March, 2018
Digital Age

Active on a variety of channels: Understanding the world from the customer’s perspective

“49% of B2C customers are reluctant to shop online because they cannot touch the product.”

 Do you sometimes feel like time is running away from you? As customers, too, we’re always in a rush. Ideally, we’d like to be able to hold the product we want to be buy in our hands and use it right away – without having to bother with laborious ordering processes or long delivery times. Time usually means money – for example, if we cannot continue our work because a machine is broken and we urgently require a spare part …

So, isn’t it great that we can order almost everything online nowadays: order placed in the morning and it’s there by the afternoon! We all know that feeling of excitement as we wait impatiently for the courier to arrive.

Yet not everyone is in favour of going online in all circumstances. According to the Futurecom E-Commerce Study 2017 conducted by Y&R Group Switzerland, 49% of B2C customers are still reluctant to make a purchase online because they cannot “touch, try on or test the product beforehand”. Such reservations are also still present in the B2B market.

How do companies reach their customers today?

A difficult situation for the supplier: Anyone who sticks solely to “bricks-and-mortar” trade will soon be left behind. More and more customers have begun to recognise the advantages associated with the fast and simple method of order placement via the web or using one’s smartphone. Here, Amazon has turned the market irrevocably on its head. And nowadays consumers expect to have all their specific needs met – with a substantial package consisting of added value, speed, information, comfort, fun and service to accompany the product.

E-commerce pioneers: Success through a change in perspective

Elektro-Material AG, Swiss market leaders in electrical wholesale trade, had already developed and launched their own web shop back in 1998: EM has continued to expand its e-commerce offering ever since – and in the process has learned what is required on the path towards digital transformation: “The secret is to find the right mixture of different success factors,” explains Alexa Wackernagel, Head of Digital Business at Elektro-Material. “We put all our focus on our customers and strive to fulfil their wishes to the best of our ability. At quite an early stage we gave our clientele the possibility to shape their purchasing process individually across all channels.”

Omnichannel – all paths lead to business

As it expands its e-commerce offering, today Elektro-Material relies on the expertise of e-sphere.

The goal: to focus completely on customer requirements and to further increase online sales.

The challenge: an extremely heterogeneous customer structure and massive product diversity with more than 250,000 articles requiring explanation.

The solution: Elektro-Material and e-sphere agreed that a customer-oriented e-commerce platform for EM had to form an integrated system with the traditional sales channels in order to meet all the requirements of potential consumers.  Important aspects include:

  • Uniform, intuitive user experience across all channels (web shop, app, telephone, fax, stationary trade, warehouse, sales force, field service …) – ideally in the native language of the customer
  • Flexibility and scalability to enable rapid adjustment to new market requirements
  • Complete range of products – clearly structured, with a wide variety of configuration options and immediate availability where possible
  • High-quality details, images and information for every product – comprehensive and immediately accessible
  • High-performance search functions for products, information and services
  • Expert advice on all channels (personal, bots, AI)
  • Consistent, central data storage for all channels
  • Wide range of additional services (order management, support with administrative matters, aftersales service, maintenance, field service …)
  • Individually configurable order and supply chain

Becoming more agile – fitness programme for companies 

Elektro-Material and e-sphere work hand in hand to implement the complex e-business platform. Nicolas Jene, founder of e-sphere and project manager: “For a customer-oriented system like this one to work, a shift in thinking is also required within the company itself. We must move away from hierarchical structures. The innovative and creative ideas that agile teams come up with cannot be allowed to get lost amid tedious decision-making processes.”

Alexa Wackernagel adds: “Our teammates at e-sphere are actually old hands at this e-commerce game. Yet, despite their experience, they were still able to gain new insights for B2B online trade from the demanding customer requirements of our sector. All those involved in digital commerce and digital transformation are part of a constant learning process – but that’s what makes these times so exciting!“

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