The two biggest technology complaints at the Summer O.R. Show 2017 were slow commerce technology and lack of unification

The Two Biggest Technology Complaints at The O.R. Show

In Customer Experience by Ben JohnsonLeave a Comment

I’m really not sure why we all do it at the end of each Outdoor Retailer Show, but we hold on to the badges we’ve worn around our necks, and carefully stow them away in our drawers with all the others years past. I think it signifies a trophy of some sort: lots of lanyards from different sponsors, some popular brands and some not, and an array of different colors signify this spaghetti of a mess in my drawer, and I’m sure of some others.

This last badge was different, though. It was to no longer represent a time at the trusty old Utah Salt Palace. Nostalgia holds strong in this building, especially growing up in SLC, and watching this building go from the arena venue that hosted the the Grateful Dead in 1981, and the washed up Salt Lake Golden Eagles hockey team.

Away from the bittersweet feelings of the trade show's SLC departure, I found some tech-centric digital commerce themes that developed through my conversations with brands representing this show.

The new building that hosted the last 20 years of O.R. will also have a dramatic memory of watching a rare tornado blaze through the street and lift over the Mormon temple to only further rip out trees and roofs on capitol hill.

With the big push for a new O.R. location starting next winter, my first tendency is to be mad, but as we often tell ourselves, change is good, and SLC should be proud of what we have accomplished as a city — even when some leaders’ agenda doesn’t support the beliefs of the contingency popular at O.R..

Away from the bittersweet feelings of the trade show’s SLC departure, I found some tech-centric digital commerce themes that developed through my conversations with brands representing this show. And just like the lanyards collection, growing from one year to another, so have the technological pains that these sports and outdoor companies face in their everyday commercial activities:

1. Slow Technology Adoption

I was surprised to still hear about the slow adoption of business tools across organizations, especially when it comes to sales channels intrinsic to the the industry, like B2B sites.

Yes, there are plenty of companies who have B2B platforms out there, but some are still slow in adapting to a digital solution for their retailers to place an order. These business owners say they’re not in a hurry to change the status quo because they don’t want to leave ordering up to their retailers, preferring that reps usher orders along.

I also heard a lot about interface struggles, where retailers are having a hard time logging into B2B portals, creating logins, and seeing drop out from these hurdles. Not only is poor UX a hindrance for new and existing buyers, but it also shows these tools’ ineffectiveness.

Failing to adapt to customers’ expectations for an omni-channel experience, be they B2B or B2C customers, will inevitably backfire, and hurt your organization.

When B2B storefronts are tied to other company systems in place, companies benefit greatly from the unified commerce experience — the result of automated interdepartmental communication, data processing, and timely fulfillment. Failing to adapt to customers’ expectations for an omni-channel experience, be they B2B or B2C customers, will inevitably backfire, and hurt your organization.

Recreation industry statistics show that there’s a growing loyal, inquisitive, and global customer base, just waiting to be wooed with the same level of digital prowess that outdoor brands show in developing their latest gear. For sports and outdoor retailers in particular, juggling multi-store, -brand, -language, and -currency commercial setups, along with buyers, end-consumers, employee purchases, and pro programs makes their technological demands more sophisticated than most other industries. Luckily for them, the future of digital commerce for outdoor retailers is very much a reality at the present time, as well.

This leads me to my next common digital theme at O.R., lack of unified technology, or as we call it “Unified Commerce.”

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2. Lack of Process Unification

As a company’s revenues grows, so must their technology set. Scaling IT capabilities across the board, however, is usually not a matter of simply creating more users. SMBs get caught up in upgrading and replacing technology one at a time, since it is a cost-effective strategy, but that produces an entire suite of conundrums in this ever-changing ecommerce landscape. Bottlenecks soon catch up, and the piece-by-piece strategy becomes a victim of its own demise.

Business systems that grow through patchwork tend to feel the repercussions in times of system stress, when high order volumes that should have marked a good campaign, or season, results in lost sales, backorders, frustrated employees, and frustrated customers.

Instead of only looking to fix, or add one part of the technology solution, an organization would be better off viewing the entire system as a whole, and working on unifying as many components as possible.

Instead of only looking to fix, or add one part of the technology solution, an organization would be better off viewing the entire system as a whole, and working on unifying as many components as possible. Contrary to popular belief, this usually ends up being a more cost effective way to enhance business capabilities than any temporary upgrade, or band-aid — and they are ALL temporary, if you are serious about growing your business.

Today’s technological advancements have brought the previously prohibitive prices of high-tech unified commerce systems down to that of a basic enterprise ecommerce platform, while providing added efficiency, visibility, and ease of use. A unified commerce platform replaces dozens of overly-specialized SaaS, and legacy technologies held together by duct-tape, with a single, unified, and simplified view of the entire business.

With Unified Commerce, decisions that impact the future of the company can be made today, fully trusting that there is a base foundation for you and your technology to grow.

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Digital Transformation is key

Following in the heels of a lack of B2B solutions, businesses expressed several hurdles relating to omni-channel pricing strategies. With more and more sales devices, methods and best practices popping up, managing pricing for these channels is challenging, especially when multiple technology sets exist.

If a business is having to manage different price lists for different marketplaces, huge inefficiencies exist. Managing multiple price lists can be much easier, but consolation must occur with the usage of pricing rules and classification of groups of people / businesses or a “party”.

It’s obvious that technology is one of the greatest challenges facing outdoor companies. There is no better time to be in the outdoor industry — the drive to get outside and explore the wild blue yonder has never been stronger –, but the idea of changing technologies is a daunting one. We understand that. After all, change is also scary.

But perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the O.R. Show affair. What worked for the largest outdoor recreation expo and conference in the US for 20 years came to a close. The organizers, too, were forced to change. They adapted to the times.

Perhaps while the trade show makes its great transition from SLC to Denver, companies in the O.R. vertical should consider their own transformation — from old outdated systems keeping them in the dark ages, to new, robust, powerful systems that will usher in a new era of digital commerce. There is no better time to start than today, so let’s usher in a newer, better outdoor industry across the board.

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