[A lightly edited transcript follows …]
DW: Welcome to Design World’s executive idea where we speak with leaders of manufacturers, OEMs and other engineering companies. I’m Mary Gannon, senior editor. Today, I’m joined by Nitin Mathur. TE Connectivity’s chief digital and e-business officer. Thanks for being here today, Nitin.
With its official launch in September, the new TE store is offering thousands of its products to users in the United States. Nitin is here to talk to us about how TE plans to use this concept along with online design, as an incubator for ideas for engineers and eventors. Let’s get into it. So, tell us a little bit about the TE store and how you plan to use it as an incubator for idea development, Nitin.
NM: We know there are millions of engineers across industries searching the internet for high quality products to design in their applications and as a global leader in connectivity and sensor solutions, we want to be able to offer those engineers access to thousands of TE products in a way that makes it easy for them to research about our products, compare pricing and availability and also have an option to buy those products online.
Our current effort of starting the TE online store is pretty much in line of adding that element of choice to our customers who are frequenting our sites.
DW: Is this designed with small or large businesses in mind? Is it for everybody? Will large businesses be continuing to use more distributors or how is that going to work with your distributor relationships?
NM: If you think about TE, we are well known throughout the industry and we work with some of the largest and most innovative companies in the world including top 30 automakers, top aircraft manufacturing companies, appliance manufacturers, electronic manufacturers across the industries and these companies and these customers are incredibly important for us. However, there are also thousands of small and medium-size customers out there who are looking for products to design into their applications and as we think about the TE store, we think about that cohort in particular and how we can serve these customers well.
Larger customers have access to our sales teams, our account managers and engineering expertise on a day to day basis but many of these small customers, as they look for manufacturers and suppliers, typically depend more on manufacturers to provide that information and I think the easiest way to provide them that information is to have that digital and allowing them more self-serve capabilities to be able to look for the right products for their applications, be able to compare the pricing as well as giving them an option to buy these products instantly with guaranteed delivery in two days time anywhere within the US.
So, largely our effort is about opening doors to small and medium-size customers and what we’ve seen is that this channel has brought in an entirely new set of customers to us as well who’ve not previously engaged with us.
DW: That’s excellent. I feel like today’s industry there’s retailers like Amazon are really coming into play and deploying a lot of these industrial and electronic components. How do you see the TE store in relationship to product sales like this, try to capture that market? Maybe these small businesses were going that route but now they’re getting expertise from you guys instead.
NM: As a manufacturer and designer of products, I think it’s our responsibility to provide customers with the choice they’re looking for and more so, excess of customers is actually a good thing, right? So, when we think about our role and the role we play, we look at the audience that you are serving today. We get roughly 15,000,000 unique visitors coming to our website on an annual basis. So, we already have a large set of customers hitting our website and their expectation from us as a manufacturer is to be that source of truth around the right product information, documentation, specification and really, along with that, provide the ability to them to ask questions, whether it’s through chat or through email or through phone channels.
As we think of TE online store, it’s not just the product availability online and the fact that we allow them to buy it online, it’s also the surround content and the support services which goes with it which allows them to make their decisions faster.
DW: Along those lines, is there any sort of a CAD element to the store or is it just buying and selling and prices and things like that?
NM: TE online store has pretty robust product information given that engineers tend to make their decisions only after accessing detailed information. If you look at research, 45% of engineers time is actually spent searching or recreating parts. In a way, what they’re looking for online, it’s critical that we provide them with all sorts of information which is required around completing that particular transaction. So, on TE.com, engineers can easily download PC compatible files. They insert right into their CAD software and we want to make sure that we have the right product set, not just about the products they’re looking for but we also provide information around compatibility, similar products and tooling which goes with that. So, all of that information allows engineers to take the decision correctly.
DW: Now, you guys launched this as a beta thing last year or something like that, correct? You just launched the official version just last month?
NM: That’s right. Yeah, we ran a pilot last year with a handful of products from our industrial commercial transportation business and it’s clearly the amp into which set of product lines and observed [inaudible 00:08:31] behavior around that. We had certain assumptions and as we started looking at success coming from that, we expanded it now to go across multiple business units and roughly 20,000 products available today, right now, for shipping in US only and we do intend to expand it internationally over a period of time.
DW: With that expansion, are you going to add more products too and how did you select which products that you have put in there now so far? Popular sellers, or …
NM: Yes. We will be expanding the products on our store. Today we have 20,000 products and the way we thought about choosing products really is focused on where we see highest demand for products. Fortunately for us, we get a lot of, given the traffic we get on our website, we have the ability to understand what customers are looking for and what are they searching for. What kind of products against which the document downloads happen, so on and so forth.
So, we looked at all of this intelligence, along with our current sales data, to be able to say what should be the first set of products we put online across different categories and as we grow our catalog, we’ll continue to use this intelligence to put the right product in front of the right people and that’s really the goal of the digital team at TE.
DW: Great and speaking of that digital team, for the final little question here, if we could talk a little bit about TE’s customer support services and how they can help engineers make better and faster decisions in their designs.
NM: Like I said, when we think about small and mid-size customers, we now have the capability to give them 24/7 support and TE expertise to our own product information center and our customer service organization. So, it’s not just about providing the information online, we’ve structured our teams to be able to provide this support in North America market where today people have access to TE expertise on a 24/7 basis and that’s something which is helping us drive more decision making and support these small and medium-sizecustomers as we grow this business.
DW: Great. Well, thank you so much. It’ll be interesting to see how the TE store develops over time and how it can help make engineers jobs easier. Keep us posted as you add more products and flush out this idea. Thank you again, Nitin.
NM: Thank you for having me on the show.
DW: And for more need to know engineering information, including more podcasts, please visit the Design World website at designworldonline.com. Thanks for listening.