Until recently, chemical producers and distributors have been fairly slow to react to the new opportunities posed by digital tools and technologies. Other industries such as banking and manufacturing have already embraced the advent of digitalization and have been able to both streamline operations and improve productivity as a result.
However, opinions are changing and chemical distributors are becoming far more aware of the benefits and a little less reluctant to invest and innovate, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are several reasons behind this, according to Jay Bhatia, founder of Agilis Chemicals, Inc. – a technology company that helps distributors launch their own branded e-commerce portals and supplement existing sales channels. Here is an example of an NACD distributor member using the Agilis portal.
Shifting demographics in particular are driving change, he suggests. A significant proportion of those working in the chemical industry are expected to retire in the next five years and the younger generation entering the workforce are bringing with them a better understanding of how these new technologies work.
They are so accustomed to using the internet to buy products in their personal lives that they expect the same to happen in the business world too. It is therefore inevitable, says Bhatia, that they will be looking to e-commerce as an effective sales and communication tool.
Similarly, NACD strategic partner, EchoSystem offers distributor and manufacturers an alternative digital outlet via its growing online marketplace. Its closed distributor-to-distributor network offers a simple-to-use, secure way to buy and sell chemicals.
Products are listed anonymously, with sellers able to control who can see their inventories and at what price. This could be ideal way for distributors to explore alternative markets without disrupting their existing clients.
Beyond their standard platform, EchoSystem also recently launched the Visibility and Procurement Platform (VAPP) specifically to support COVID-19 pandemic needs at no charge to distributors to be able to offer essential chemicals and PPE or other items that help hospitals, municipalities, and emergency responders.
Platforms such as these aim to unlock sales potential and allow businesses to better communicate with their audience, access information quickly, track orders, and increase transparency.
The new marketplace that will be in demand post-COVID will require transformational technologies. There are many companies who can provide options through existing ERM systems or those included here. Distributors and manufacturers alike should explore these channels and enhance offerings for their customers.