Selecting the right ERP for your business

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) are systems and software used by organizations to run their operations. It can do everything from accounting to project management. It's big business, too. The ERP software market is expected to generate $47 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2022, according to Market Research Future.

While ERP only started picking up speed in 1995, its importance is growing. Selecting the right ERP for a business is a task that takes time, resources and a gut check for a company about what makes them unique.

An ideal ERP is one that was selected for the right reasons, designed with purpose and implemented on time and on budget, and then also allowed for quick benefits realization. That would be the first stages of an ideal ERP and then also one that could scale and adapt with an organization's changing needs.

ERPs have grown up

ERPs started to become essential to business between 1995 and 2000 and mainstream by 2000. That's when Oracle went from Oracle Financials to enterprise resource planning and SAP went from being very very strong in logistics to ERP.

Clients now want that ERP but they also still want a certain kind of functionality that they have from their own systems, especially in analytics, helping them run their companies but also provide data that can help them make decisions about moving forward.


Moving to the cloud

In the last five years, there's been a rush into the cloud. Some are consolidating best practices from different products, and some have been completely re-written from the ground up, and some are right there in the middle.

Some vendors are launching on-premise versions of their cloud-based software too. There is a bit of market resistance because these cloud applications are not fully mature quite yet.

There's also not a big difference in price between premise-based licenses and cloud-based pricing but the savings "is really more coming from rapid implementations. These ERPs have more best practices and standard processes built into their systems, and companies are more willing to adapt certain processes where it makes sense to fit those in.

Moving to the cloud can save money in some less-than-obvious ways too, like with IT costs because ERP handles a lot of those functions for the company instead of requiring labor on site, according to Kite. 

That will be more of a cost savings in the next 10 years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics expects 1 million computer programming jobs to go unfulfilled by 2020, and companies won't need to invest in talent searches or pay the high salaries that competition for talent will drive.   

Another cost benefit is upgrades can be offered more often, going from a typical two- to three-year gap where, in a cloud-based ERP, companies can have one every quarter. That means security is updated every quarter so that a company doesn't become the next Target or Sony.

In making this transition, it's really important for companies to figure out their true processes. Often companies haven't done a minimum amount of work. Getting everyone on the same page to define what makes them stand out, and what are their absolute must haves in new software, is essential.

Along those lines, companies should also dedicate resources to the transition. Often we see there's not enough allocation and subject matter expertise available to dedicate to the design and configuration of the ERP.

What to expect in the next 5 years

Mobility has been a focus on the vendor end too. We've gotten very used to the ease of use, so it's not just ease of use with what the interface looks like, but also with the ability to have it on any device, anytime, anywhere.

Clients are also demanding multidimensional reporting to drive insights. Foresight from those reports and integration allows multiple divisions within one company to work together. A lot of that comes from the customer base, and their journey to really build out end to end processes.

To learn more about selecting the right ERP for your business, please contact us at

Organizing product taxonomy for B2B eCommerce

Product taxonomy has evolved over the years from being a way to search and find information on a website to establishing an innovative e-commerce experience and competitive advantage. Retailers have invested great resources to create ideal user experiences and present the appropriate content and products to the right users at the right time. Information users see is matched with their past purchase history, wants and needs, location and behavioral data.

Manufacturers and distributors must also provide a good customer experience, and offer products and services that match their customers’ needs. Whether it is B2C or B2B, the ability to easily answer customer questions is key to success. In the retail space, there is typically a large amount of products, but a limited number of questions that B2C buyers have about those products. Industrial products adds more complexity because each product can have thousands of uses or applications. Many B2B products exist in combination with systems, components, and engineering designs that can be used in combination with other products and solutions, which presents more questions and challenges for the buyer.    

The B2B space has evolved slower than B2C due to these complexities. Historically, large industrial catalogs that B2B buyers used as sources of reference and design ideas were considered their “Bible”. Many manufacturers and distributors of B2B products published paper catalogs, which grew larger and larger as their product line expanded. 

The role of information

B2B customers visit an e-commerce website of a specialist manufacturer because that supplier has incorporated knowledge about solutions to problems into the engineering and manufacture of its products.  However, surfacing that physical solution (knowledge embodied in a physical product) requires surfacing information about that solution from various perspectives. Users consider their problems in different contexts and have varying mental models to describe their needs. Many factors can be relevant when a B2B customer is looking for a sophisticated product. 

The questions that will lead users to solve that problem need to be represented by data on the manufacturer’s website – typically in a way that can be searched or queried as the user answers progressively more detailed questions about their needs.  In the pre-Internet era, this was handled through a conversation, either in person or on the phone. Because it is difficult to capture all the knowledge for hundreds of thousands or millions of products with endless use cases, scenarios and details, many manufacturers of complex devices and components have depended more on expert interactions than on their websites. As the industry evolved, more of this information became readily available, but human experts are still part of the process, and B2B organizations are still challenged in developing the correct structures for accessing solutions.  

Organizing product taxonomy

Taxonomies can be based on the fundamental nature of the product. For example, drills and saws are tools; plywood and 2x4s are different types of lumber. But they can also be organized according by the characteristics of an object that would cause a customer to choose one version over another, such as how much power they have (in the case of tools) or what type of wood they are made of (in the case of lumber).  That is where the nuances of product details and attribute models come in to play.  Product taxonomy can provide a broad grouping, but sub-groupings are created according to specific characteristics.

Applications and solutions

Taxonomies can also describe applications of the product. What are the typical problems that the product solves? Use cases are designed for audience and industry. Certain products in the B2B space have vastly different applications across industries. There may be hundreds of use cases and problems to solve across all industries, but only a few dozen when applied to a particular industry combined with an application. Classifying products by application can narrow the options to a realistic number.  


Another way to describe products and product groupings is by solution. A solution addresses a particular need through a combination of products or products and services. Certain products might improve safety, or be more cost effective. Others might have been designed to be more lightweight than previous versions of products, or energy efficient. Solutions can be considered from an engineering point of view, as a system of products, or they can be used to describe a more ambiguous requirement that has many different possible approaches. “Green” or “sustainable,” “energy efficient” or “extreme conditions.” These terms can be used in a product description to describe a benefit achieved from using a particular product. Or from an application of the product. These ideas can be subjective and are usually dependent on context.


Describing and codifying expertise 

Descriptive taxonomies need to be developed specifically for each industry.  The quality of the user experience is dependent not only on the quality of information but also on how well it aligns with the way a customer is thinking about the problem they want to solve. Solution and application taxonomies present the expertise of the supplier, and how that supplier organizes their product knowledge.  


Choosing one supplier over another is partly determined by how well users can navigate and retrieve information to solve their problems and satisfy their need. Specialists know more about the unique technologies than the buyer typically does about their challenge. A buyer may not be aware of new ways of combining technologies and products that could save them money, increase reliability, improve safety, reduce turnaround time or offer other benefits to the customer and end-user. The unique competitive advantage of a B2B company is therefore dependent not only on product selection, depth and quality, but also on how those differentiators are captured, organized and represented through the user experience.  

The implication is far reaching – market value and the value in the mind of the customer – depends as much on expertise as an engineer of information as it does on your expertise as a product specialist.

