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Screen Shot 2019 08 22 at 4.34.15 PMECi intensifies
leadership grip

Bowerfind Acselerates CRM,
analytics drive. Nxt MCom?


Industry systems leader in US/UK, ECi Software Solutions with 1600 dealer installations, appointed a new distribution chief Brian Bowerfind 2 years ago. We discussed progress of developments adoption since his arrival, best practices and the key challenges that lie ahead.... Updated

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books ron eciWe have followed ECi progress under Ron Books' (pic left) leadership for the past 20 years since he joined the company in 1999. Over that time we have praised and been critical of its support for the independent dealer channel and its "on-off' relationship with the OP wholesalers .

Under Books' leadership ECI has grown orgnically and through acquisition of several rival software houses to dominate the iDC community. Of course, dominance does not always mean progress for dealers and can slow developments in order to compete with the bigboxes and over the last 12 years+ Amazon.

Screen Shot 2019 08 22 at 4.34.27 PMBack in 2005, Essendant (then United) took the 'bull by the horns' and contracted with the mighty SAP to provide an industry leading system for its top 50 dealers. Its $40m investment failed as the 'sledgehammer to crack a nut', by not getting the intricacies of personailsed pricing. Essendant bought another software firm MBS Dev, a Microsoft dealer systems software firm, with its compensation money (estimated at $15m). As a result MBS Dev attacked many of the ECi established dealers inc. GSB, Guernsey & Innovative but failed to convert over a period of years.

ECi, probably less well advanced in CRM systems survived and was revitalised. It introduced a number of dealer tools including AcSellerate CRM system, Jumptrak returns, CartIQ abandoned cart intelligence; cloud based services and OfficeShopper, its mobile app. 

"The challenge after launching these new developments/apps is getting dealers to invest iand adopt them. This even though they may have been calling loudly for more technology assistance said Bowerfind. . We understand, we were in regular touch with Books and dealer account manager Amy Brown and understand ther frustrations of dealer adoption.

"The analytics apps seem to be the most popular in adoption e.g. AcSellerate is now installed in 50% of the 1600 dealer clients" confirmed Bowerfind. Many dealers initially use these as a 'Control Reps Movement' tool rather than measuring customers spend v potential in each product category. We feel it still used crudely by dealers in OP spend gap analysis rather than in the current 10 categories of business supply spend. 

"We are providing more education services and our specialist field reps are visiting dealers to promote more effective use. Moreover our teleservice teams are calling dealers to monitor progress and offer help" continued Bowerfind. 

Screen Shot 2014 12 31 at 4.09.28 PMOne of the most important developments was the OfficeShopper app introduced in 2014 to facilitate users preference for purchasing via mobile phone. Early adopters struggled to implement beaause of reps' reluctance to 'sell-in' to the office supplies buyer. This was the case we reported with some of the most progressive resellers involved with ECi.

We asked Bowerfind for an update on the status of Mcommerce adoption. "Little has changed. The belief is businesses primarily buy via desktops or PC's." So nothing has changed with dealers attitude since 2014, probably because reps continue to sell to the stationery buyer, once responsible for 80% purchases, now diminished to <30% of business supplies spend.

Meanwhile, Amazon markets directly to Lucy, the users chooser responsible for 60%+ of business supply purchases and who prefers to buy via mobile. Moreover, thse are  most valuable high margin stuff that dealers want, instead they have to deliver the low margin commodities & most expensive to ship paper, towels & tissues. 

"We are working in more close cooperation with wholesalers in gaining more dealer commitment to our joint developments. We're cooperating on content management, more comprehensive product information for webstores, code translation etc."

This is good news but still leaves dealers deficient with the MCommerce one-click 'browse and buy' experience of Amazon. We urge ECi/wholesalers to collaborate more closely and build showcase studies of best practices in MCommerce, e-promotions and managed productivity services to demonstrate success e.g. WBMason, Innovative, industrywide

 

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