Date: 05/25/2020

A global trend. It could not be any different for the Stone Business

    One of the most common questions asked today is: are you ready to adjust your company for the future of internet? Well, guess what? That future has arrived. Despite the common answers "I know I need to increase my company's presence on internet and I will do so when the time comes" or "I will adjust my company for an online tendency as soon as I'm done investing elsewhere", the world became majorly online and we can't deny this fact. That means if you look around you will notice that everything is online. From choosing the shoes you will buy from to what music you will listen to, the main place where the search begins is at the internet. Now a day, one of the first toys a children asks when he is old enough to make that choice is a tablet, smartphone or things alike. Checking your bank account, choosing the restaurant or the best place for vacation, internet again.

    Along with that world tendency for internet is a key word called "convenience". Everything that a smartphone or any other electronic device connected to the internet does is to make life easier and, most of the time, faster. As we all know, time has became the most valuable item we have and everything that consume less of it, tends to grow. Internet is deeply involved into our life because of that and as hard as we may try to avoid it, it seems the more we depend on it. If you stop and analyze the latest well succeeded companies around the world used this word to obtain their victories: Whatsapp, Spotify, Waze, Dominos, Google... "Convenience" is the key word for the future and whoever invests on it will not regret, regardless the business model the company fits in.

'Convenience' is the key word for the future and whoever invests on it will not regret. "

    The Stone Business is certainly not different and its tendency is showing real proofs. Starting with this magazine and its online version, which can be read anywhere without the need of carrying any paper, to a homeowner choosing his fabricator or even pre-select the granite color he desires to place on his kitchen countertop. Most of the well-known exporters and distributors worldwide already have some sort of "online inventory" option or a software in which their customers gain access to their inventory. Fabricators are now able to show their templates, estimates or even draws of kitchens online. Most of the tools, machines and products alike specially designed for the stone industry can now be researched and sometimes even bought online. Customers from different segments of the Stone Industry are now using their devices to selected products and communicate with their suppliers. There are some more developed systems in the market that offer a faster communication between buyers and vendors through online chats, shopping cart, orders follow-up and even online payments.

    Internet has also extended the normal "hours of operation" of companies by exposing their inventory online, which automatically keeps the business running 24/7. Think of this: a customer has to drive for many miles (usually with traffic in the major cities) and with an appointment prior scheduled within the normal hour of operation with his sales representative, so he is be able to see the inventory and select his granite slab(s). On top of that customers with overseas suppliers have to spend many hours, money (and sometimes health sitting at tied seats at airplanes) to hand select their slabs. This has started to change with the newest online inventory systems available in the market. One of our customers has informed that almost 90% of their actual sales to USA are now made thru SlabWare. That represents alone over 3.5 million (US$) per year revenue coming from one of these online systems. The other 10% is done by what they now call "the old-fashion way" of emails and actual visits. A few other Brazilian suppliers adepts of SlabWare are experiencing the same feeling.


    In the past stone trading was done through fax. We can't even imagine how this is possible, right? Nowadays e-mail seems to be the common way to communicate but this is also starting to change with the freedom provided by the online inventory systems. The same thing which Amazon and E-bay have done to commerce all over the world is happening to the stone business by some of the online inventory systems. What do you think is more convenient? Receive a heavy email with a limited number of colors for you to choose from, or have the opportunity to open an entire inventory from a supplier and use its intelligent filter technology to find whatever you desire whenever you want, wherever you are? Again, what is more efficient, faster and easier? In summary, it's the word "convenience" taking place. Furthermore some of these systems provide the option for customers to use software’s and applications in which the purchasing experience is even smoother and quicker, with offline mode that synchronizes whenever the device gets online again.

    Not too long ago, I remember seeing sales representatives from many countries who traveled to USA to visit customers with huge sample suitcases, sometimes made of wood and filled with stone pieces weighing over 5kg (11lbs), having a hard time to open doors, fly, etc. Now brochures or even business cards seem to be loosing their use for the online revolution. These online systems are gathering all these needs together in one place, and the best thing is: online at cloud servers. That means you can show with any device your inventory and access any data you need, such as customer database, orders and their status, open Invoices, files, etc. I've noticed that at some of the companies who use these technologies sales reps are now traveling with nothing more than an IPad! How crazy is that if you look back! No more samples, papers or even computers are needed to sell! On top of that a director of a company is now able to access all sales activities and all kinds of reports in his cell phone.

    I always like to say that nothing will replace the human relationships. After all, business is nothing more than someone buying or selling products/services to someone else. However everything that comes to make this human connection more efficient, easier and quicker is accepted and tends to become a necessity. Nothing will ever replace the intelligence of a sales representative for example who knows what his customers like or how to approach him in order to close a sale. These softwares out there, if used correctly with its many tools involved (Customer Relationship Management, E-mailing and other features alike) tends to be a very useful tool for them to sell more. As long as we are talking about people trading with people nothing should replace the old shake of hands once a deal is closed. But imagine the world of possibilities these softwares can offer to an efficient sales representative who can handle it properly! Whoever knows how to handle well the word "convenience" will overpass others who don't and these professionals will never fear these type of technologies. A well prepared sales staff knows how to approach customers on the right time and place. Stone shows and workshops should not be affected by these technologies but instead they should take advantage from it and improve its chances of success.

Nothing will replace the human relationships. However everything that comes to make this human connection more efficient, easier and quicker is accepted and tends to become a necessity. "

    So whenever you think of the future of your company you should not avoid thinking of internet and its sales tools. The world became majorly online and the Stone Business is certainly not different. If you haven't thought about that until now, I invite you to do so, since I'm sure your customers and maybe your competitor already did! The options are out there. Choose wisely, but choose one.

By Pedro Henrique Menna

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