To learn more about organizing product taxonomy for B2B e-commerce, please contact us at

An executive conversation with MetLife chief digital officer, Greg Baxter


An Executive Conversation with MetLife chief digital officer, Greg Baxter

Join us to hear how MetLife is ramping up digital innovation and learn more about the insurtech accelerator located on the North Carolina tech campus.

TTL Sept 2018.jpg


Neal Davis
CEO, Dais X


September 13, 2018
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

3:30 pm: Registration & Networking
4:00 pm: Executive Conversation
5:00 pm: Adjourn 


101 Met Life Way
Met 2
Cary, NC  27513
Map & Directions



This event is FREE to all NC TECH Members but registration is required. Non-members can attend for a $25 registration fee.

All registrations to NC TECH events are final and non-refundable.  Refunds will only be offered if the event is canceled.  Registrations are transferable to another qualified guest.  Please contact NC TECH at 919.856.0393 to request such a transfer.

Digital transformation for a better B2B outcome

Digital Transformation in Business to Business (B2B) operations seems out of place and rightfully so.  If, as a B2B business, you adopted or upgraded your digital tools in the last few years, you would think that a performance upgrade or a few new specialized features in your computing arsenal should keep your business on the competitive edge. And If you are not leveraging digital tools in your B2B operations, and are thriving, you would see no reason to change. After all, if it is not broken - why fix it? If either scenario describes your feelings on the subject you could not be more wrong.  


The dynamics of the business world are transforming quickly, but the depth of that change is only now starting to be realized.  Over the next 3-5 years organizations which do not find a way to embrace the proper use of existing and new digital technology will find themselves in a dying, niche business. 

Oddly, the reason for this has little to do with the technology itself.  The technology is an enabler, not the driver.  The driver is a drastic change in the expectations of a modern workforce and consumer.  Today, for the first time ever, middle and even senior managers are from a generation that has lived life immediate information access via cell, text, & mobile applications. The same is true of the new affluent consumer class.  The new consumer expects:

  • Near instant access to information for a wide variety of sources (on-demand consumption)
  • Comparing products “apples to apples” online
  • Shopping for the best quality, wide selection,  and value online
  • Interacting with one another more virtually than in person

These are your new customers and like it or not failure to give them access to products, payments, and paperwork via the methods they want will leave many businesses in the dust.

This overview, while it may sound fearful and grim, is not.  It is actually a call to action.  Taking on digital transformation does NOT have to be done out of fear or as a “necessity”.  It is actually an opportunity to investigate a company's innate assets, its unique value, and look for ways to gain greater traction with existing and new customers via the better use of technology tools.

Common Problems

B2B companies tend to have similar problems at a higher level.  This is not to suggest that things have been done incorrectly or mismanaged.  It is really recognition that the game of conducting business is changing.  There are several new technologies and processes being brought to bear that help to create this change:

  • Advanced Data Analytics
  • Real-time Big Data Sources
  • Machine Learning
  • IOT (Internet Of Things)
  • Software Defined Computing
  • Hyper-scale, hyper converged, and quantum computing
  • Continuous Integration
  • Lean, Agile Development
  • Blockchain
  • Real-time, dynamic security monitoring
  • An API based software design economy

As these new technologies and processes become more advanced it quickly shows how older B2B technologies and processes are being eclipsed and show the age of a company’s digital strategy.  The types of problems we regularly see at Dais X are:

  • Multiple Transaction Oriented Systems (order entry, order fulfillment, billing, payments)
  • Little information sharing between systems
  • Customer call centers with no dynamic learning methods to improve customer experience
  • Few, if any, feedback loops from the customer to the company processes and personnel who create new products or market value
  • Digital systems that cannot scale with volume nor allow quick deployment of new customer oriented features
  • Rating/review systems which are skewed or have little useful information to help customers with a decision making process
  • Information systems that update nightly or hourly and not instantly
  • Few customer interfaces that allow them to see the status of all their activity
  • Little ability to get the data a customer really needs from an online portal
  • Systems which interact too aggressively (too often, too pushy, too “salesey”) with a customer and those which add little if any value

What is becoming clear is that for a company to be truly outstanding, no matter its size, it needs to become excellent at:

  • Providing customers the information truly needed at the time they want it (product information, usage guides, helpful tips, inventory status, pricing, safety, and usage restrictions)
  • Providing real time updates on a customer’s activity, orders, service requests, and information enquiries
  • Creating a seamless experience for a customer which makes them feel special and saves them one or more of time, money, or effort.
  • Providing an interface that is easy to use - no computing intelligence required
  • Customer and business interaction need to be “event-driven” - aware of and responsive to the needs of the customer and market in real time.

Approaching Digital Transformation

Making progress towards Digital Transformation does NOT require trying to “boil the ocean”.  In fact trying to do so will certainly guarantee failure.  What is important is to engage a process that allows the proper discovery about the true nature of the business, customer needs, and customer expectations. 

At Dais X, we employ an Intelligent Review Process™ that enables B2B organizations to quickly validate and inform the strategic direction of their digital transformation, establish system requirements, provide technical recommendations, and determine budget and timeline for the effort.

With the correct background work done it becomes easy to select increments of change which can be reasonably implemented and when following in a continuous improvement model can lead to great transformation.

When helping customers with digital transformation we follow a standard model which we will modify as needed, but the basic tenets remain.  The core tenants are:

  1. All successful companies (startup or long-standing) provide unique value to their customer base
  2. The window for digital transformation to provide significant (>25%) improvement must be measurable within 6 months and provide maximum payback in under 18 months
  3. A digital transformation path should involve several smaller efforts, but the total of the efforts should have measurable results as outlined in statement (2).

These tenants are important for any company.  For early stage companies, this is within the horizon of funding.  For mature companies, the same return is necessary or the funding should probably have been spent elsewhere. 

At Dais X, we employ our Intelligent Review Process to gather the information needed so to evaluate possibilities and provide critical input on how to proceed.  The process involves:

  • Interviewing team members, customers, and competitors to understand perceptions of value
  • Interviews with team members and customers to understand capabilities of systems and usage perceptions
  • Value stream & cost stream mapping of existing process 
  • Review of the company’s business strategy and multi-year business plan
  • Competitive analysis of current competition and tangential competition that may not yet exist
  • Customer interaction value stream mapping and timeline
  • Analysis of existing technology and development practices (particularly with an eye on technical debt)

With this information, and our knowledge of the use of technology in B2B scenarios, we provide an assessment, with recommendations, timelines, and value return for consideration by the team.

Accelerating The Impact Of Digital Transformation

The report out, while interesting, can be easily ignored if not the basis for action.  We find identifying small wins that can be achieved in the first 9-12 months of our clients' transformation journey yields quick and better results.

The data analysis work outlined becomes the basis for a one or two day digital transformation workshop where the proper team members are challenged and engage in:

  • Learning the state of their B2B operation relative to the competition and “best in class”
  • Being shown where they are vulnerable for attack in their marketplace
  • Gaining exposure to how real non-aligned threats could drastically change their business
  • Seeing an external view of how their market is changing
  • Identify the core assets of the company and how its value stream appeals to customers
  • Brainstorming ideas for improvement (simple and radical), analyzing value return, and estimating implementation overhead, time, and infrastructure gaps
  • Selecting one or two short term ideas to initiate, identifying initial team members, and a timeline for an implementation plan with costing

Depending on the business, the team members, etc. the format of the sessions will vary to match their knowledge, the market situation, and the level of urgency needed to initiate positive change. 

