Suppliers: It’s Not the Big That Will Eat the Small

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Once upon a time, there was a seismic eruption in the multi-billion dollar promotional products space. The tremors roiled through every part of the industry and the aftershocks upended all suppliers and distributors. It forever changed the way suppliers, distributors, and end-clients did business together. 

What was this disruption? 

Lead times. Lead times went from 3-4 weeks to a few days production, seemingly overnight. The landscape of the industry changed forever. It changed how suppliers aligned their infrastructure to meet the demand for speed, it changed which suppliers and products got precedence and it was all driven by end-buyer’s expectations. 

If you’ve been in the industry awhile, you’ll even remember that, back then, there were 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day icons plastered over certain products that indicated which items were available for rush. That subtle shift changed buying behaviors, it drove who distributors chose to do business with, and end-clients became accustomed to the new normal. 

When the industry went through cataclysmic changes with lead times, it was a race. Suppliers woke up to the fact that this was shifting buying behavior and in order to win more business, they began to pour resources and support behind making the transition possible. The suppliers who reduced lead times from 3-4 weeks to 3-5 days began to pull ahead of the pack. Distributors responded to the suppliers who had shorter lead times by giving them more and more business because the market demanded it. Suppliers who invested in their infrastructure to align all resources to respond to market demand won the race; those who never adjusted, lost.

We’re in another race. One that, yet again, the market is demanding. And this race also requires the same energy, passion, and attention that reducing lead times did: that of simplifying the buying process through PromoStandards. 

Why is this such a seismic shift?

To understand it, let’s consider what the landscape will look like for all clients once this disruption has occurred and a “new normal” has settled: 

  1. End-buyers are (once again) leading the charge by demanding a frictionless buying experience and because of this, they will experience (as some already are) a seamless solution through digital engagement (we’ve covered this extensively in our engagement commerce series). In other words, they will spend money with distributors who not only provide creative solutions through consultation but above all, make their lives easier by making the transaction and follow-up process invisible. 

  2. For distributors, automated processes will mean they will spend more time consulting with clients (i.e., selling) rather than constantly inundating them with project status. Moreover, distributors will spend far less time babysitting orders with suppliers. Upwards of half their time will be devoted to selling more, not order management. When distributors see which suppliers are making their lives easier, they will respond by giving those suppliers more business. 


Just like those days when lead times were reduced, when the “1-day” icon in catalogs visibly showed who was making progress in the race for reduced lead times, we are, once again, able to visually demonstrating who is making progress with PromoStandards. Below is a screenshot from commonsku, released on our platform this past week, that shows to all distributor customers a supplier’s status: 

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  • Suppliers who now make collaboration easier (pictured below as a light bulb in yellow) are getting ideas to distributors and end-clients faster. 

  • Suppliers who have integrated inventory (green box) are preventing one less order call for all distributors (multiply that times a 100 calls in a week!) 

  • Suppliers who have integrated order status have reduced orders calls by even more. 

  • But suppliers who have integrated ePO’s are completely eliminating the average number of 8 manual follow-ups per order.

These visual cues will help tip buying favor because distributors can, once again, see which suppliers are going to make their lives easier. The market and buying habits will naturally shift toward those suppliers who do. The image above shows who is winning the race.

Many of us think that consolidation through mergers and acquisitions are going to change the industry, but the forces that are going to shape the industry the most are those that determine how we are going to do business together moving forward.

85% of the top 40 suppliers are already participating in Promostandards. Everyone now knows this is a race. 

And just like those days of faster lead-time adoption, it’s not the big that will eat the small, it’s the fast that will eat the slow. 


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commonsku is an effortless business management platform that empowers you to process more orders and handle more business. Learn more at commonsku.com.