I interviewed Tom Lee, Jr. who discussed State of Readiness With OEMs To Migrate into E-Commerce.





Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?


I'm with Great Northern Products. I've been running that sales and marketing agency for the last 20 years, and we've migrated from territorial sales into building our own e-commerce initiatives. So, we primarily don't everything online now for ourselves, buying and reselling.


And then the other initiative we just founded is CloudWorks. We take the technology and experience we've gotten from our past decade of migrating online and we're teaching other companies to do the same things for themselves.


Can you share some of the problems you see with OEMs and their readiness to adopt e-commerce?


I think the biggest problems we see from an OEM perspective, is they're all about manufacturing because they – rightfully so in many ways – have relied on regional, physical channels of distribution. And the requirements about packing things up to the shipping dock and sending them off for distribution, doesn't put a lot of pressure on them to respond to the wide variety of things that come down the pipe when you put yourself out there online.


So, they're very singular, very linear, I would say, is probably the biggest issues. And most of them are that way by choice and also by necessity, because in a lot of instance, they don't want to migrate into e-commerce because they don't want to upset the regional, physical chains of distribution, which is completely understood. However doing nothing certainly isn't a solution.


How can the problems be addressed effectively?


Well, from where we sit, it's not an either or proposition. I think that's why there's a lot of inaction with some of the OEMs and fabricators out there, because they are tied to their current customer base.


What we've always advocated is not ‘either or,’ but rather ‘in additional to’– to put into play a start point where you can migrate some of your efforts online so you can start building the experience, the knowledge, and the backend systems to properly handle them.


So, it really isn't a choice of having to abandon one system in order to go to the other, which too often is what's presented as the only option for these folks. And that's just not correct. They want to leverage their existing system, but they also want to get on board while they can and put themselves under the same pressure and scrutiny that everybody else has. Otherwise,their distributors who are very successful are going to ahead and sell online for them. And in many instances, that's not a bad proposition either.


Where are you seeing some good result?


Well, where we've seen some good results are in the specialty product industries, where their products are so specialized, they haven't been about to bring their products to the attention of the large distribution chains. So, as niche, specialty products, they've had to defend for themselves. So, these smaller, almost mom-and-pop manufacturers or fabricators, have actually had more success out of necessity and have developed more flexibility in terms of having to respond to the various options that are in front of them, because they could never penetrate the big stocking distribution chain.


Thank you, Tom, for sharing today. Did we cover all the points you wanted to make?


I think from my perspective. I'm not at the 30,000 foot view of the supply chain. We only see it from our little corner of the world. But I think a lot of times, people need to drill down. There's an awful lot of bits and pieces that make up the supply chain. And sometimes doing a drill down can expose an awful lot of the bottlenecks and gaps that need to be addressed.




About Tom Lee, Jr.



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Tom Lee, Jr.

B2B Developer | Digital Advisor

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