“There is always a better way to do things, and you have to constantly be looking forward, or you’ll get left behind.” Our VP of Technology, Mark Lopez, shares his thoughts on big data and what’s in store for the promotional products industry.

big data

I’ve been in the promotional products industry for 10 years, and in that time I have seen the industry move from physically sending in fax orders to using sophisticated online platforms.  When I first joined Boundless, the company was only 6 months old and I was excited by the idea of helping build a company from the ground up. I came in thinking I could build a platform in year one, little did I know how challenging and exciting this industry would be.

I knew there was a better way than using a fax machine to send in orders, but at the time we were limited by what our suppliers were willing to do. There was not yet a compelling reason on their end to spend on IT resources to build interfaces for electronic orders. But, times have changed and our suppliers have all recognized how important technology and data are to our industry.

Throughout the past 10 years, we’ve taken strategic steps to enable our sales reps and help them serve their clients, and we’ve done so in a way that gives them a seamless experience. I wanted to build a platform that made our sales reps look like superheroes, I wanted them to be able to find the right products and create quotes quickly and give their clients exactly what they wanted. The products needed to be delivered on time and exceed expectations. The service and the technology needed to work together to deliver that wow experience.

Ultimately, we wanted to match our clients with great products to help create Brand Love moments with their customers. I feel like we accomplished that with Portal, but in the tech world, you can never be complacent.  There is always a better way to do things, and you have to constantly be looking forward, or you’ll get left behind.

So where do I see the Promotional Products Industry headed? And what role does big data play in all of it?

As companies like Amazon, Google, and these online players have matured into very successful online businesses and infrastructures, they have set the tone as to how great businesses should be conducted. They have proven that the internet is the most efficient and scalable way to move forward. In a short period, we’ve gone from faxing paper orders to now creating a mobile shopping experience where collaboration and transactions can happen online.

And it’s a lot better than your typical experience at a brick and mortar store. Data informs every shopping experience and the client’s needs are now captured at every stage. Every interaction and even emotions about a product, like ratings and reviews, can be logged. Each experience adds more data and that data can translate to helping the next buyer make a better smarter decision. In my opinion, big data is the key to creating that seamless experience that a buyer of promotional products should feel when they interact with Boundless.

When a buyer has hundreds of options to choose from for their promotional product needs, you have to deliver a solution better than your competitors. The way they interact and collaborate with your technology platform, all the way to delivery of the product, everything from beginning to end needs to be an amazing experience.

From a user perspective, it feels really simple, everything is right at your disposal and you just add to your cart and check out.  But what you aren’t seeing is the big data and technology that analyzed which products would be best to put in front of you.  This is the future of our industry and we are already doing a lot of this within our own platform at Boundless.  We’re matching up buyer patterns and using supplier data to bring clients great ideas and product suggestions.  We’re making sure that the right information surfaces to our buyers through our platform to a degree that the technology is invisible and they just see the promotional products that are a match for their brand.  We’ve come a long way in 10 years, and I’m excited to keep improving our technology and more importantly, to keep pushing boundaries.

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