Following such sessions we find that regular, brief interactions with the implementation team (as an external stakeholder or product owner) help to keep project alignment tight and ensure the resulting work product is aligned to the market/customer needs. 

To learn more about applying digital transformation for a better B2B outcome, please contact us at

The impact of digital transformation on supply chain planning

Manufacturers, distributors and retailers continue to shift to digital as a way to improve visibility and improve efficiencies. 2018 will be another year of transition as digital transformation becomes more important than ever in supply chain planning, fulfillment and procurement.

From widespread adoption of the cloud and greater use of artificial intelligence to the potential applications of blockchain, here are 4 supply chain trends and predictions.

Movement to mass adoption of the cloud

Supply chains will continue to move from analog to digital in the coming year, according to a recent report from International Data Corporation. IDC said there will be a continued focus on ecosystems and experiences and on attaining greater intelligence in operational processes.

While supply chains have been migrating to the cloud for the past few years, it's now reaching mass-scale adoption. IDC predicts that by 2020, approximately 80% of supply chain interactions will happen across cloud-based commerce networks.

Companies will continue to adopt data-driven logistics, using algorithms, data-visualization strategies and smart analytics to shorten delivery times and increase efficiencies. The resulting boost in resiliency could reduce the impact of supply chain disruptions by up to one-third, according to IDC. 


Multi-enterprise visibility will be key as stakeholders in all areas of the supply chain move to new platforms at a faster rate in the coming year. 

Beyond simple analytics

The coming year will also bring a shift beyond simple analytics to more widespread use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. IoT devices are now being deployed through all areas of the supply chain to help manufacturers understand where their goods are in transit and how they can improve material procurement and product distribution.

AI will be used for automation and to augment decision making. It will help streamline processes, optimize to the level of near-perfect planning and improve virtually every aspect of transportation. While machines will become smarter and gain the ability to process more information, humans will always remain in the loop. 

Building on blockchain

Blockchain will also be a growing topic in 2018. Within the next three years, roughly one-third of manufacturers and retailers will be tracking goods through blockchain, according to IDC.

Blockchain has recently emerged as a valuable tool for creating immutable records in a distributed ledger that can allow all participants in a certain supply chain to understand the movement of goods. This can offer better visibility into the state of goods and delivery which will give manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers a better understanding of the causes of slowdowns or damage. While concern about a "bubble" in the value of Bitcoin has been dominating the news in recent months, the underlying blockchain technology has been validated by experts to have strong potential in many industries, including logistics. 

One area of great value will be in regulatory compliance. Manufacturers are already testing the blockchain technologies to demonstrate compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act. 

Increasing Use of robotics

Robots will be in use in half of fulfillment centers by 2019, according to IDC. This will result in productivity gains of up to 30%, help drive down the cost of operations and o· set an increasing shortage of labor.

As the technology advances and costs fall, organizations are finding new applications for robots and using them in areas to reduce human movement. Advances in perceptive abilities and grippers have given many of these machines a greater grasp and human-like feel. 

New collaborative robots are becoming easier to program and can be adapted to meet the needs of the supply chain. Through sensors, end to end effectors and programming, distribution centers and warehouses can deploy these flexible robots to handle a multitude of tasks. 

To learn more about the impact of digital transformation on supply chain planning, please contact us

Neal Davis, managing director at Dais X, talks B2B ecommerce at B2B Online

B2B Online is the interactive event for America’s leading manufacturers and distributors. On May 7th-9th in downtown Chicago, B2B Online will bring together 900+ eCommerce  and digital marketing executives to develop the tools they need to power innovative eCommerce experiences for their customers.

Neal Davis, managing director at Dais X, will lead an interactive discussion on "Selecting the Best B2B eCommerce Solution for Your Business". Neal and his team have a proven track record of helping B2B clients leverage technology to improve their value proposition, and develop a winning, overall eCommerce vision. They combine strong digital commerce strategies and significant technology implementation with proven execution experience. 

To register for this event, please visit or contact us at


How retailers and distribution companies can increase customer satisfaction

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the distribution industry today is ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction. According to a recent report, half of customers will abandon a purchase if delivery choices are unsatisfactory.

Customers expect online orders to arrive as quickly as possible and also at a specified delivery time. Gone are the days of “your parcel will be delivered between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. within the next five to seven working days." Companies must provide timely and accurate delivery options to stay competitive in the age of Amazon.

For many companies, keeping track of orders-in, orders-out and returns on top of delivering items accurately and on time is not an easy task. In fact, many businesses are challenged with calculating accurate costs for customer shipments, based on location and delivery preferences. The root of this issue is that many businesses still run on inefficient, costly legacy systems.

To stay competitive, it’s critical that retailers and distribution companies stay agile and flexible – all without eating into their margin. But how can they simultaneously deliver low cost and high-quality products while keeping customer experience top of mind?


Have one central data source

Today’s businesses are facing increasingly global and turbulent market forces. The ability to adjust processes, information flow and operations through the supply chain is vital. The digital age welcomed a new deluge of data that is proving to be a gift and a curse as stakeholders struggle to efficiently collect, process and action the data available to them.

Many of the issues often lie with the complexities and constraints of having vital information spread over various technical solutions. Data is often siloed in different software solutions that have not been designed to work together. As a result, time and resources that should be spent on serving customers and growing the business is unnecessarily spent on forcing the integration between these solutions.

Companies can only benefit by investing in cloud solutions that easily collect and consolidate data into one central hub. In fact, industry research firm IDC predicts that by 2020, approximately 80% of supply chain interactions will happen across cloud-based networks because there is "so much information that needs to be shared.”

Invest in the right software solutions

For distribution companies, adopting cloud-based, integrated premier solutions can bring a range of benefits including cost reduction, efficiency gains, better competitive advantage and an improved customer experience. For example, a recent Forrester study found that distribution companies saw a 237% return on investment (ROI) in just four months by implementing effective business management solutions.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes need products that aid productivity, enable them to respond at lightning speed and deliver insights as well as opportunity. Some of the best business management solutions are designed to make the lives of business leaders simple by removing the complexity of product and technology buying decisions. Identify the technology solutions that can address all the needs of businesses today and can scale as your company grows – including accounting, payments, payroll, human capital management and enterprise management.

Keep an eye on IoT

Along with the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) is giving companies the opportunity to have the best combination of solutions without the complexity and cost. For example, IoT is introducing opportunities to leverage physical equipment sensors to not only manage the equipment’s function, but also provide the appropriate context in the supply chain and financial operations of the business. IoT’s potential is so significant, that the technology is expected to triple in use by 2022.

As IoT technologies improve and easily integrate through cloud solutions, supply chain visibility will become increasingly attainable – making investments in new technologies a more palatable proposition to enterprises from a cost and complexity standpoint.

With improved accessibility, functionality and integration of these solutions, distribution businesses are poised to reap the benefits. By streamlining processes and integrating solutions, distribution companies stand to gain from a variety of advantages, but particularly, it will free employees from mundane tasks, enabling them to deliver a great customer experience.

To learn more about how you can improve customer satisfaction, contact us at

Improving the B2B value proposition

In today's market, the lines between business-to-business and consumer decisions are blurring. B2B sellers must optimize prices, meet specifications, comply with regulations, and follow ethical practices. Procurement teams rigorously evaluate vendors and run total cost-of-ownership models to ensure that rational, quantifiable criteria around price and performance shape their analyses. But meeting those criteria is the minimum investment.

