Arrow Electronics Inc. is a big distributor of electronics components and information technology, with 2015 sales of $23.3 billion. Now it’s on a campaign to become better known among design engineers as a source of online expertise.
“The whole thesis is that if you win the heart of the design engineer you win the procurement order, because you’ve helped the engineer design the thing and now have a lot of data and relationships that make you more valuable,” says Matt Anderson, chief digital officer at Arrow Electronics, No. 39 in the B2B E-Commerce 300.
Arrow has made two big web-related moves in recent months to help raise its profile with design engineers.
In August, it announced a partnership with crowdfunding site Indiegogo that will allow entrepreneurs to access online help from Arrow specialists and win an “Arrow Certified” badge that their products can feasibly be manufactured. “That brings credibility to their Indiegogo campaign,” Anderson says. Arrow itself will also contribute $1 million in funding over the next 12-15 months to between 20 and 50 Indiegogo projects.
Two months earlier Arrow acquired from UBM a portfolio of media sites focused on technology, including EE Times, TechONline.com and Datasheets.com. Anderson says Arrow now owns more than 45 engineering-related media properties and will allow advertisers, including Arrow and other companies, to reach engineers through ads that link back to their e-commerce sites.
These moves are part of Arrow’s strategy over the past five years to invest heavily in the web and e-commerce. While the company does not break out its online sales, Anderson says they have more than doubled this year. Arrow sells online via Arrow.com; Verical.com, a marketplace where other companies can sell and that offers $15 billion worth of inventory; and Japan-based site Chip1Stop.com. Arrow.com stocks about 700,000 items, but since many can be configured in various ways there are about 7 million possible SKUs, Anderson says.
But more than just a place to buy, Arrow.com has become a source of information for engineers designing prototypes. The company has about 300 engineers in various specialties that customers can work with in live online sessions to design a product and create the bill of materials that describes what’s needed to produce it, Anderson says. That bill of materials and other items such as product datasheets can be saved in the customer’s account, which makes it easy to come back to Arrow.com to place an order when the client company decides to move into full production.
Now the focus is on getting out the word on those capabilities, Anderson says, and that includes working with Google Inc. to make Arrow’s products more visible on the leading search engine. Anderson says, for example, that Google’s Product Listing Ads, the ads with images and prices that appear prominently on a search results page, previously did not allow ads for products that required a minimum order of more than one. In electronic components a single piece might cost less than a penny, and a minimum order quantity of 1,000 or more is common. Anderson says Arrow worked with Google, which now allows Arrow and others to offer products in “lot” sizes, such as one lot equaling 1,000 pieces.
Anderson, who has consulting experience working with consumer-facing e-commerce companies like fashion retailer Gilt Groupe, now part of Hudson’s Bay Co., says B2B e-commerce is much more complex than B2C, including when it comes to marketing. For example, a business customer who is a design engineer may initially research products, but then pass the information on to a procurement agent who places the order. He says Arrow is working to bring together the engineering and procurement elements of its websites so that it can better follow each order and customer, and market appropriately to each individual.
When it comes to the web, Anderson says, Arrow is thinking big. “Our ambition,” he says, “is to be one of the biggest e-commerce companies in the B2B space on Earth.”
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