Don’t Just Walk on By

January 16, 2015

If there’s a penny on the sidewalk, do you stoop to pick it up?

By Ilene Wolff

No?
How about a quarter?
Maybe?
What about a $10 bill?

People who walk by found money are just like businesses that don’t value their time. They’re both missing out on money that’s waiting to be picked up.

Retrieving stray cash off the sidewalk is simple, of course. But, because it does not depend on sheer luck, it might be even easier for businesses to do essentially the same thing, by finding ways to save time. One way firms can do that is simply to streamline their process for ordering marketing and other business materials.

And that is where using single sourcing via a “digital storefront” comes in.

A digital storefront—a company’s online platform for its employees and other authorized users to order materials—decentralizes the ordering process. It pushes that task out from the home office to the specific individuals who actually need business cards, brochures, stationery, and more. The digital site does this while letting decision-makers keep control over branding even as it allows end-users to customize their supplies within parameters set by the boss.

A digital storefront can even help a company’s core internal operations, saving money by helping control inventory, providing data for usage and other reports, streamlining invoicing and accounts payable operations, and saving on labor costs.

The ability to efficiently control its inventory was a big reason that Stevens Worldwide Van Lines, headquartered in Saginaw, Michigan, implemented a digital storefront. Before opening what the firm calls the Stevens Shop a year ago, it had no control over inventory.

“We’re a storage company, so we have lots of storage space, right?” says Barb Muessig, Stevens’ director of marketing and sales support. “We thought we knew how many brochures we had, but who knew if a salesperson walked back there and grabbed a handful?”

Muessig says Stevens’ digital storefront has already allowed the company to save in labor costs because its approximately 100 independent agent companies that operate under the Stevens name now order directly from the supplier, via the storefront. The Stevens Shop has also helped enhance customer service to the agents by giving them more control, Muessig says.

A digital storefront also allows companies like Stevens to leverage its usage data to analyze and gain insights on business operations. Were the brochures Stevens had printed used, or were they thrown away? The answer may help company managers decide, at the brochure’s next revision, whether to print a large run and store them, or use print on demand.

Digital storefronts also offer one of the conveniences appreciated by online shoppers everywhere. Once a user is granted access—and Stevens has about 300 users—he can shop 24/7/365 from a self-service platform that doesn’t care whether he’s in Saginaw or Singapore.

Great Expectations

Like Stevens, the Annapolis, Maryland-based JumpBunch franchise business has more to track than simply a group of employees who want to secure materials. That makes it that much more complex and critical to have an efficient ordering strategy.
“When a franchisee purchases a business, one of the things they expect are systems,” says Joey St. John, vice president of operations for JumpBunch, a provider of exercise classes for children. “This allows the franchisee to focus on revenue building.”

As a result of JumpBunch’s digital storefront, franchisees nationwide can order marketing materials and business supplies via their computers. In JumpBunch’s case, this means franchisees can order branded marketing materials such as signage and banners, promotional giveaways like hand sanitizer, and operational items such as teacher uniforms.

JumpBunch even set up an optional direct mail marketing campaign for its approximately 50 franchisees nationwide via its digital storefront. Franchisees were able to provide their own mailing list or could have digital storefront vendor Prograde, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based print and marketing communications services partner of The F.P. Horak Company, buy a list for them. St. John says up to 80 percent of the franchisees participate.

Prograde also helped when JumpBunch made changes in its franchisee signup brochure. The company wrote its own promotional copy, but Prograde took care of the rest by asking questions like “What do you want the parent to see first?” and “What’s less of a priority for you as a potential franchisee?”

“They really think like the person we’re targeting,” says St. John. His wife is a JumpBunch franchisee, so it’s a simple task for St. John to spot check on the digital storefront’s service and quality.

“I really have a front row seat,” he says with a laugh.

All About The Client

A company can also use a digital storefront to simplify life for its business partners.

Rob Jahn, president of Monarch Print Solutions in Michigan Center, Michigan, helped set up a digital storefront for Ally Auto, which, among other services provided to automobile dealerships, finances car purchases. Auto dealers have the ability to use Ally’s online site to order Ally-branded products to help the dealer sell vehicles.

Because the storefront can be used to customize items with additional text and uploaded images, Monarch has a person on staff to quickly review each order to make sure the images are appropriate.

The digital storefront helps Ally Auto build relationships with its dealers and makes branded products easy to order for its customers any time of day and any day of the year.

“It’s all about [making it easy for] the client,” says Jahn.
Yes, it is all about the client, and businesses that maximize the value of their own time, perhaps with a digital storefront, will have the human and monetary resources to keep their focus on clients’ needs.