"As B2B offerings become ever more commoditized, the subjective, sometimes personal concerns that business customers bring to the purchase process are increasingly important."

Our research shows that with some purchases, considerations such as whether a product can enhance the buyer’s reputation or reduce anxiety play a large role. Recognizing the full range of both rational and emotional factors behind business purchases—and tailoring the value proposition accordingly—is critical to avoiding the commodity trap.

The B2B Elements of Value

As discussed earlier, considerations such as meeting specifications, pricing, compliance and abiding by ethical standards are expected. Additionally you have functional elements, which address companies’ economic or product performance needs, such as cost reduction and scalability. Delivering on those has long been a priority in old-line industries such as manufacturing. As both buyers and sellers, B2B companies still focus most of their energy on functional elements.


Elements of value at a slightly deeper level make it easier to do business; some provide purely objective types of value, by, say, increasing a customer’s productivity (time savings, reduced effort) or improving its operational performance (simplification, organization). Here we encounter the first set of elements that involve subjective judgments from buyers. They include things that enhance relationships between parties, such as a good cultural fit and a seller’s commitment to the customer organization.

Other elements of value provide additional types of subjective value, addressing individual buyers’ priorities, whether they are personal (reduced anxiety, appealing design and aesthetics) or career related (increased marketability or network expansion.) Here the elements of value can address highly emotional concerns. A fear of failure often nags at buyers who spend large amounts of money and make decisions that may affect revenues or many employees. 

Then there are inspirational elements: Elements of value that improve the customer’s vision of the future (helping a firm anticipate changes in its markets), provide hope for the future of the organization or the individual buyers (for instance, that they can move to the next generation of technology easily and affordably), or enhance a company’s social responsibility.

Foundational elements have long been easy to measure, and competing on them has been straightforward. The more emotional elements at the middle and upper levels have traditionally been difficult to isolate and quantify and, therefore, harder to implement.

"The battle for differentiation is shifting toward less transactional aspects."

For a strategist or a product manager, mastering the intangibles of the customer’s total experience—all the service, support, interactions, and communications wrapped around an offering—is much harder than making an offering faster, cheaper, or more durable.

Companies using modern survey techniques and statistical analysis to quantify all the elements on a consistent basis can learn what customers truly value and which aspects of an offering merit investment. Executives can bring scientific rigor to a previously visceral area of decision making. 

Putting the Elements to Work

Improving on the elements that are the source of their offerings’ core benefits will enable vendors to better meet customer needs. They can also judiciously add elements to expand their value proposition without overhauling the products or services themselves. Doing either requires taking the customer’s point of view, not an inside-out, operational perspective. A product or service might function just fine, but if customers find the purchasing, order tracking, or technical support process terrible, many will seek out other suppliers.

When B2B companies conduct a full elements analysis, they are often surprised to find big gaps between their self-assessments and customer opinions of the overall experience of buying and using their offerings. 

Getting started 

Any B2B company can use an elements analysis to examine and improve its value proposition. To identify the elements your customers prize most and determine how best to enhance your offerings, follow these five steps:


Benchmark your company’s value proposition against your competitors’ by surveying your customers on how your products and services perform relative to rival offerings on the elements of value. A quantitative survey with a sample large enough to produce reliable results can reveal dramatic insights.

Talk with customers to understand their experience. Conduct follow-up interviews to explore their needs and sources of satisfaction and frustration, and the compromises they make in using your products and services. Since many people can be involved in buying decisions, especially at larger organizations, it’s worth mapping who is on the buying team, who has influence on it, and the different priorities and sources of value for each. Make sure to conduct interviews in a spectrum of customer organizations, especially those at the leading edge of growth in their industries. Avoid using an existing customer panel or user group, whose members might say what they think you want to hear. And consider conducting the interviews through a neutral third party, because customers are more likely to provide honest feedback to an intermediary.

Imagine ways to increase value for customers. Once you have identified a set of elements warranting attention, hold daylong ideation sessions to determine which core elements to focus on first. The participants might include product planners, pricing experts, salespeople, service representatives, and other customer-facing staff, and even customers themselves. Typically, a good way to prepare for such sessions is by developing advance reading materials, such as the competitive benchmark surveys and interviews; giving homework (for example, “Come with five ideas”); and talking to devoted customers of competitors.

"Map who is on the buying team and the different sources of value for each."

Refine, test, and learn. Assess the best ideas from the ideation session by discussing their appeal with customers and your firm’s ability to deliver on them. That will allow you to revise value concepts before further development, understand how they fit into the overall customer experience, and identify the tangible results that customers would expect from any enhancements. Those insights can inform rapid, successive improvements to the concepts prior to a market test or a broader rollout.

Evaluate and measure. After introducing enhancements, reevaluate how you stack up against competitors, ideally by rerunning the original research. Especially in fast-moving markets, your competitors will probably have carried out their own innovations while you redesigned your value proposition. Objective follow-up analysis is important to ensure that your initiatives have actually delivered the value customers are seeking.

Consider the following three questions to determine where your company should invest:

  1. How does our value proposition compare with competitors? 
  2. How do we bridge the gaps and seize opportunities to differentiate in the market? 
  3. Can we launch a minimum viable product without breaking the bank? 

B2B sellers face a variety of options when trying to decide where to allocate resources to improve and market their products and services. The mix of objective and subjective priorities, and the often conflicting viewpoints within a single business customer, can be challenging to determine. The elements of value allow managers to identify what matters most to each set of important stakeholders and how the company can stand out from the competitive pack.

To learn how you can improve your B2B value proposition, contact us at

Artificial intelligence is reshaping business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now part of everyday life. Digital assistants recognize your voice and respond to your commands. Computers help translate vast amounts of data into better-informed medical decisions. Chatbots offer you help with a human touch.

By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with businesses without any human interaction. Through machines and software, AI can bring a decidedly human, personal touch while harnessing extraordinary computing power and information troves to better serve customers.

AI is making commerce smarter

Personalized experiences


AI enables merchants to tailor product recommendations based on purchasing patterns. Advertising can be targeted not only to meet individual preferences but also to appear at the right time and place. Ultimately, it will be possible to bring an enhanced purchasing experience — through digital assistants, analytics, and other tools — free to all customers.

Consultative selling

Sales teams can apply AI to Big Data analysis to better pinpoint opportunities, such as determining the best prospects for products. The ability of machines to learn will enable AI to move beyond the analysis of historical data to also perform predictive modeling and potentially to identify broader sets of sales opportunities.

Service excellence

Customers can get answers more quickly and efficiently. For example, Einstein is an AI initiative at that’s helping customer service representatives better serve callers. As part of a cloud-based customer service platform, Einstein routes callers to the best available person for providing support and supplies background to the representative. Einstein helps management as well, by compiling data on wait times, queue sizes, and other details that support improvement of customer satisfaction scores.

Safer commerce

Security remains a major AI application and includes the ability to detect and thwart possible fraud attempts. The role of AI in fraud detection will continue to evolve to protect a connected network of businesses and homes from which purchasing can happen automatically.

