What to look out for when deciding on the right technology partner

Technology leads digital change with even the most traditional businesses now looking at digital to boost sales and marketing. However, technology innovation is not the easiest concept to grasp, especially for newer companies joining the game at a later stage.

In an interview with Marketing, Daniel Wright, chief digital officer, Tyres4U, shares insights into how the technology innovation game has evolved over the years and dishes out tips for companies looking to invest in technology.  First embarking on the eCommerce journey in 2011, the tire wholesaler is now looking to grow by striking up meaningful partnerships with suppliers and service providers in the auto industry.  Partnering up with motoring clubs, as a B2B2C strategy, has led to an increase in sales conversions.

Wright, who is responsible for digital strategy, technological innovation and change within Tyres4U, has extensive experience in matching technological excellence with practical business outcomes. This provides him with a unique perspective from which to identify opportunities and tweak them for the company's benefit. More from his interview below.

Catch Wright and top-notch commerce experts from across the region at “Modern Commerce in Asia Pacific”, a FREE two-day virtual summit by Sitecore on 26-27 May for commerce, marketing and IT leaders, as they discuss commerce and marketing success strategies for 2020 and beyond. Click here for details. Sitecore's virtual summit is done in partnership with Marketing.

Marketing: Tyres4U has worked with Sitecore since 2011 when it launched its first eCommerce site, Tyres4U.com. At the time, Tyres4U was an eCommerce pioneer in Australia, as no other tire suppliers or retailers sold online. How has the scene changed and how have you kept on top of the game?

Wright: It’s changed so much in that time. When we first launched, the major players were not even advertising prices online! Everything was geared towards pushing a customer to a phone call. Now there are half a dozen online retail competitors, many of them online only. It’s been interesting to see some try slightly different models, but most have offered us the sincerest form of flattery in terms of copying what we have done.

Of course, it’s not just the competition that changes over time, consumer behaviour and emerging technology both play a huge part in what changes come to pass. The transition to primarily mobile has occurred in this time and it’s been fascinating to see distinct stages of the customer lifecycle happen on different devices. We see a lot of research on tablets for example but online purchasing still tends to mainly happen on desktop or laptop. Mobiles favour people actively looking for a physical store at that point in time. Of course, everything happens everywhere but those are some of the trends that have stood out.

When things are moving so quickly the main way, we have tried to stay ahead of the curve is by adopting the attitude that this isn’t a journey with a single destination instead it’s a journey of constant discovery. We are always looking for something new and interesting and always moving on to the next destination. So, it goes from being a vision of “When we achieve this, we will have arrived” and instead becomes an ongoing adventure, “What’s next? What will we find now?”

Marketing: How do you decide which technology partner to pick when first starting out given there are so many technology players today? 

Wright: Choosing partners can be a particularly daunting task because there are so many to choose from and there is so much at stake. I think it’s important to have a clear objective in mind for the beginning of your journey. Bearing in mind what I’ve said already about the journey never truly ending, I think it’s important to balance that mindset with a clear understanding of where you are first going.

The truth is that a transformational journey usually begins as a response to some sort of pain point, or threat to the business and that’s completely fine.

That helps set the parameters and the goals for the first foray. So, fix those goals firmly in mind and then do enough research until you’re confident that you have found partners that are enthusiastic about what you are trying to achieve.

I have a few simple things in mind when I’m evaluating potential partnerships. Mostly they’re positive values I look for and one cautionary one.

Firstly, does the potential partner have the technical resources to achieve what I need them to? There are a lot of good platforms and players in tech today. I’m glad to say that the offerings continue to get better and better, but this is where my cautionary point comes in. It’s astonishing how many tech players will still blithely say they can do something without having done it before or properly understanding what things require. Good partners will always help you get specific about your goals, be able to demonstrate how they’ve done similar things before and how they think they can best contribute to that now.

Secondly, when I look for partners, I look for true partnership. I want people who will challenge our thinking and tell us if they think we’re headed in the wrong direction. I want the debate. I want the different viewpoints. I’m a firm believer that good partners make your ideas and your ambitions better. They don’t just accept your first thoughts as “the product”.

The third thing I look for is a deep and abiding enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve. We are embarking on a project together as partners but that means I’m trusting these partners to join the journey we are trying to take the business on. I don’t want casual passengers; I want seasoned explorers and adventurers who are as excited as we are to see what we can discover and accomplish together.

Marketing: When embracing new technology, how do you ensure the amount invested will pay off and convince your management?

Wright: If anyone ever figures out an easy or surefire way to do this, please get in touch and let me know! Seriously though, I think my earlier point about transformational journeys often beginning because of pain points or business threats is also relevant here. Transformation for its own sake is meaningless. It becomes gimmickry of the worst kind and is unsustainable. That said, transformation that is attuned to real business need and that is aligned to customer convenience is genuinely invigorating.

I think when we talk about business transformation it’s easy to get caught up in the big picture and forward looking vision of where we could be in several years’ time. While that is really important it’s not where we start and it’s also almost never where we actually end up because so much changes along the way. What is really important and what has to guide us every step of the way is the desire to meet the needs of your customer and make helping them your priority.

Creating happy customers is the first step of building real loyalty with them and there are so many simple ways you can achieve that without needing huge costs. For us, that’s exactly where platforms like Sitecore come in. While in terms of what we have built there were, for our business, significant costs in getting set up the platform has the breadth of operational abilities and the ongoing support to ensure that we will be getting the most out of it for years to come.

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