The 7 Questions Interview Series: eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration
“The 7 Question Series” is an investigative content series where we seek out key leaders in a specific industry and/or subject matter expertise area and ask them 7 key questions that “enquiring minds want to know”. There is a twist however to these questions. We provide the person being interviewed with a hypothesis for each question. This helps to frame and set context for their answer.
eCommerce and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives:
The objective of the ecommerce series is to establish direct connections with eCommerce experts across the globe and ask them the same set of 7 questions regarding e-commerce data integration in the supply chain. We want to derive insights from their direct experiences and expertise that will help e-commerce companies, both B2B and B2C at all stages of their evolution. We are also curious to see if their answers are similar or different. These interviews will be featured on this website as a series.
Interview with Jeff Cates, President of Intuit Canada
About Jeff Cates
Jeff Cates is the president of Intuit Canada, a provider of tax and accounting software. He leads Intuit’s strategic growth in Canada, its go-to-market strategies for its consumer and small business offerings, and champions the ongoing commitment to innovation at Intuit, which is a leading global developer of business and personal finance management solutions, such as TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint.com. Jeff has more than 20 years of experience in business development, management, marketing and sales. Prior to joining Intuit, he led consumer and enterprise divisions for companies including Hewlett Packard and Apple Canada.
Robin Smith: Recent statistics tell us that close to 50% of consumers do not buy online? Why do you think that’s the case?
Jeff: The common issues we hear about reluctance to buy online are, fear of credit card data being stolen, fraudulent sites, potential buyers can’t touch the product, costs and time associated with shipping, inconvenience of receiving orders, and complex return policies. Much of that is for hard goods, and for Intuit specifically, we tend to hear concerns around data privacy, different billing models, and reluctance to change something that has worked for them in the past. I believe your assessment is right though. There is a large percentage of our market that are technology laggards.
Only 10% of Canadians planned to do their holiday shopping online in 2014 compared to 44% in Britain. Why do you think there is such a large margin?
Jeff: It’s a bit of an enigma when you consider our weather, and geographic dispersion that ecommerce is not at minimum at par with the US and UK. There are fewer large e-tailers playing in Canada that have tackled some of the key concerns around credibility, ease of shopping, and cost of shipping. Amazon had a huge influence on the market in the US, and UK. In Canada, their store capabilities are limited relative to those other countries, their catalogue is limited, and cost of shipping is higher
Robin Smith: In our experience very few ecommerce sites integrate their systems and data making it impossible to scale and putting customer service and relationships at risk. Why is that?
Jeff: I think this is the evolution of the industry. Small businesses owners often lack experience to draw from so they don’t naturally know what an integrated system might look like. Once they get started, the thought of overhauling their systems to integrate and the perceived investment, is daunting. We see this with Quickbooks desktop. Despite that there are a large number of reasons to move online, many businesses that have established their business around the desktop application are reluctant to take the risk of changing a system, even if they do understand how they can save time and money integrating systems.
Robin Smith: In your view are online retailers and sites leveraging their transactional data strategically? Are they making good use of their data to make strategic decisions and generate more revenue?
Jeff: Getting your arms around your customer data is one of the most important things you can do. This is important not only for personalized shopping experiences, but also to understand dynamically what your customers are shopping for, and where they drop off in the sales funnel. We tend to find small businesses in particular under invest their time in understanding the data they already have on their customers. This could be because they lack the resources to enable easy access to insights, or that they just don’t make it a priority. I suspect it’s a bit of both.
Robin Smith: What are the key differences and similarities when it comes to B2B and B2C ecommerce?
Jeff: Business to business ecommerce tends to be further developed, often due to demand for efficiencies (e.g. supplies ordering), structured support for driving technology integration, and costs savings. Although in many ways these two worlds are blurred, in particular for small businesses that mix their business and personal lives.
Robin Smith: What’s next for ecommerce? Where do you see things headed?
Jeff: In part what I see is more app’s integrating with each other that will dramatically improve access to data, functionality, and quality of outcomes. For example, with Quickbooks Online integration with applications like Shopify, an order on an ecommerce site can directly impact the inventory, and record the sale. That saves time, ensures the inventory data is up to date, and can create flags to drive actions, like to restock an item.
Robin Smith: How involved and active is the C-suite in developing an ecommerce strategy and monitoring the success of ecommerce sales?
Jeff: Though, I’m not certain my guess is this differs remarkably by size of organization. A small business owner, in particular an etail one, is probably heavy into the experience. In larger companies, I often see the senior leaders not taking an active role in what the customer experience is. I received some great advice from Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit. If the senior leader doesn’t care about the customer experience, what message does that send to your team? You need to be in the product, and that includes the web and shop experience, which is an extension of the product. There’s a fine balance of not micro-managing, and I think the way to balance that is the senior leaders need to set the bar on what an awesome experience is. Secondly they need to teach how to make decisions with solid principles. That way team members can continue to do their job but they have a vision, along with the principles that help them understand how decision making should be conducted.
About Intuit Canada
Intuit is a leading software provider of business and financial management solutions for small and mid-sized businesses, consumers and accounting professionals.
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