With an increasing amount of its sales coming from B2B buyers for motorsports aftermarket retailers, motorsports engine and parts manufacturer Katech Inc. knew it needed an ecommerce store capable of meeting the expectations of customers in a highly competitive industry.
Like customers in other B2B categories, buyers of aftermarket parts have expectations influenced by their online purchases in the business-to-consumer world. For sellers, that means providing user-friendly ordering, order tracking, visibility of shipping costs at the time of purchase, and an attractive order cut-off time for same-day fulfillment. Buyers also expect other self-service features such as FAQ pages for getting their questions answered.
“As our aftermarket sales grew, we knew we couldn’t continue to take orders solely by phone,” says Jason Harding, Katech’s director of aftermarket operations. “We needed an ecommerce store that provided a competitive edge.”
As a manufacturer of its own branded engines and parts, Katech needed an ecommerce store to differentiate itself from third-party suppliers selling competing brands at discount prices. “Our focus is on selling our branded parts, not being a warehouse offering the lowest price,” Harding says.
Katech, which has served the motorsports markets for more than 40 years, decided to deploy its ecommerce site—store.katechengines.com—on TrueCommerce’s Nexternal technology. Since launching its ecommerce store in 2008, the manufacturer has continued to improve how it presents products online and more quickly fulfills orders. “We’ve been able to grow our online store’s sales year over year for the last decade,” Harding says.
One feature within Nexternal that was particularly attractive to Katech is the ability to process, package and ship same-day any orders that arrive by 2 p.m. “In today’s world of online shopping, customers have high expectations of a company to pick and ship products quickly,” Harding says. “Nexternal allows us to do that effectively on products we have in stock.”
Katech also emails customers order-tracking numbers, which cuts down on customer service calls about order status. In addition, Nexternal integrates with Katech’s UPS shipping system, which allows buyers to see their shipping costs at the time of order. Under its prior technology system, Katech had to package an order before it could calculate shipping costs. “The customer didn’t know the freight cost until after we processed the order—it was terrible,” Harding says.
The efficiencies gained from Nexternal have not only freed up customer service representatives to handle more serious customer issues, but boosted sales volume, he adds. Through October 2019, Katech’s online sales were up 15% over the same period a year earlier. Katech processes about 100 orders online per week.
Developing new product pages
Helping to drive that sales lift is Katech’s ability on Nexternal to add product pages with high-resolution photos and rich product detail to enhance the user experience, Harding says. Katech’s ecommerce store has more than 800 product pages, 200 of which include vehicle product packages. “We can create pages using HTML code, which doesn’t require a lot of heavy programming,” he says. He adds that using HTML code isn’t necessary in most cases, making it even easier to develop product pages.
Harding adds that the ability to quickly create product pages allows Katech to post them as soon as a new product is ready to be marketed. During the past year, the manufacturer created 100 new product pages.
“Part of our approach to product merchandising is to provide customers the tools to build product pages without having to spend a lot of money internally to do so or hire an agency,” says Ross Elliott, president of TrueCommerce.
Katech is also using Nexternal’s reporting functions to see which of its products are selling, and which aren’t. That information helps the manufacturer adjust its inventory and product suggestions to buyers.
Meeting customers’ expectations
Katech can also track buyers’ order histories to identify products that might need to be replenished or added to the retailer’s inventory.
“We’re able to process a growing order volume with just a couple shipping people, a small sales staff and our parts department,” Harding says. That includes drop-shipped orders to retail end-customers, as well as orders of various sizes to wholesale customers purchasing engine and vehicle products for resale.
The ability to integrate the ecommerce platform with other systems has been a welcome bonus, Harding says. Leveraging a third-party integration solution, Katech’s team eliminated the need to re-enter orders by automatically moving data between the order management system and its Sage 100 accounting software.
“Order entry used to be a very tedious task,” Harding says. “First we’d have to manually enter the order into the accounting system. Then we’d have to package it all up before we could calculate the freight cost. The customer didn’t know the freight cost until after we processed the order—it was terrible. Now that’s all taken care of automatically.”
“This information has helped us in our communications with our dealers and buyers, which give us a competitive edge,” Harding says.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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