The food and drink industry needs to digitise now. These are the words of Advanced’s senior technology leader, Amanda Grant, who also says those that take a digital-first approach will be the first to bounce back from the current crisis.
The warning comes after the government recently announced plans to ‘turbo charge’ the industry as the world begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19. The new bounce back plan includes a package of measures designed to aid recovery with a focus on providing help for SMEs to grow their trade activity overseas. In addition to introducing an overseas virtual buyer trial, a ‘Smart Distance Selling Process’, and a package of ‘Ready to Trade’ Exporting Masterclass webinars, the government is also launching a new SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot to increase the level of international e-commerce backing for food and drink SMEs.
The SME E-commerce Accelerator Pilot will offer one-to-one e-commerce export clinics with e-commerce specialists and regional advisers as well as a new series of industry webinars and podcasts focused on highlighting the opportunities available to export through e-marketplaces internationally. In addition, it will deliver virtual workshops on internationalising websites for those companies planning to sell direct to consumers in various markets around the world.
“The government’s plan represents an incredible opportunity for food and drink manufacturers to accelerate recovery as well as open up new opportunities for growth, especially online,” comments Amanda Grant, Chief Product Officer at Advanced. “However, for this to work, they will need to prioritise their digital transformation plans. Any business that uses e-commerce as a sales channel will need to use technology that makes the management of inventory, orders and pricing effortless. This means Business Management Systems (BMS) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems must be integrated with e-commerce platforms. Otherwise, they’ll waste time and money.
“Adding stock to a BMS and adding it again to an e-commerce platform, for example, is incredibly time consuming and there is risk that it will be out of date. It’s small challenges like these that, as businesses look to scale up, will turn into huge problems quickly. It results in huge administrative burdens, a drain on resources and, ultimately, disappointed customers.”
Advanced is offering support to food and drink businesses with the launch of its new Business Cloud Essentials (BCE) E-commerce Smart Link, a connector that bridges the gap between its BMS and a range of e-commerce platforms including Amazon and eBay as well as Shopify, Magento and Woo Commerce. When integrated, these previously disparate systems can now interact with one
another with minimal human input. It gives businesses the opportunity to create greater visibility for customers and automate data workflows between the website and the back office.
Amanda adds: “All of this data visibility and accessibility helps businesses get the job done as efficiently as possible which is critical considering food and drink has been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic. At-home consumption has of course increased, but out-of-home consumption has nearly come to a standstill. The fact that lockdown restrictions are lifting from 4th July will be a huge relief to food and drinks businesses, but we have already seen the government isn’t afraid to impose regional lockdowns – forcing many food and drink establishments to once again shut down. The industry therefore needs to take a digital-first approach so they are better prepared for whatever happens in the weeks and months ahead.”
Felicity Burch, CBI Director for Innovation and Digital, concludes: “Digitalisation has already made incredible in-roads in the food and drink industry. We have seen many manufacturers, for example, adopt process automation and controls to automate the physical aspects of the production process. However, for many organisations, especially SMEs, there is some way to go as they try to recover from the crisis. I’d therefore highly encourage them to capitalise on the government’s new measures and also look to adopt technology that enables smart e-commerce.