Millennial buyers expect more

James Stratford, Managing Director, Materials Direct

We all appreciate rapid ordering and delivery, but younger buyers demand more from suppliers with minimal patience online, says technical materials specialist, Materials Direct.

In industry, as in our personal lives, we want quick, easy, selection and rapid delivery. Websites that offer products from multiple suppliers can save search time, while intuitive online interfaces speed selection and delivery. Amazon Prime is a notable example, but the same philosophies apply in niche areas such as the electronics and lighting sectors.

Unsurprisingly, younger age groups are the most demanding in terms of online patience. One study indicates that the youngest working age groups have an attention span of less than ten seconds. This means pages need to load quickly and be clear, concise and logical, while site maps need to be intuitive. It also means online transactions must be slick, with no barriers that could cause users to give up and go elsewhere.

Materials Direct aims to offer a high-speed, easy-to-use model that lifts many ideas from business to consumer sites. It provides custom, precision cut parts, without the need for tooling. The materials supplied are used widely in electronics assemblies, especially in the rapid growth LED lighting sector, where they perform functions including electrical insulation, thermal interfacing, adhesion of parts and assemblies, light diffusion and reflection and electromagnetic interference shielding.

A need for speed
Three key demands are synonymous with new product design in the electronics sector: speed, ease of use, and the need to minimise costs. Unfortunately, these can often be conflicting wishes. Tooling and waiting for custom parts in the prototype phases of a project can conflict with the need for speed and keeping costs under control. E-mech designers therefore welcome a process whereby all these issues are addressed effectively.

Materials Direct aims to do just that, by providing parts that are the same as volume production parts in appearance, function and performance. The goals is to provide consistent quality and repeatability from piece-to-piece, but without the investment in time and money for tooling.

This naturally appeals to millennial buyers who don’t want to be hampered by ‘old school’ problems such as waiting for tooling. Delays here can slow the progress of a project to production where it starts to repay initial R&D investments. For this reason, millennials often welcome the kind of self-service initiatives that are enabled via the internet.

Cut trawl time
Visiting multiple supplier sites for technical sheet materials takes time; there are many companies in the sector and there is overlap between what types of end applications they can support. Consolidating their offerings in a single location therefore has big benefits. With Materials Direct using materials from suppliers such as 3M, Du Pont and Laird, this consolidation, combined with a rapid service, mirrors successful examples from the B2C world.

To achieve these benefits, Materials Direct’s user interface has been broken down into logical steps that can all be completed online without the need for supplier intervention.

First, users obtain a quote by entering the external dimensions of the part required, selecting a material, entering a quantity and choosing the desired delivery date. A PDF or CAD file of the part is uploaded and site software confirms all the details. Once the user has placed their order and made payment, parts are manufactured and goods can be despatched in as little as 24-hours.