March 4, 2013 – Mark identified eCommerce, Cloud Computing and more automation as major trends at least for his target market which is small and medium sized (SMB) wholesalers and distributors which have outgrown QuickBooks.
Mark has noticed a significant shift by his clients to eCommerce. Some clients have embraced it strategically and others have done it reluctantly. The reluctant ones may have selected something like Go Daddy or Shopify for online shopping carts which may be a good way to get started but will be a problem with lots of orders because of the lack of integration with the back office systems. Most of his clients use eCommerce for B2C (Business to Consumer) but others also use it for B2B (Business to Business) which works well for businesses with small customers that don’t have their own purchase order systems.
The other big trend is the elephant in the sky (Cloud Computing). In 2010, Blue Link had one client in the clouds. On 2012, 85% of their new clients have chosen the cloud over on premise. Blue Link has priced their cloud offering such that there is unlikely to be a significant difference from a cost perspective even after 5 or 10 years. But the big benefit is that his clients no longer have to worry about security or backing up their data and testing whether it works. Many small companies don’t have IT expertise to look after their data properly.
Mark mentioned bar coding and scanning as one of the most significant automation trends. Although bar coding and scanning have been around for a long time, there have been changes which have led to increased adoption:
- It has become mainstream technology and is no longer “mysterious” to many small business owners
- Suppliers are now more often putting bar codes on their products. Many companies that have products manufactured for them overseas are getting their manufacturers to apply barcodes.
- Prices have fallen.