Beyond the customer

A recent study found IT departments are still the biggest adopters of AI today. However, one third of survey respondents expect that by 2020, AI will make the biggest impact on sales, marketing, and customer service. Another 20% see the largest influence on business functions such as finance, strategic planning, corporate development, and human resources.

That means AI is becoming an agent of change well beyond its public surface, as it reaches more deeply into organizations to affect increasing aspects of the end-to-end transaction chain that drives commerce.

To learn how AI can transform your business, contact us at

Sudhir Deshpande, chief technology officer at Dais AI, talks FinTech strategy at Live Oak Bank

Tech Talk Live - FinTech

Date: March 1, 2018

Time: 3:00PM - 5:00PM EST

 Sudhir Deshpande, CTO at Dais AI

Sudhir Deshpande, CTO at Dais AI

Location: Live Oak Bank

Event Description: 
Digital Transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of the Financial Services industry. This moderated panel discussion will provide insights on how financial services companies are embracing disruption, competing in the markets in which they operate and capitalizing on opportunities that technological advances are creating. 

Thomas Hill - Chief Information Officer, Live Oak Bank

Nathan Snell - Head of Innovation and Design, nCino
Sudhir Deshpande - Chief Technology Officer, Dais AI
Xeth Waxman - Chief Technology Officer, Apiture
arryl Landreneau - Chief Customer Success Officer, Defense Storm
Geoff Gohs - VP of Engineering, Live Oak Bank and Apiture

Tech Talk Live is hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association. 

To register for this event, please visit or contact Mary Smith at

The North Carolina State of Technology 2018 Industry Report sponsored by Dais X


The North Carolina State of the Technology Industry Report (NC STIR) is in its fourth year. First produced in January 2015, the report analyzes, highlights and tracks an important and growing industry for the State of North Carolina. The report identifies results to celebrate for NC TECH members and issues that affect the state’s competitiveness for North Carolina’s state and local policy makers. The North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) has committed to conduct this research annually. This 2018 report shows the final statistics in tech for 2016.

This report includes facts, statistics, trends, and insights into North Carolina’s technology industry. It provides information for companies considering headquarter relocation, operations establishment or expansions. It is a source of data and trends for policy makers, and a resource for innovation sector organizations, the economic development community and for the media. First and foremost, the report highlights the vibrancy and immense economic impact of North Carolina’s technology sector.

The North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) was founded in 1993 with a mission to advance North Carolina’s technology sector. NC TECH, now celebrating 25 years, has more than 650 members including the top technology companies, organizations and institutions across North Carolina. NC TECH brings together executives around the business of technology for peer interaction, educational programming, information sharing, relationship building and networking. NC TECH is the go-to organization for policy makers on issues affecting the tech sector and supports the development of world-class, well-educated students and workers to make North Carolina a favorite home for globally competitive companies.

NC TECH contracted with Economic Leadership of Raleigh, North Carolina to again create and build the State of the Technology Industry report. As technology has expanded, and permeated every industry, maintaining a consistent and transparent definition of the technology sector has become both challenging and even more important. For this report, the technology sector is broken down into the following sub-categories:

  • Information Technology,
  • Telecom,
  • Hardware and Software, 
  • Energy Technology,
  • Environmental Technology, and
  • Life Sciences.

These sectors were chosen based on several definitions of the technology industry, primarily TechAmerica Foundation’s 2013 Technology Industry Classification and is consistent with the previous State of the Technology Industry reports conducted for NC TECH. A full accounting of the categories is provided in the appendix.

Information Technology (IT) includes sub-categories related to electronic computers and storage, radio and television, satellite telecommunications, computer facilities, communications equipment and other electrical equipment. Energy Technology includes sub-categories related to natural gas, petroleum, coal, mining, fossil fuel, solar power, wind power and oil and gas operations. Environmental Technology includes sub-categories related to sewage treatment, steam, electricity, batteries, hazardous waste, solid waste, septic and remediation services. Life Sciences include sub-categories related to medicinal and botanical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, electro-medical manufacturing, surgical and dental manufacturing, and research and development in biotechnology.

To learn more about our involvement in NC TECH, contact us at


How retailers are blending physical and online commerce

Retail commerce continues to evolve, combining both brick-and-mortar and online elements. The goal for retailers is an integrated process that gives consumers a seamless experience and allows companies to capture the greatest benefits across both physical and digital operations. So far, no retailer has achieved full integration, but most are headed down the path. Many retailers with physical locations have built online businesses, and online retailers are increasingly opening brick-and-mortar outlets to strengthen their brands and engage with customers in person.

To capture the maximum benefit, however, companies will need to rethink their processes and redesign integrated retail in new ways, with new technologies. This is a big transformation. It involves not only a deep understanding of a company’s value proposition to customers, but also a long-term strategy, given the investment of time and resources needed to digitize the diverse variety of processes needed to run the operations.

Physical retail is here to stay

Nearly 90% of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores. Yet much of the industry’s future growth will come from online commerce, which allows companies to use customer data to learn far more about customers and meet their needs more quickly and effectively than can be done through traditional means. For this reason, many companies are now considering or launching hybrid business models. For example, some retailers have rolled out click-and-collect offerings that connect back-end inventory with logistics solutions. Others offer loyalty programs that enable them to develop a single, comprehensive view of individual customers and to gather data on their shopping behaviors and preferences.

Recently, some online-only brands have started opening physical locations. Perhaps the best-known example of this trend is Amazon, which has begun experimenting with physical stores in the categories where it has the highest online penetration (books) and which recently acquired the Whole Foods Market chain. Some may think that the Whole Foods deal is about winning in the grocery segment alone, given the massive size of the market and the frequency of customer visits. At a more strategic level, however, the deal underscores the potential of a truly hybrid, offline-online retailer. For example, Amazon can potentially use Whole Foods stores to gain greater insights about customers and tailor online offerings for them in a more personalized way. The physical stores also offer local distribution points for faster delivery or more convenient pickup points for non-grocery items.

A spectrum of roles for stores

There is a clear role for physical stores in the retail universe. However, the role they play within an integrated retail experience changes depending on the category.

Functional. On one end of the spectrum, physical stores serve a functional role, such as providing after-sales service or serving as a staging point for last-mile delivery. This applies in categories where the products are standardized (such as electronics, books, and nonperishable grocery products) or where speedy delivery is imperative (such as the delivery of prepared food).


Experiential. At the other end of the spectrum are stores that serve a more experiential or inspirational role—for example, in-home furnishings or lifestyle and fashion department stores. Because these stores sell nonstandard categories of products, the browsing and consultation elements are crucial to customers. Shoppers are less focused on efficiency and more on an in-store experience that is personalized and engaging.

Hybrid. Grocery stores fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Some grocery products, such as packaged goods, are standardized, while others, such as fresh and prepared foods, are more experiential and involve time-sensitive delivery. 

In-Store Experience. The average retail store is much smaller than a traditional grocer and is located in an urban neighborhood. The majority of standard items are stocked in a warehouse adjacent to the store, freeing floor space in stores for fresh products. Locations may include onsite dining in a restaurant-like setting.

Delivery. Each retail store is an offline grocer and a fulfillment center, driven by a powerful analytics system. Each store serves its local community, making it possible to deliver online orders within a three-kilometer radius in 30 minutes. Advanced data analytics drives the assortment of products in stores, to ensure that the company is meeting customer demands.

