B2BecNews caught up recently with John Tonnison, the top e-business and technology executive at Tech Data Corp., who will be the keynote speaker at the Fall 2017 B2B E-Commerce Executive Seminar in New York. Tech Data, one of the world’s largest wholesale distributors of technology products, services and systems, receives 70% of its orders electronically and is No. 57 in the B2B E-Commerce 300.
Tonnison, who joined Tech Data in 2001 as vice president of worldwide e-business, was named executive vice president and chief information officer in 2009. He brought extensive experience to the role, with prior management positions in the United States and in the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany at such companies as The Sports Network, Ameriquest, Frontline Distribution and Mancos Computers. In 2015, he also was charged with leading the strategic direction, operations and go-to-market execution of Tech Data’s worldwide cloud business and IT operations.
Tonnison traces the growth of Tech Data’s online presence in the Americas to the addition of commerce transactions to its website in 1998. This coincided with its acquisition of a large European business that already was selling online. Within two years, Tech Data’s online business was earning industry awards and by 2001, its e-business represented some 20% of customer orders—a share that has since reach 70%. In June of this year, Tech Data was named B2B E-Commerce Player of the Year in the Internet Retailer Excellence Awards, where it also received an award for B2B website design. Here, Tonnison shares thoughts on Tech Data’s development of B2B e-commerce.
Q: What led to Tech Data’s decision to expand online?
JT: Innovation is one of the three pillars of our global corporate strategy, and our e-business and cloud services are key elements. We continuously aspire to be most relevant to our customers—and to serve them where and when they want do business—so we strive to deliver innovative efficiencies for our partners.
By creating a robust and customizable online experience, we’re able to meet their business needs quickly and consistently. As e-commerce standards race forward, we understand that capabilities and depth that served our partners well in the past need to leap forward and reinvent. To stay still or advance cautiously in this realm is to fall behind. A constant engagement with our customers is the driving force to identify and design our next digital enablements.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge?
JT: While the rapid pace of innovation is ever-present, unearthing the real needs of our customers features prominently. I think the biggest stretch of our skills is to ensure we meet the customer with process, organization, language and workflows that make the most sense to them, rather than extending and imposing those characteristics of our own organization.
The art of digitally transforming the supply chain is to understand the needs and intersections of all of the constituent parts—while engaging with each constituent in the way that is most meaningful and consumable to them.
Q: What has been the biggest gain?
JT: The biggest gain has been the further development of open and collaborative relationships with our customers. Our recent achievements can be attributed to proactive customer engagement and actively soliciting feedback from our user community. We’ve gained massive momentum by simply giving our partners a voice and path to suggest ideas, escalate issues, and request assistance.
Q: What’s your best advice for B2B companies looking to add or increase online sales?
JT: Customer engagement cannot be stressed enough. Assess the needs of your customers and identify the opportunities collaboratively—where the customer’s voice is equal to internal needs and innovation capabilities. It’s imperative to understand how our customers run their own businesses and where they see both actual and potential value from their partners.
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