2020 saw a burst of companies needing to adapt and utilize e-commerce solutions. 2021 had many scrambling for a solution on how to do more with fewer people, via better shop management systems.
In both cases, industry technology adoption has experienced a boom, and if you are not already on board, there’s no better time to start than now.
The main challenge is the first step and that comes in the form of a question: “Where do I begin?” I have found two techniques to be successful and they can be viewed as the Analog pathway and the Digital pathway.
The first is a bit old school, but very effective, and involves reaching out to talk to people who are currently using a system to get their insights. You can find these people either by flipping through your mental rolodex of those you are already know or by directly asking the system provider if they have some current users who would be comfortable sharing. The latter does have its challenges, with them potentially showing inherent bias, but most people are open and honest if you ask the right questions (more on that later).
The second is using the power of internet-based resources. You can start by typing into your favorite search engine “screen print shop management software” or “promotional products ecommerce software,” depending on what specifically you are looking for. Watch for the auto-populated options that come up if you’re struggling with keywords. You can also join up with some industry social media groups and connect with other owners to discuss what they use.
This is an option which combines both and is a resource we have right here at SanMar. This involves our Decorator & Digital Solutions team Affiliate Resources and available Tech Talks. These scheduled meetings involve a personalized consultation call with a member of our team who stays connected and updated about various industry tech systems. We will remain unbiased and offer higher level insights, as our goal is not to push or promote any one particular system. These Tech Talks will usually wrap with a few systems for you to explore further and the offer to help with a direct introduction to any Tech Affiliate that you want to demo and learn more from.
Regardless of your approach, once engaged with an industry tech system, it’s important to come prepared and dial in on answering some important questions:
- How long have you been in business and how did you get your start?
- What does an ideal company model look like for your particular system?
- When I have challenges and questions, what is the process to receive help?
- Is there a process for us to submit ideas for areas of improvement and can you share some examples of how that works?
- Which services do your apparel supplier integrations get me: Account Specific Pricing, Access to Live Inventory, ability to submit Electronic POs? Anything else?
- Are you integrated with any other systems (Accounting, E-Commerce, Email Systems, etc)?
- What does the onboarding/training process involve? Do we have an actual person helping, video resources or something else?
- What is a typical timeline for companies to setup and start using your system?
- If things do not work out, how can I retrieve my data?
Note that there was not a question around price/cost. If you’re interviewing a system candidate and they have meaningful and positive responses to the questions above, try not to get hung up on price.
It can be hard to swallow some of the financial investment here, but a smart tech system can help greatly with current labor challenge, improving new hire impressions and retention. The most important thing is to take that first step and lean into tech.