Digitized Customer Interactions. Most customers are store members and interact with the retailer—from preordering to payment—through a mobile app, even while they are shopping in a store. This allows retailers to develop richer insights into its customers and to better personalize both offers and the assortment of goods for each location and each individual.

The redesign of integrated retail

In all cases, for example, retailers gain richer customer insights by digitally capturing customer interactions. And executives consistently speak about the imperative to begin digitizing the full breadth of offline experiences. Forward thinking retailers are taking the following actions:

Plan for the long haul. There is no quick fix, and technology gimmicks are not enough. Developing a truly integrated business model that combines the best aspects of online and offline commerce is a fundamental change in business strategy that requires a multiyear vision and significant investment.

Lead from the top. Setting up the initiative as an isolated digital project led by the CIO is a guarantee of failure. Rather, success requires the direct involvement and oversight of the CEO, along with all functional leaders—CMO, CFO, and the heads of business units—serving as champions for change in their respective areas.


Expect the real work to happen below the surface. Many companies get drawn in by consumer-facing technologies, the most attractive and visible aspects of digitalization. But they’re just the beginning. A real transformation requires digitizing every process—not only customer-facing aspects but also all the internal processes by which most of the work gets done at companies, including such mundane tasks as tracing invoices back to suppliers. (Of course, in addition to processes, companies need the right systems architecture and data.) Every process that is not digitized and linked to other functions in the company represents a missed opportunity to gather insights, better serve the customer, and operate more efficiently.

Partner with external firms to build more comprehensive data sets. Even the most advanced companies simply won’t be able to generate enough insights about real-time consumer behavior and digital consumption habits on their own. Instead, they will need to find partners—likely social media companies, at least for the next several years, or syndicated research firms, such as AC Nielsen—that can offer richer information not only about current customers but about potential customers.

Invest heavily in digital and analytics talent. Given the importance of analytics, companies can’t simply hire one or two people and ask them to start tinkering. Rather, they need to invest in building digital and analytics. Almost half of Hema’s employees, for example, are engineers.

In an increasingly digital world, companies need to find the right business model—one that lets them capture the full advantages of both online commerce and physical retail. Digitization helps retailers serve customers both offline and online. This is welcome news for the companies that are still working on developing integrated retail, because making these changes is not optional. As the retail industry evolves, retailers will need to evolve as well.

To learn more about integrated retail, contact us at

6 rules for digital transformation success

To remain relevant in today’s highly competitive marketplace, digital transformation is no longer an option - it is requirement. To become fully digital, companies must dramatically increase the scope, scale and speed of their IT, while also staying in sync with their evolving business needs. This can be challenging, and many CIOs are struggling with the complex environment, higher costs, compliance and security issues, and the never-ending need for faster implementation and deeper insights.

First-rate performance in the digital age requires an versatile technology infrastructure that manages the complexities of a multi-cloud environment, embedded security and compliance policies, and deep business alignment. Best-in-class IT operations and the software partners that support them are developing their game plan based on six rules. 


Embrace DevOps

As companies increase the cadence of their digital offerings, they must integrate software development and IT operations. According to a survey by Gartner, up to 60% of companies are currently using, or plan to use a DevOps approach to build and install software. Modern IT organizations require software that works across the production chain and is designed for rapid testing and validation.

Break boundaries

Companies are unlikely to achieve complete migration to the public cloud in the near future. As a result, CIOs need monitoring, discovery and configuration tools that function in hybrid, multi-cloud environments as well as up and down the stack, from legacy systems to consumer applications.

Be open 

No modern solution can operate solely on its own. As designers produce focused, best-in-class solutions instead of massive slow-moving systems, openness becomes critical. Companies need modular, open-source and user-friendly software that is designed for easy adaptability and integration with other apps. Companies expect to be able to combine the capabilities of their different systems to serve new needs.

Be user-friendly

IT professionals must demand intuitive, user-friendly software, and can no longer satisfied with difficult, second-rate applications. Instead they need a consumer-level user experience. Solutions that are software-as-a-service (SaaS) capable, and must be easy to install and are functional right out-of-the-box. 

Incorporate policy engines 

Cost pressures are CIOs to seek automated IT operations. They are moving away from massive manual efforts currently used to monitor compliance, data governance and security policies. They require intelligent solutions to identify, correct and better manage policies across a hybrid infrastructure.

Induce insights

As the number of digital applications increase, companies are becoming flooded with data. Some of this data is useful, some of it is not. CIOs need advanced analytical tools that employ techniques such as machine learning to detect recurring and predictive patterns from a stream of data that is wide, deep, diverse and evolving. 

The digital revolution is here, although not quite the way many people had expected. On the road to realizing the promise of digital, CIOs are learning to address the challenges of hybrid management, cost, compliance, security and data analytics. The digital revolution is rich with both promise and complexity. By following six rules, CIOs and developers will have the tools they need to help make digital transformation a success for their organization.

To learn more about digital transformation success, contact us at

4 steps to managing returns more effectively

In the ever-changing retail landscape, the issue of customer returns in reverse logistics remains constant. If a retailer does not have standard reverse logistics processes in place, repeat purchases will likely be lost.

Reverse logistics has become even more important in the online era. In e-commerce, at least 30% of all products ordered are returned, compared to only 8% bought in brick-and-mortar shops.

This rapid growth in the volume of returns has created complexity in reverse logistics, and put added pressure on supply chains to manage and implement product returns successfully. The following infographic looks at ways that retailers can take a strategic approach to reverse logistics, and manage returns more effectively. 


To learn more about reverse logistics, contact us at

Neal Davis, chief executive officer at Dais X, talks digital transformation at Research Triangle Foundation

 Neal Davis, CEO at Dais X

Neal Davis, CEO at Dais X

Tech Talk Live - Digital Transformation

Date: December 7, 2017

Time: 8:30AM - 10:30AM EST

Location: Research Triangle Foundation

Event Description: 
Digital Transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of IT and business. The ability to develop and deploy technology more quickly and at a higher quality as well as advancements in data and analytics provides new challenges and new opportunities for all businesses. 

This moderated panel discussion will provide insights on how companies are embracing and managing digital transformation, how it is impacting all areas of business and IT, lessons learned, and an outlook for the future. 

Steve Worth, Founder and CEO, Worthwize Consulting

Karl Owen - Distinguished Engineer, Dell EMC
Randall Gressett - Sales Leader, Dell EMC
Harmdandeep Singh - Chief Growth Officer, Building Clarity
Matt Tormollen - EVP/ Research and Development, Avalara
Neal Davis - Chief Executive Officer, Dais X

Tech Talk Live is hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association. 

To register for this event, please visit or contact Mary Smith at

Dais X Announces Partnership with Software Industry Veterans to Advance the Design and Deployment of Artificial Intelligence in Digital Transformation

Dais X Invests with Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, Launches “Dais AI”, to Help Clients Better Address Customer Needs Created by Technological Advances and the Changing Competitive Landscape

GREENSBORO, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Dais X, an information technology (IT) and business services consultancy, along with software industry veterans Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, announced the launch of Dais AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) company purpose-built to help clients capitalize on digital business opportunities through the development of custom AI solutions and technologies.

Revolutionary advances in AI technology is changing how businesses operate and fulfill their customer needs.

