EDI may be an old technology, but if it's already there, it is often a super-efficient way to do business.
EDI can be defined as the transfer of structured data, such as supply chain, inventory and retail data, by agreed message standards, from one computer system to another without human intervention. In other words, B2B automation. If there is one thing that developers and advisors in the digital commerce industry have in common, it is the quest for a smooth and efficient sales solution for our customers. Automation is always an important component in the solutions we offer our customers. That being said, if your company has an existing EDI setup in place, and it is working, it would be almost silly to fix something that isn’t broken.
EDI acts as the existing communications standards for many industry-specific supply chains. In the medical supply industry for example, where supply of material is crucial for saving lives, with an EDI-system in place, the human factor is not a factor. The orders are made when stock is low, without human intervention, and it works. There is no reason to change that.
If we put on our business glasses again, we are constantly preaching to our customers how important it is to make sure that you have loyal customers. An EDI connection as a sales and ordering system between your company and a customer, is as loyal as it gets. Orders keep coming in, day after day, without any sales efforts.
E-commerce is both web and EDI. If you are running both, don’t favor one over the other.
It is important to point out is that if EDI is part of a company’s digital infrastructure, and serves its purpose, it will not be a roadblock for a modern e-commerce system. Avensia’s customers Ahlsell, is great example of that. They are using a hyper modern e-commerce system, and EDI is an integral part of it.
”EDI, although really old tech, is a great complement to our modern web based e-commerce solution, says Mårten Forssell, Head of E-business at Ahlsell. We can also see that the two are working well together. The customer representative is using the web to find the latest product information, price and availability, but is using EDI to send the order”
It is very important that retailers don’t see EDI and web-based solutions as competitors. The two should not cannibalize on each other e.g. by setting channel-specific goals for e-commerce. Instead, use consolidated KPIs like “Our digital sales, web and EDI, should grow by 10%.”
Ultimately, you should of course let the customer’s needs decide what ordering method should be used, and have internal incentives, KPIs and organization to support that.
Don’t throw away something that is working, for the mere reason that it is old. EDI has been around for decades and will probably be around a few more, for good reasons.