7 Truths About Electronic Communication in the Promotional Products Industry
Suppliers and distributors are finally moving forward in improving electronic communications. While there are plenty of hurdles still to overcome, the industry is finally moving forward and making real progress.
Here are things that are happening now:
- Top suppliers are now providing inventory via Web services.
- Top suppliers are sending order status via Web service and via email formatted for electronic consumption (as well as human consumption).
- Select distributors are sending orders with XML data so that the vendor doesn't have to re-enter most/all the information.
Plenty of work remains to be done:
- Distributors need to provide accurate and complete information on purchase orders including attaching artwork.
- Proofs must be delivered via Web services or other method to reduce process complexity.
- Vendors need to start sending invoices with both a PDF and XML attachments.
- The configured product data issue must be solved.
Finally, more organizations need to start adopting the standards that are already working. A standard must supported by enough people becomes a standard in practice and not just in name.
Most small distributors and suppliers are dependent on the industry service providers to implement these standards and that is potentially bad news. The industry service providers do want the problem solved. However, most (not all) service providers want to be in the middle of the transaction and place the priority on revenue rather than efficiency. Therefore, the service providers may be a roadblock to improving industry electronic communication since most industry firms are dependent on industry service providers.
For larger firms not entirely dependent on the service providers, the collaboration has been increasing and already has provided a real return on investment. The investments made by the larger firms come at a high initial cost but with so many orders processed, the return can be relatively quick. These investments ultimately benefit firms of all sizes as more firms adopt the standards.