According to industry analysts, the global artificial intelligence market is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 41.7% over the next decade to reach approximately $24.2 billion by 2025. The new company also allows Dais X to improve and scale its offerings in retail, manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare, and advances the development of marketing-­specific solutions, where it can leverage collective learnings to help a broader range of clients.

"Across industries, our clients are navigating complex business environments disrupted by a marketplace shift towards digitization. To compete, they must identify and make sense of multiple, previously unrecognizable, data sources. With Dais AI, we can develop and apply custom solutions to help clients transform data into actionable insights and gain a competitive advantage,” said Neal Davis, CEO of Dais X. "In particular, the new suite of intelligent services expands our capability to improve marketing performance and synchronize customer insights with backend systems to guide digital transformation.”

The founding team includes:

  • Sunil Nikhar - a serial entrepreneur with a rich set of derivatives and IT skills who founded and successfully exited two software development companies, Ascent Computing Group and Pyxis Systems Private Limited. His entire career has been centered around data and enabling businesses to make more intelligent decisions. Nikhar was named a finalist for the “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2000 and 2002. He holds a B.Tech and M.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and an MBA (PGDM) from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM).
  • Sudhir Deshpande - holds a M.Tech degree from the IIT and an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Most recently, Deshpande served as Director, Engineering at Varo Money, a San Francisco-based FinTech company. Prior to that, Deshpande developed a comprehensive pipeline of innovative products integrated with predictive analytics and cognitive abilities for Fiserv, IBM Retail and Cisco. He has over 20 years of experience developing and deploying AI solutions to solve complex business challenges.
  • Dais X - an IT and business services consultancy helping companies turn real opportunities into new sources of revenue. Using the full power of digital, Dais X helps clients build on existing advantages, and guides them to become more agile and customer-centric, through a reinvention of their own practices.

"I am excited to partner with Dais X," said Sunil Nikhar, President and COO of Dais AI. "We initially began talking with them because of their client relationships, which align with our focus, as well as their expertise in marketing. Together, we can transform business and improve the way our services and AI solutions shape the market.”

Dais AI will initially focus on four primary areas:

  • Retail & Manufacturing: Dais AI will use predictive analytics and machine learning to help clients optimize supply chain, keep pace with ever changing customer needs, improve inventory management, reduce shrinkage and monitor stock, increase logistics efficiency, predict maintenance on complex machinery and reduce downtime.
  • Marketing Services: Dais AI will introduce intelligent services to help clients optimize marketing efforts, automate media activities, deliver more impactful campaigns, and improve the overall development, timing, targeting and pricing of promotions.
  • Financial Services: From predicting the spread on arbitrage to improving customer relationship management, Dais AI will analyze and garner insights from multiple data sources to help financial services firms gain a competitive advantage.
  • Healthcare: Dais AI will work with healthcare organizations to apply AI technologies to improve patient care and diagnoses, combat fraud and detect payment exceptions.

About Dais AI:

Dais AI delivers next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to clients. The company is purpose-built to help clients capitalize on digital business opportunities through the development of custom AI solutions and technologies. Co-founded by Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, Dais AI is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina.

To learn more about Dais AI, visit

About Dais X:

Dais X provides business transformation, marketing and technology services to clients. It operates three business units – Dais Consult, Dais Ignite and Dais Digital – that empower businesses to drive innovation, optimization and growth, helping them gain a competitive advantage to succeed in an increasingly digital world. Because of its platform business model, Dais X is able to scale in ways that traditional businesses cannot and leverage expertise from across its business units and deep network on demand.

To learn more about Dais X, visit

The reinvention of manufacturing: From Henry Ford to tomorrow

A version of this article also appeared in the American City Business Journals

Factories have undergone a significant amount of change since the 1930s, and that change has accelerated in the last 10 years. Think of the advances in automation, robotics, sensors, the Internet of Things, analytics, big data, artificial intelligence, and design methodologies. How much more will manufacturing change in the next 10 years? Or the next 20?

 We have entered a new era of manufacturing.

We have entered a new era of manufacturing.

How do manufacturing organizations keep up with this pace of change — and what will you, as a manufacturing leader, need to do to change with it?

We have entered a new era of manufacturing. Recent times have brought on increased demands, and not just to produce more product for less money. Customers are demanding better convenience, while regulatory agencies are demanding better quality. Recent times have enabled rapid advancements in the availability, storage, and use of data in manufacturing. Product and demand has become more complex. And as a result, companies have undergone operational or structural transformation efforts as they strive towards productivity improvements.

We believe successful manufacturing companies will both embrace new advances, while staying true to long-lasting beliefs: that the foundational elements of manufacturing performance that were true in the industrial revolution remain true for all manufacturers today.

Remember the basics

With global consumption on the rise, the need to understand demand — and how, where, and when to produce — has become even more critical. As digital capabilities become more attainable and understandable, the adoption of these technologies will drive levels of competitiveness and enable faster and more agile production systems. However, the basics of operational excellence will remain the foundation of an organization’s transformation and journey into the future.

Provide endless value

For organizations to remain competitive, they must think about the value chain from beginning to end, through all aspects of production. There are several specific topics that we think are important for companies to consider. Some are technical concepts, such as advanced manufacturing, network optimization, and advanced analytics, while others focus on critical behaviors, such as leadership and the workforce of the future.

Take small steps

With all of the ideas and concepts to think about, it is often intimidating to think about the actions necessary to make change happen. Trying to make everything happen at once can often lead to failure, while a competitive advantage can be missed by moving too slow. Managers need a quick start and early wins from near-term actions, such as cost reductions or revenue boosts, to establish credibility for the leadership team and generate momentum for the larger effort If you are a member of the executive team or C-suite, pay close attention to where the manufacturing industry is headed, to help you think about your strategic imperative and the future of your business.

How We Help: 

> The Art of Going Direct to Consumer

Building a World-Class B2B eCommerce Business

> Helping Middle Market Companies Reimagine Operations

> Enabling Growth Through Digital Transformation

3 steps to successful supply chain planning

A version of this article also appeared in the American City Business Journals

Technology is shaking up conventional models and reinventing entire industries. This infographic looks at ways that supply chains are transforming, and how businesses can plan for success.


The art of going direct-to-consumer


E-commerce growth and digital channels, such as mobile and tablets, are driving change in the retail landscape. As the pressure to keep pace intensifies, a growing number of manufacturers are establishing digital direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales channels. 

Today’s consumers have never had more options for researching and purchasing products. Ever-increasing online sales and the emergence of new digital channels, such as mobile and social media, drive innovation in a constantly evolving retail landscape. 

Manufacturers realize that they need to offer a better experience for consumers already shopping on branded sites. At the same time, they must gain tighter control over their brand, pricing, and more. 

The power of data 

Product Catalogs - Rich product content is lacking for many manufacturers, despite the fact that it is essential to have your own product catalog as a brand. Content must be organized efficiently to drive the market and help retailers increase their sales. This can be done without losing what customers value most about the brands they love: true and authentic content. 

Ratings and Reviews - Collecting and managing ratings and reviews is a great tool for B2C strategy; it is also useful when looking for feedback about the role the company plays. Using ratings and reviews, data manufacturers can drive product assortment, new product development, pricing and functionalities. 

Consumers - A complete vision of your consumer- how they buy and their online behaviors- is a rich source of consumer data previously controlled exclusively by retailers. 

