Creating a smooth e-commerce experience for custom products can be tricky, explains FC Lane’s Simon Hammerton, but it’s an essential remit for today’s buyers.
A couple of years ago in this column I took the view that distributors like mine must do more to add true value in the supply chain in order to ensure continued growth and success. I talked about people, delivery times and the ability to provide customers with a product offering that exactly met their requirements.
Needless to say, that view hasn’t changed and providing the link between our suppliers and our customers remains our priority. We continue to recruit both customer and supplier-facing people and we have a 99 per cent success rate for on time standard product delivery. We have also improved our lead times for in-house assembled products thanks to investment in our production facility. Now, like many other companies, we are looking at other ways to make it easy for our customers to work with us.
We are all consumers in our non-working lives and have become used to buying online from sites like Amazon and ebay. This convenient habit of clicking and receiving is moving into our business space and an increasing number of customers expect to be able to buy online. As a result, component distributors like Lane Electronics must invest heavily in the e-commerce capability of their on-line presence.
For many companies, e-commerce can be a pretty straightforward exercise, particularly if the products on offer are standard, off-the-shelf, items available only in different colours and sizes. Such products are displayed, clicked, paid for and despatched.
The difficulty for distributors like Lane Electronics occurs when a high percentage of the connectors requested online are non-standard, configurable devices consisting of many parts. Customers can select the shell, contacts and backshell, for example, as well as the finish and contact layout.
This means the customer has to make several decisions before the final connector is selected, costed, clicked, paid for, assembled and despatched. Add to this list of variables the difference in price by quantity and it is easy to see that website designers have a challenge. It’s a great deal of work to ensure every possible connector combination is catered for and presented in a form that is easy for the customer to see, configure and purchase.
Delivering on motorsport
By any standards motorsport is a unique sector, where custom connector solutions and speed of delivery are the rule rather than the exception. It is also a very progressive industry where purchasing on-line is fast becoming the preferred choice when buying components.
Because of this, the first products available from FC Lane’s recently developed on-line ‘store’ are all from our motorsport division, all of which can now be configured and purchased from stock using e-commerce. Selecting motorsport as our first on-line store offering presented challenging issues for our web design partners, but we figured that if we could meet the needs of this demanding sector, it would help us to expand our on-line store into other market areas.
Giving customers the opportunity to purchase on-line is becoming a key part of the distributor/customer relationship. Not having an on-line store provides customers with an excuse to shop elsewhere, so distributors must do all they can to ensure that their customer’s click connects with them.