Between Covid and supply chain issues, businesses continue to struggle to get back on track. While stocking inventory may be out of our control, how we handle the customer experience isn’t. Our previous blog, “Industry Website Tips”, discussed the importance of designing an easy-to-use/navigate website, now we will focus on integrating e-commerce and/or customer portals. As an industry, we must embrace what others have been doing for years--allowing customers to order, purchase and review products online. E-commerce style websites are a must-have for customers to find what they need easier and faster. With e-commerce, your website can be a sales tool by recommending related products based on buying habits and showcasing popular items.
Where to begin
If you are like us, you have been (endlessly) evaluating software solutions from various vendors. Your head is probably spinning from all the details. One day you love it, one day you hate it, one day you need all of it, one day you only need part of it. It’s an ongoing circle of confusion that remains in a folder that you review from time-to-time. We have made it to the other side and would like to share our experience.
I have built many websites in my day, which is why I knew we needed to hire a consultant to help us break it all down so we could make the right decision. If you do not have the internal staff to navigate technology solutions—you become very vulnerable. Matco-Norca reviewed at least eight software solutions. While we came close to choosing one, justifying the cost stopped us in the end. Here is why.
- They were all pretty much the same.
- They all did way more than we needed.
- They all had multiple fees. A large initial fee, monthly fees, integration fees and other associate fees.
- Most solutions needed third party integrations with their “partners” (more fees).
- Some solutions weren’t fully functioning, and we would be “testing” features as we go.
- We wouldn’t “own” the solution. Meaning, we’d start the process over if we wanted to move systems.
To address the last bullet point, once you lock yourself into one solution, you are pretty much stuck. Moving to something else means losing the solution you have been paying for. Why? Because you don’t own it. Finally, we decided to build a custom solution. Here is why.
- A custom solution allowed us to pick and choose features important to our business.
- It ties into our ERP, CRM and Website without paying additional “partners”.
- The door is left open for growth, meaning we don’t pay for features we aren’t using, but we can add them in when we are ready.
- We can add features from customer feedback that addresses their needs.
- We work directly with the programmers, so we know what we are building and don’t have to rely on what was built for someone else.
- We own it.
What did we do? In short, we created a custom PIM system (product information management) that houses products with their associated details (descriptions, sizes, pricing, images, literature). A PIM pulls and aggregates product information from all internal systems and becomes the ONLY source with complete product data. The PIM pushes information to our website, white label sites, advertisers, buying groups and to our customer portal. Updates to any product pushes into the PIM and out to any source the PIM feeds, making revisions seamless. The PIM can also create catalogs, pricing sheets and other literature.
As companies grow and evolve, change becomes inevitable. Technology decisions are among the hardest when there are so many learning curves. Having someone you trust who can help you make the right decision for your business, your company and your employees isn’t easy, but a good starting point. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at any time. Working together is a great way to continue to grow our industry.
By Amy Zucchi, Director of Marketing
Matco-Norca/SVF Flow Controls