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ECI: A STRATEGIC Perspective

30 Mar, 2009 By: Ron Books imageSource

ECI: A STRATEGIC Perspective

Through its OMD, La Crosse and DDMS management systems, eCommerce Industries, Inc. (ECi) is an industry leading provider of dealer technology solutions. More equipment dealers rely on ECi systems than all other ERP packages combined. Now, with dealers facing an
unprecedented number of  challenges — margin pressure, industry consolidation, the growth of connected digital devices, and the overall economy, ECi is leveraging its size, resources and experience to help turn those challenges into opportunities for growth.

“This is what led ECi to the equipment industry in the first place,” said President Ron Books. “We saw dealers facing some of the same business issues we’ve already encountered in other industries. There were also real opportunities to work with dealers, manufacturers and
wholesalers to improve the supply chain. Again, that’s a place where we have proven experience. We saw the opportunity to make a real difference for dealers in the long term.”

Today, the biggest opportunities for dealers may lie in expanding beyond their core equipment offerings. Multi-line dealers who sell
some combination of supplies, equipment, furniture, jan/san and other business-related products are becoming increasingly common, and last year’s economic downturn will only fuel this trend, typically referred to as “convergence.”

 “Everyone knows it’s easier — and cheaper — to sell more to an existing customer than to find a new one,” Books said. “But it’s not just about increasing your revenue per customer; it’s also about protecting those accounts. The more types of products and services you supply
to a customer, the deeper you’ve penetrated their business. That makes it much, much harder for someone else to come in and steal the account.”

This is one place where dealers can actually benefit from the current economy. Their customers are also under pressure to cut costs, which may mean consolidating suppliers. Dealers who can offer office and break room supplies as well as IT consumables, and can help customers
design a new office space as well as provide and service the equipment that goes into it, have a big competitive advantage.

Of course, making the change from a classic equipment dealership to a multi-line business products supplier brings its own challenges. One of them is having the right technology in place. Different industries have different requirements and dealers moving to a multi-line model
may uncover surprising limitations in their current software. The ERP system that was fine for logging service calls could actually hold their business back as they enter new markets.

ECi is positioned to help dealers expand, both as a technology supplier and  as a consultative partner. “We’ve been doing it for years,” Books said. “Companies like Eakes Office Plus or J2 Office Products have grown into  successful multi-line dealers. We understand what
drives convergence, how dealers should respond; the technology issues involved.”

ECi doesn’t believe dealers should have to buy different business systems to move to a multi-line model. The company has spent years developing its DDMS software into a robust, multi-line solution supported by powerful e-commerce and mobile tools at both ends of the supply
chain. Now it’s leveraging those resources to add new capabilities for supply sales to OMD and La Crosse.

Books points to e-commerce as a perfect example. The office supplies market is moving online, driven by the big box players and their technology investments. ECi’s e-commerce platform, ECinteractive, is already connected to OMD — with La Crosse to follow shortly.  ECi spent $5
million dollars and four years of development time (to date) designing the product to compete with the big box sites, using technologies like AJAX, SQL databases and Microsoft.NET. ECinteractive doesn’t just take orders; customers can view account history, pay outstanding
invoices, look up consumables for specific machines, set order approval routings & more. Dealers can even set up rewards programs for online sales.

At the other end of the supply chain, dealers can take advantage of ECi’s Internet-based Private Supply Network (PSN) to order from a roster of almost two dozen manufacturers, wholesalers and buying groups that spans several industries. Benefits include speed, cost reductions,
operational efficiencies.

As dealers expand into other industries, they can’t afford to lose focus on their core equipment business. The evolution toward more connected devices and the need to drive revenue through managed print and other equipment-related services are also fueling an increased need
for technology.

ECi is focused on providing equipment dealers with a total software solution not just an ERP system, and continues to partner with other industry providers such as MWA Intelligence to offer dealers an end-to-end solution that addresses technology needs across their entire

With one phone call, dealers can get a complete solution that includes their choice of powerful ERP systems — OMD or La Crosse, dispatching and service department management, field technician software, automatic meter collection, fleet management and reporting, print services
management and an online customer service center.

Books describes it as one-stop shopping - One Source, One Solution. “Dealers want the best available technology but may think they have to settle for less capable products,” said Books. “ The difference between technology that can really help your business grow and a
second-tier product may be a lot less than dealers think.  It comes down to how you want to grow, and by how much. Operational efficiency is incredibly important and most dealers can still drive significant improvements by putting the right technology in place and really taking
advantage of it.  That said, there is a point of diminishing returns from efficiency improvements. Dealers need software that also provides a flexible platform for long-term growth. At the end of the day, do you want to be the $10 million dealer who goes from $1 million in
profits to $1.2 million by cutting costs, or do you want to be the $10 million dealer who goes to $20 million in revenue and $3 million in profit by cutting costs and selling more product?”

Ron Books is President of ECi. For more information visit www.eci2.com. He is a speaker at ITEX’09.

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