In a time when economic conditions have sharpened the teeth of the business world, retailers, brands, and manufacturers are adapting to and adopting new ways of doing business in order to keep up and excel. With less room for error, it is critical for companies to evaluate areas and opportunities for reducing expense, while maintaining business function and ideally increasing efficiency.
The trade show is still considered one of the top resources (and consequently expenses) for facilitating commerce. However, as the business world continues to evolve, is the trade show format keeping pace with the changing needs of participants? Is a healthy return on investment still available for retailers, brands and manufacturers? What's more, are companies not just returning on their investment in trade shows, but also maximizing it?
"I've never seen retailers more excited about placing an order." -Ben Anderson, Founder, Icelantic
For operations like CompanyBE, Emage and Icelantic, the answer is positively yes and lies in their ability to harness one of modern society's greatest game changers- technology. CompanyBE has been implementing and paving the tech-commerce road for some time, as they provide software solutions for 'people who sell.' Their sister company, Denver skate and snow shop, Emage, has been utilizing a CompanyBE-built, synchronized retail system since their inception. Emage began as an online store in 2001, then evolved into a brick and mortar shop soon after. With the ability to track real time inventories, produce sell through reports and access other tools that allow owners of Emage Branden Peak, Sean Robinson, and Brandt Wisenbaker to maintain an intimate knowledge of their business at any given moment, the retail shop has been equipped to make on point buying decisions, identify areas for growth as well as weather recent economic turbulence.
Icelantic, which is also based in Denver, was heading into 2012 with a swift growth pattern emerging. While Icelantic was already utilizing a CompanyBE core system, they wanted to add a component that would allow them to cultivate and ramp up pre-book business. Set in place just before SIA, CompanyBE updated Icelantic's core system with a line showing tool that allowed them to accomplish this goal.
Equipped with iPads and electronic catalogs, sales reps worked with accounts during SIA to complete orders on the spot. Icelantic Sales Rep, Logan Boone, who has worked with Icelantic at SIA for the past five years says he saw a significant jump in orders written at the show and is now much further ahead of his normal numbers as a result. Ben Anderson, Founder of Icelantic, reports that the number of orders written at the trade show doubled this year. "I've never seen retailers more excited about placing an order," says Anderson. "This system helps both the retailer and the vendors simplify the whole process."
Inventory that was once tracked in tallies on a dry erase board at the central Icelantic office, has been converted into a system that tracks inventory across all facets of their business, from manufacture to sale, both domestically and from their newly opened European offices, in real time. Other bits of data that once spanned across multiple computer programs now fits and communicates among one central program.
Robinson, part-owner and buyer for Emage, says the software performs two key functions for retail business in general and in specific relation to streamlining trade show business. First, when companies offer incentives for buyers to enter orders now and adjust numbers later (Icelantic offered an upfront discount that would remain with the order until it was finalized), it facilitates work getting done right there in the booth, during designated appointment times. The Icelantic catalog, for example, is set up similar to a website with a shopping cart, where key pieces can be marked easily and carried over directly to the order. Secondly, the software system consolidates the process of order writing by eliminating extra data entry steps and reducing costly mistakes associated with multiple changeover steps and human error. Two years ago, Peak calculated the cost of an error in his business, coming out to roughly $35 per mistake. He says with inflation, today's mistake costs $50. He also argues that these mistakes are 100% avoidable.
If retailer and brand both utilize a software system like the one CompanyBE has to offer, then the order writing process is consolidated by three steps (retailer to brand to manufacturer) to two orders entered (retailer/ brand to manufacturer). If retailer, brand and manufacturer all utilize the same system, then the order writing process is further reduced into one step, such as the case with Icelantic. The original order that is entered by the retailer, is the same order that the sales rep enters into the brand's system, which is the same order that feeds into the larger manufacturer order. If the retailer is working with multiple brands under the same software system, they can simply log into the system and manage multiple brand orders at the same time.
The ultimate benefit of a consolidated order entry process is saved time and less error. For sales reps, time to be more attentive to their accounts: meeting with buyers, analyzing sales numbers, improved customer service. For buyers, orders written at the trade show directly alleviate the amount of post trade show work to be done, encouraging deadlines are met on time or early, which translates to a more tidy and fluid system all around.