Glen Jewell, Sales Director at Blue Rock Systems, considers the expectations of a new generation of merchant customer.
Prompted by an unprecedented level of business and enquiries in the merchant sector, we’ve taken a pause for a moment to consider what has changed in recent years to affect this. Aside from older systems becoming technically obsolescent, the demand for genuinely modern software is being driven by the user and we’re finding ourselves talking more with Directors and Owners who belong to either Generation X and Y – born between the 60s and the 90s.
With generation Y, for example, defined as the “generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, comprising primarily the children of the baby boomers and typically perceived as increasingly familiar with digital and electronic technology”, these business leaders want information here and now; not at the end of a 100 page print out. In some instances, they don’t even want to ask for the information but want it delivered to whatever device they are working on, as and when the conditions occur to cause it.
And whilst the merchant sector is an industry steeped in tradition and history, we are also working with many business owners in their 60s and 70s who share a similar mindset. Increasingly, merchants are not only looking for practical software functionality for the trade counter, buying and stocking but are looking for software that is faster, smarter, more connected and more flexible. Generation X & Y – and enlightened boomers – are not just making this move because the software looks more current, more graphical and more familiar to users that grew up with Microsoft-type products. They are thinking of their bottom-line profits and recognise that genuinely modern business software will have a direct and positive effect on their customer service, their productivity and their ability to work with today’s generation of traders and contractors.
It is important to keep in mind that Generation X (and to a lesser extent, the next generation as well…) have grown up with the limitations and restrictions of older software. These users base their requirements not only on the good features and aspects of the outgoing solution, but also its shortfalls. More often than not when Blue Rock first engage with this type of client, they already have an extensive list of “can-it-do-this”. Interestingly, 90% of these requirements are not what you would necessarily expect as ‘standard features’ for a merchant – figuratively speaking, this is the merchant pushing the technology accelerator for their business.
It is even harder for the system buyer to predict what they will need in the future. Given that most merchants keep their systems for 15 years or more, then it’s safe to assume that the older ones still in use were purchased when ecommerce was in its infancy. Amazon hadn’t even got into its stride, and mobility (for your field sales, drivers and pickers) was out of reach for most independent companies. This exposure to rapid industry changes makes the buyer more focused on a new system’s ability to adapt and adopt modern thinking.
These new customers are usually accustomed to the “instant supply” society that we live in. They do not want to be solely in the hands of a software supplier, but want autonomy to make their own software changes, reports, enquiries and analysis – they don’t want to ‘recreate the wheel’ but instead to enhance, fine-tune and evolve on top of a great software platform. Although this is all a cost saving for the user, it’s not the main driver behind this demand. Independence, immediacy and ingenuity are the drivers – “I need it now, I want it my way and I’ll do it myself.”
Modern software works best in the hands of modern thinkers. However, a reliable, functional and practical system can be installed using latest generation software even if the user isn’t very dynamic or forward thinking. These types of users often are just slow adopters and need more encouragement to ‘push’ their systems forward – but in the right hands (or minds) the technological advantage can really be leveraged to change the fortunes of the company and positively affect the bottom-line profits.