Angeles in Lindwood, CA, thought of it merely as a good business strategy, reports Imaging Supplies & Equipment President Chuck Bertoni.

"We saw it as good business sense. We wanted to put a tool together for our current accounts and to make it easier for them to do business with us," he says.

Even so, according to North American Graphic Arts Suppliers Association (NAGASA) President Greg DuRoss, companies like Imaging Supplies & Equipment are indeed the pioneers.

Today's dealers are being assaulted by a variety of challenges. As a result, they are often putting e-commerce on the back burner, states DuRoss. "This is an unprecedented era of change and upheaval in the industry. E-commerce is just one of those mega-forces that dealers and manufacturers must deal with all at one time. There is also consolidation, rapid technological change and a bad economy with an uncertain short-term outlook. Given all of these mega-forces, e-commerce can be a tough sell."

The sell only gets tougher when dealers begin to factor in the cost of e-enabling their Websites.

"Dealers are skeptical of e-commerce. They're required to spend all this money to become e-commerce enabled. They see this as cash outflow with no increasing cash inflow to cover those costs," he reports.

However, Bertoni sees the investment into an e-commerce enabled Website as a way to eventually improve his efficiency while saving money—not only for Imaging Supplies & Equipment, but also for its clients.

Imaging Supplies & Equipment clients can access their accounts 24 hours a day by typing in their passwords. Clients can then use a host of tools that enable them to track deliveries, as well as their spending habits. Customers can also order some supplies over the Internet, Bertoni explains. Currently, Imaging Supplies & Equipment is testing an inventory capability that would enable it to manage clients' inventories and alert them when their inventories run low.

While Imaging Supplies & Equipment salespeople are only using the system with a limited number of customers at this point, those who are using the new Website have been very happy with the system's new capabilities.

"They love it," reveals Bertoni. "It provides them with access 24 hour a day. For example, if their CPA is working late on invoices, he has the ability to get up on the Web and look at the data."
 

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