This July, Ross Elliott, TrueCommerce President, sat with Sramana Mitra, One Million by One Million Blog owner and one of the industry’s most impactful social media figures to talk about TrueCommerce and his view of the supply chain, eCommerce and retail future.
The TrueCommerce team completes dozens of other media interactions throughout the year, and the roles are clearly defined: a journalist asks questions, we offer the most relevant answers possible.
This time, however, it was radically different. Sramana, as we mentioned earlier, is not only one of the world’s most influential bloggers – in 2015, LinkedIn named Sramana one of their Top 10 Influencers alongside Bill Gates and Richard Branson – but also like Ross, she is a successful serial entrepreneur.
So, this was a conversation not of a journalist and an executive, but rather an in-depth discussion of industry thought leaders.
To give you some context: Sramana has been an entrepreneur and a strategy consultant in Silicon Valley since 1994. Her fields of experience span from hardcore technology disciplines like artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and semiconductors, to sophisticated consumer marketing industries such as eCommerce, fashion, and education.
As an entrepreneur, Sramana founded three companies: Dais, offshore software services; Intarka, sales lead generation and qualification software using artificial intelligence algorithms; and Uuma, online personalized store for selling clothes using expert systems software. Two of these were acquired, while the third received an acquisition offer from Ralph Lauren, which the company did not accept.
Sramana’s extensive experience drives her editorial approach: she goes very deep, asking dozens of questions about minute corporate details, and how they fit into the overall industry context. The result was an in-depth three-part conversation about TrueCommerce and Ross’s view of the industry in general. As Sramana put it, it was a “very interesting interview on how B2B e-commerce is evolving both disintermediation and empowering of intermediaries to be more effective.”
In Part 1, two industry veterans talked about TrueCommerce and how it evolved into a hundred-million dollar provider of B2B commerce and B2C commerce offerings. TrueCommerce’s strategy was of special interest to Sramana: starting with small-to-mid market supplier communities and then bringing in the retail community – that’s how the company bypassed the challenge of persuading big enterprises to adopt the platform.
In Part 2, both executives discussed, among other things, the key TrueCommerce verticals and relationships with leading ERP publishers.
“We are one of QuickBooks’ endorsed partners,” noted Ross. “When you buy QuickBooks and go into EDI, you’re actually adding us. We have strong relationships with NetSuite, Microsoft, Sage, and SAP. We are embedded in all of their applications so that when someone needs this kind of connectivity, we make it very simple for them to get on the network.”
In Part 3, Ross talked about the future of e-commerce and retail in general. The most prudent scenario, in his view, would be to go through more than one channel.
For me, I think the most interesting part here is the issue of disintermediation. Will distributors be marginalized? Ross believes this is not likely to soon happen:
“By extending my (the supplier’s) reach, it might be extending the distributor’s reach at the same time. It’s putting together a web store or a marketplace so that when orders are taken, they are fulfilled by the distribution channel,” said Ross. “Most manufacturers don’t have the warehouse wherewithal to do things. Consequently, the distribution channel is a great means of providing fulfillment that the manufacturers can’t cost-effectively support.”
Another interesting discussion point in this part is about growing reliance on AI or machine learning.
“I think that intelligence assistance is one of the areas that’s going to flourish either through things like conversational interfaces or through things like sensor devices. All of these feed back into an AI or machine learning scenario that helps me run my business more effectively without necessarily having to spend the time and effort on my own,” concluded Ross.