A dual-channel industry, the promotional products sector faces some interesting challenges in getting its products designed, manufactured and into recipients’ hands. Technology can help ease some of those pain points.
According to the Promotional Products Advertising Industry (PPAI), the promotional products space is currently home to more than 24,000 distributors that work primarily with business services, health care, education, financial and manufacturing firms that want to build brand awareness, distribute business gifts, hand out trade show swag and recognize their employees.
Topping these companies’ favorite promotional products list are wearables, drinkware, travel items, writing implements and technology gadgets. Getting these products from concept to completion takes some doing and includes the work of the more than 3,500 supplier firms nationwide that offer an enormous variety of products for sale through promotional products distributors.
Acting as independent agents and selling products to their clients, the nation’s more than 24,000 distributors develop ideas for using promotional products in marketing or promotional campaigns, buy the items from the supplier and then sell them to end customers. This supply chain requires a high degree of orchestration. Here are four problems that are keeping CEOs in the industry up at night, and how a unified ERP can help ease their worries and let them get some rest:
- It can feel like you’re herding cats. The promotional products industry has complex, multi-level relationships, including the movement of goods from vendor-to-vendor, then vendor-to-customer and even multiple location drop-shipments which requires sophisticated software and processes to operate efficiently. All entities, products, protocols and procedures must be orchestrated in a very efficient, productive and customer-centric way. For example, extensive collaboration is often needed to obtain approvals on artwork and customized goods or samples before they are mass produced. Done correctly, this can help to drive consistent profitability and growth for the companies that operate in this space.
- One wrong move and you’ve lost a customer. Order entry, artwork and file management must all be orchestrated perfectly in order to get the correct promotional product made and into the hands of the end customer. Just one mistake on a proof, one wrong color selection or an incorrect order quantity can put an entire order in jeopardy (not to mention the negative impact it has on the client relationship).
- It’s a dual-channel, fragmented space. The lines between manufacturing (aka, “supplier”) and distribution do tend to blur in this sector, but the former typically focuses on importing goods from overseas and then applying the silk screening, embroidery, and other custom embellishments to the products. From there, distributors take orders from customers that want promotional products to give away at trade shows, hand out to employees, and give to customers. After nailing down the customization requirements, distributors manage the procurement from manufacturers, the customer service component, and anything else the end customer requires. eXtendTech, which delivers service bundles for both supplier and distributor organizations, often finds itself working with companies that rely on a patchwork of proprietary and off-the-shelf technology systems to run their businesses.
- Large suppliers hold a lot of the tech cards. Most companies are using systems developed by large suppliers to place orders, check on those orders, invoices and receive payments. These highly proprietary systems often don’t talk to one another, nor do they allow for easy integration with systems that enable more modern functionalities (e.g., mobile ordering capabilities). On the production floor, for instance, automating the warehousing and/or manufacturing environment is both necessary and challenging. That issue rings true for both distributors that manage the manufacturing functions themselves and for the entire universe of suppliers. Lacking a unified, cloud ERP, these companies must allocate time, resources, and labor to using their larger suppliers’ systems.
Getting to Sleep at Night
To help promotional products companies leverage technology and focus on what they do best, eXtendTech has built a family of applications that layer on top of NetSuite that specifically address these gaps and other pain points that the promotional products industry is grappling with.
• An order configurator for placing orders for customized goods/promotional products that enables the capture of all necessary decoration details, artwork, surcharges and the drop-shipping of goods involving multiple vendors and decorators.
• An artwork management and collaboration tool for use with vendors and customers.
• Industry integrations including PromoStandards, ASI’s ESP and supplier- direct API integrations.
• A presentation tool for ideation and collaboration integrated with native NetSuite opportunities.
Promotional product companies can’t add time to their days, but with eXtendTech’s NetSuite bundles and integrations, they can maximize productivity and cut operational costs.