Last year, TE Connectivity, based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, generated about $14 billion in sales selling products to a range of large companies in industries ranging from automotive, industrial equipment, data communication systems, aerospace, defense and medical to oil and gas, consumer electronics and energy.
Most of the sales for big accounts are typically handled conventionally by its global staff, with representatives in North America, Europe, Asia and elsewhere. But in the United States, TE Connectivity is plugging into B2B e-commerce in an effort to reach more buyers among small and medium-sized customers.
TE Connectivity recently launched the online TE Store to open up its brand and generate more sales among smaller companies. It also serves as a foundation for building TE Connectivity as a global B2B e-commerce program. “We are well established with large international global manufacturers,” says Nitin Mathur, vice president and chief e-business and digital officer. “Now we want to target more medium, small and niche companies.”
Selling to diverse industries
TE Connectivity makes and sells products across diverse industries. For example, the automotive industry uses sensors and connectivity products in body and chassis systems, motor and powertrain applications and safety and security systems, among others. Additional products are used in factory automation and process control systems, including industrial controls, robotics, and human-machine interfaces, industrial communications and power distribution. TE Connectivity also supplies of electronic components for the data, devices and appliances markets.
But across all of the industries it serves there are big and small companies that want easier and faster ways to research and buy products—and the way they want to do that is online, Mathur says. “We’ve designed the TE Store to meet the specific needs of engineers and inventors so that they can research products, get 24/7 technical support and be able to purchase online,” he says.
It took TE Electric about 18 months to develop its e-commerce strategy, get feedback from customers, select technology and conduct a pilot project with about 1,000 products from its transportation segment, the company’s largest. “We ran the pilot for about six to eight months to get everything correct,” Mathur says.
The e-commerce site runs on the C/4 Hana software suite from SAP and went live in September with an inventory of about 20,000 products in about 15 categories such as application tooling, connectors, fiber optics and power systems.
The online TE Store will eventually sell more of the company’s total inventory of nearly 500,000 products and roll out to other international markets.
But for now the emphasis is on running its U.S. e-commerce site—and tracking and analyzing how customers use it. “We want to know where all the touchpoints are so we can improve conversion,” he says.
Getting customer feedback
TE Connectivity spent considerable time and resources conducting customer focus groups and then building, testing and refining the features customers most wanted. The e-commerce site gives customers access to product pricing, daily updates on product availability, and flexible shipping and delivery options.
Product pages feature extensive content and product details including zoom imaging, product specifications, drawings, CAD files and number of units in stock. Customer service features include live chat.
“We know that there are millions of engineers across industries searching the internet for high quality products to design their applications,” Mathur says. “They want to see what’s out there, compare availability and pricing, and have the option to buy products online.”
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