Competition - Competition comes from all directions. As a result, brand manufacturers are forced to explore channels that are free from competitive distractions. Opening up direct-to-consumer online sales channels lets brand manufacturers reach and connect with the increasingly flighty customer. 

Why pay more for going direct?

According to most consumer studies, shoppers typically conduct research online before making a decision to buy. A natural source of information during this discovery phase is the  brand manufacturer’s website, as consumers trust the brands they know.

Customers are often willing to pay more to buy direct from a brand manufacturer because they know they will receive an authentic product that is exactly as ordered. Brands should focus on consumer experience by offering more to shoppers already on their sites and make sure that customers can purchase directly from the brand site. 

Control of brand and product pricing

The pressures faced by most brands from competitors, other retailers and marketplaces can often result in a lack of brand control and product pricing. These pressures compel brands to exert a stronger influence on marketing and pricing so that brand  equity remains strong. 

Adding a direct-to-consumer online channel provides a new avenue for direct customer engagement and a way for brand manufacturers to control messaging and pricing strategies. These practices can be shared with retail partners, creating a win-win cycle. 

Why do brands go direct?

Investing in a digital channel has many upsides. For one, sales increases can be driven by  a  number of factors, like new customer acquisition, improved ability to increase average order value, and better chances for repeat business from loyal customers. Digital channels are also an effective way to generate traffic in other channels like stores, mobile, events, etc. Additionally, brand manufacturers will see better brand awareness as they foster relationships with consumers through direct sales. 

All business buyers are consumers. A B2B customer can be a B2C customer and even EDI users are coming to B2B sites before ordering. B2B and B2C sites are currently converging, narrowing the gap between B2B and B2C sites. 

This allows the brand manufacturer to get closer to the customer, to engage with them, learn from them, and find better ways to sell to them. With the customer now engaged with the brand, brand manufacturers can use direct-to-customer marketing to  establish loyalty. The overall strength of the brand will see huge improvement. 

By borrowing techniques from DTC, digital commerce brands can create relevant experiences for B2B business buyers. For example, supporting a customer-first strategy accelerates growth in B2B digital commerce. Currently, many manufacturers approach B2B digital commerce initiatives seeking merely to create web-based interface of ERP and back-end processes, but there are many more options available. 


Understand the customer and generate revenue

To  focus on a digital commerce experience without disrupting your traditional distribution channel, don't undercut prices. This is the best way to understand your customer; it is also another valuable way to collect data and feedback for the company.

Meeting customer demands

Shoppers have high demands. They want a seamless shopping experience at all touch  points. The digital commerce platform facilitates the front-end experience but it is also important to focus on the operational aspects of the business to ensure a seamless customer experience.

All departments must be aligned for flawless customer service as there is a higher risk of losing customers once you are directly engaged. As such, learning to respond to customer behavior is critical. Provide them with excellent service and unique experiences, and they will become your best advocates. Disappoint them and you risk losing them for good. 

According to Gartner Research, the key challenges when developing a digital commerce strategy are: 

  • The lack of business alignment and  neglect of customer experience that tends to occur when IT leaders are tasked with deploying the digital commerce platform. 
  • Being caught off guard and failing to respond to fast- changing market conditions and  variable customer preferences. 

Dealing with channel conflict

Historically, the biggest challenge in establishing a direct-to-consumer sales channel has been the fear of channel conflict – not wanting to harm existing retailer relationships by competing with those retailers. 

While some retailers refrain from doing business with brands that sell direct-to-consumers, manufacturers are increasingly overcoming this conflict by working with retailers to devise strategies that are beneficial for all parties involved. 

Selling direct does not mean abandoning existing distribution channels. A successful direct-to-customer business should  be  built  on a  strategy that supports current distribution partners and increases revenue across all channels, rather than prioritizing one over  another.

From manufacturer to retailer

Running an ecommerce channel is a completely different business model than a wholesale retail business, as it requires a different set of internal skills, processes, and infrastructure. Brand manufacturers who sell online do not just need to become online merchants; they need think and act like retailers. If brand manufacturers do not plan and prepare for operational differences, the  customer experience will suffer. Everything from order placement to fulfillment to shipping, returns, marketing and customer service needs to be tailored to the ecommerce channel in question to deliver a seamless customer experience.

To ensure that the customer experience is on par with the brand experience, front-end experience and backend operations must receive the same amount of care and maintenance. If the backend infrastructure and logistics are not equipped to handle the direct channel, customer experience will suffer, which will in turn have a significant impact on the brand. 

Behind the scenes 

While a user-friendly and effective customer-facing ecommerce site is essential, it is also critical to plan for what happens behind the scenes once an order has been placed. The processes involved in delivering a smooth and seamless experience after the point of purchase are paramount. Failure on the part of operations, backend infrastructure, and logistics to deal with the direct channel will negatively impact consumer experience. 

Because these processes differ so significantly from what brand manufacturers are accustomed to, most brands struggle to overcome these challenges. Diligent planning should always include an investment in skilled ecommerce labor resources, infrastructure adjustment, new technology systems implementation, and new operational resources covering everything- from order management to warehousing, shipping to customer service- are critical to ensuring success. 

To develop a successful digital commerce strategy, establish a cross-functional team with a variety of skills, set the right objectives, design a better customer experience, and find the right option to get the products direct to consumer. It is important to note that filling SKUs is not the same as working with pallets. You can adapt with what you already have or choose to outsource with the right partner.

Selecting the right e-commerce platform

After deciding to go direct, it is important to select the right digital commerce platform. From a technology perspective, brand manufacturers should look to an ecommerce platform that allows non-technical marketers, content professionals, and merchandisers to easily manage their content. The platform should include such features as Personalization and Segmentation, Publishing Tools, Guided Navigation and Search, Account Management and SEO.

Since brand manufacturers can realize significant growth due to an already established brand, they should be concerned about the ability to scale the platform to handle increased traffic and sales. International expansion and maintaining a balance with the expertise of the organization are two other major considerations. 

This is why a  'Crawl, Walk, Run' strategy is always recommended. Brand manufacturers should choose a platform that allows them to scale upwards to support their growth and lets them learn about the digital channel without disrupting business. The speed of the 'Crawl, Walk, Run' strategy should be considered when evaluating digital commerce platforms in the middle market or enterprise arena. 

To learn more about direct-to-consumer strategy, contact us at

Why mobile-first strategies are essential to digital transformation success

Digital transformation is top of mind for large enterprises as well as small to midsize businesses around the world. While diversifying a product portfolio, expanding into new markets, or completing a merger and acquisition (M&A) can drive growth and add value, these initiatives are not transformative. In a global market where digital leads, and mobile is first, transformation is essential to remaining competitive.

Customer-centricity is the essence of digital transformation, and those customers - from all geographies, cultures and social diversities - are embracing mobile like never before. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans now own a cell phone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.

Along with mobile phones, Americans own a range of other information devices. Nearly eight-in-ten U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers, and around one-in-five own e-reader devices.

Mobile-first strategies are essential to digital transformation success. The following chart shows the profound impact mobile has on a company’s customers, employees and the organization as a whole:


The impact of mobile on digital transformation is profound. However, C-suite and executive team members should also understand the broader perspective. Mobile-first strategies provide the much-needed freedom that a company’s customers, employees and other stakeholders expect.

To learn more about the impact of mobile on digital transformation, contact us at