American Product Distributors
In the world of procurement, success has often been measured by driving down costs from the supplier. Similarly, as a supplier, success is measured by sales, but there are limits to how low costs can be driven, and sales can be hindered without the right tools. What if there were a different way to drive down costs through influencing employee behavior? What if sales could be changed overnight based on the implementation of a new ecommerce platform? That solution has been created.
American Product Distributors (APD) – which has been developing its own online catalog software since 2000 – is offering it to distributors and other companies so they can offer customized online catalogs to their customers big and small. “We’re at a point now in this climate where if you don’t have a really good online sales presence, it’s almost impossible to grow your business as a distributor,” declares Cy Kennedy, who is president and CEO of Value Innovation Technologies, the software and consulting company spun off by APD. “We’ve made it so distributors and companies don’t have to invest the millions of dollars necessary to build this type of world-class platform – they get set-up, pay a monthly subscription, and go from zero to one of the best programs available overnight.”
As long as a product can be assigned a stock-keeping unit (SKU), it can be sold with Value Innovation Technologies’ eLink software, which is available in two products – eLink Gateway and eLink Marketplace. eLink Gateway allows large enterprises to save money when their employees order supplies, while eLink Marketplace is designed for distributors to have a world-class online presence. When corporations subscribe to an eLink product, they pay an initial setup fee and a monthly subscription to ensure they always have the latest software version.
“We realize most organizations do not have the time or resources to implement technology solutions, so we designed a process that requires very little work by the customer because our team does 99 percent of the heavy lifting,” Kennedy says. In fact, “Many revenue and cost-savings opportunities are passed over by companies because of concern over implementation time and money,” he adds. “We have removed this ambiguity so the customer understands the opportunity fully from day 1.”
The eLink platform can be integrated with most ERP systems, Kennedy says. “We’re really specialized in the buying and selling of goods and services and the management of those transactions for either the buyer – in the cases of eLink Gateway – or for seller, in the case of eLink Marketplace.
eLink Gateway has three modules, the first of which is an administration module, where the online catalog and rules for its implementation are created. The second module is the online ordering site, which has the familiar look and feel of consumer online shopping sites. The third module provides reporting and analytics on the purchases made. The ordering module can be easily integrated into an existing website or ERP.
“Our target market really needs to sell products either to consumers or maybe they need to sell to other businesses, and as a result, they have a need to greatly enhance their ecommerce capabilities,” Kennedy explains. “The eLink Marketplace system is a great way for businesses to grow. For them, it’s a way to create scale and get more clients while not adding a whole lot of cost.”
The software is customized for each client. “As it relates to product comparisons, substitutions and reporting, I think we’re the best that’s available,” Kennedy says.
Access to eLink software through mobile applications is being developed. “It looks very good on tablets, and we’re working now to make it viewable on other mobile devices,” Kennedy says.
APD developed its first version of an online ordering system around 2000 and has continually refined it. “It was at that point that we realized we had something that was unique in the marketplace and could do some things that other systems can’t do, and that clients saved a lot of money using this platform,” Kennedy recalls. “We realized that this was something that really could be used by a lot of other businesses in a lot of different ways. So over the last two years, we really totally redesigned the system for it to be available on a software-as-a-service basis in the cloud for all kinds of products and services, not just for the products that are sold by APD.”
Value Innovation Technologies (VIT) was launched in mid-2015 to maintain and sell the eLink software platform. In addition, VIT offers consulting services regarding implementation of the software.
The eLink platform won a global innovation award from Red Hat this past May, and true to its name, Value Innovation Technologies plans to continue innovating into the future. “In the technology business, you never get finished – you never have a product that can’t be improved,” Kennedy emphasizes. “We’re constantly trying to find ways we can make the system better or identify issues that we can correct. We do that all the time, every day, and we will continue to do that forever so that the system can be the very best that it can be and add value for our clients.”