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E-commerce for Beginners

By Ryan King, CIO, Power Solutions International

Ryan King, CIO, Power Solutions International

Manufacturing “business to business” e-commerce websites are for most organizations mediocre or produce very little traffic and revenue. However; you will be surprised, most manufacturing companies have a healthy aftermarket business and pride themselves on their post sales and service! This is a very interesting story and there are many underlining factors that contribute to this gap from using technology or using good old fashion “pick up the phone and speak to a live person”. I am a huge advocate for using technology in place of this “live person” and I would like to speak to all those companies that say: “My customers want to speak to a live human being!” Yes I can argue there is a time and place for this interaction, however; not every interaction! This is low hanging non-value added fruit to pluck from your organization and put those real live people to doing value added work for your company!

I would like to tell you how PSI (Power Solutions International) improved its ecommerce interaction with its customers and how it brought it to market, interfacing with our ERP application! To give you just how successful we are, ecommerce sales make up 23.7 percent of our sales in our aftermarket arena and it is growing! We can track what our customers are doing online to improve their online experience, using our built in analytics, to give you an idea since May 19th 2016 to today over 3,000+ logins into our site and we track what they viewed and cross check what they purchased from their visits. Information is power and I will discuss how we made this jump to present day technology! PSI is like Rip Van Winkle, however; when we woke up we made things happen!

"We can track what our customers are doing online to improve their online experience, using our built in analytics"

We all know the story of “Rip Van Winkle” by American author Washington Irving published in 1819. He was this gentleman who went drinking with some strangers, passed out and woke up and realized his world had passed him by, his wife had died and the world he had awakened to was a totally different place. I can only imagine his fear of how to cope and survive in this new world. This is like manufacturing companies or any company for that matter. They realize they need to do something with their ecommerce strategy, however; do not know where to start! Or worse yet, they feel their customers really do not want to do business online with them, because their phones keep ringing off the hook! Let me point out if the phones are the only option, then why do you think they keep calling? Because it is the “only” option and do not be surprised when one day the phones go silent and all you hear is crickets!

I recently went to a CIO conference hosted by “CDW” and the conversation was on the topic of the world is online and people are becoming more and more comfortable purchasing products online. You better get there! Then not to mention the new workforce “Millennials moving up in the workforce, they grew up only knowing “online” and trust me they do not like to talk on the phone, this is very foreign to them. I also have to LOL if you mention “Fax” to them! They want to look things up online, buy things online and now they have jobs, where they have purchasing power and they want to not go backwards, by calling someone on the phone, they want to go to the internet and buy it and forget about it!

This leads me to “HOW”!

I will use the phrase: “Keep It Simple Stupid!”

Wow, we humans love to complicate things and make them harder then what they really are! We need to go simple! Take “Google” for example, they have built an empire around one web page that is almost blank! They even have phrases named after them. “Google It” PSI took a page out of their playbook. Power Solutions ecommerce page is a simple login where they can search parts and create a ship to address and save the order. It sends an email order confirmation to our customer with their order and submits it to our ERP software EPICOR automatically. We did not populate the pages with a bunch of noise and make it so many levels deep that the customer walks away with a terrible experience and then they say “it would be easier just to call them”. People want simple!

So I told you how are website is laid out, “Simple” now how did we drive our customers to it? We have a great sales team that believes in ecommerce and a management team that wants to drive the business to this arena. If you do not have the team believing, then you have failed before you ever get started. Old business folk please wake up and realize this tidal wave of internet change is not going away!

Next-We chose our most obvious ecommerce customers and set them up online and kept reminding them that the site is out there and this is the best way to do business with us! Then we started bringing this up to all of our customers and we made it a part of our phone conversations or you can call it our phone culture! Sometimes the statement is true “if you build it, they will come.”

You have to start somewhere and remember make it simple, keep it simple!

Now go do it!

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