On Monday, PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, opened The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas with a quick synopsis of major pillar points from the Association’s new strategic plan. Among the most important pillars of that plan is PPAI’s determination to lead and facilitate the digital transformation and modernization of the promotional products marketplace.

The biggest news along those lines on Monday was the announcement of The Industry Standards, an open standard for SAGE and other service providers to create easier communication throughout the swag supply chain.

At times sluggish to change, the promotional products industry has undergone something of a baptism by fire since the beginning of the pandemic. To get all members up to speed and position the industry for more change to come, the Association has committed to developing internal digital tools and strategies that are transparent and can be shared with the industry as it adapts, according to Edwin Gonzalez, who recently joined PPAI in the newly created post of director of digital transformation. Digital growth was also a key part of Monday’s educational sessions at The PPAI Expo.

“[Digital transformation] is challenging and interesting for the entire industry,” says Todd Pottebaum, MAS, PPAI Board Chair. Pottebaum says he spoke to a major supplier on Monday who told him that 71 percent of the company’s orders needed to be touched more than once, requiring phone calls back to the distributor for missing information and other holdups. “We’re investing in a process and tools to help this industry reduce some of the friction,” Pottebaum says.

Denham said the Association will work with all suppliers to make more key information readily available through SAGE, PPAI’s official technology partner, and any service provider that distributors use. Suppliers can already integrate with SAGE through The Industry Standards.

Dawn Olds, MAS, PPAI’s incoming Board Chair, says the digital transformation initiative is close to her heart. “The last year has really illustrated how weak our systems are between each other, between distributors and suppliers,” she says. “It would be so much better if we had that direct connection and be able to grab that data more reliably.”

Among Monday’s sessions was a talk on ways to use SAGE for greater results, led by SAGE account executive Emily West and senior manager of distributor sales Ryan Hanchey, CAS. Sponsored by Citizen Watch America, a breakout session offered tips on selling in a virtual environment with speaker David Blaise of Blaise Drake & Company, Inc.

Another popular breakout session [pictured above] offered suggestions of useful and time-saving tech tools from Michael Griffin, MAS, director of marketing at Accolades, Inc., as well as Dustin Wicks, director of technology at HALO.