Saddled with a website that was simply an electronic catalog with no shopping cart and lacking the technology to set up satellite stores on digital marketplaces, Semi Source Inc., a worldwide wholesale distributor of electronic components, realized it was at risk of falling behind its online competitors unless it committed to making ecommerce a priority.
The starting point, the company decided, was revamping its web storefront, which ran on a technology platform from IC Source, a database service for buyers and sellers of electronic components. While buyers could digitally access the company’s catalog and view product pages, the site lacked many features buyers expect from ecommerce sites, such as Buy buttons, site search and live chat. The site was also incompatible with mobile devices.
“To provide a more customer-centric ecommerce experience, we knew we had to bring our website deeper into the 21st century,” says Ali Lund, head of ecommerce for Semi Source. “There were some areas where we were falling behind.”
Indeed, the Hingham, Massachusetts-based company’s old website was better suited for distributors and brokers looking to upload product than for buyers. To place an order, buyers had to contact a sales or customer service representative. “We really did not have a true ecommerce platform,” Lund says.
A site better designed for buyers
The new ecommerce site, at SemiSourceInc.com, includes other tools buyers need to make purchasing more efficient, such as the ability to create and manage an account and upload a bill of materials. Buyers can also refine their site search by including the manufacturer’s name and product category, in addition to the part number. Semi Source distributes electronic parts and components products from such manufacturers as Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Intel Corp., TE Connectivity, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and Cypress Semiconductor Corp.
The inclusion of live chat, which is available during business hours, gives Semi Source a way to interact with buyers in real-time without buyers having to call or email customer service. The new site launched in early January and runs on the Magento Commerce platform from Adobe Inc.
“We added features that make it easier for buyers to find what they are looking for and place orders, which coincides with our emphasis on having an online selling mentality,” says Lund. She adds that the new site is also compatible with mobile devices.
CEO John Lund adds: “Our new web presence is a reflection of our company’s mission to incorporate customer-centricity into everything we do. Adopting new web standards for mobile usability, search engine optimization, and security will help us better serve the needs of our existing customers and create opportunities to support new customers and markets globally.”
Making its website a major sales channel is just one piece of Semi Source’s new ecommerce strategy. To grow online sales further, the company is also setting up shop on electronics marketplaces such as Partsbase.com, which serves the aviation parts industry. Prior to its new Magento site, Semi Source lacked the technology it needed to meet the data-formatting requirements for feeding inventory information to outside marketplaces.
Using analytics to choose marketplaces
To identify which marketplaces will deliver the broadest reach to prospective buyers, Semi Source is using analytics to determine which marketplaces buyers are clicking on in search results. “We believe marketplaces are a key channel for reaching our target consumers,” says Lund. “We’re planning on expanding to about a half dozen by the end of this year.”
In addition to carrying common electronic components, Semi Source also deals in discontinued items, making its ecommerce site a destination for buyers seeking hard-to-find parts and components. All inventory is sourced directly from original equipment manufacturers. The company, which notes that it stocks more than 4 billion components, plans to expand the size of its online catalog later this year from the current 150,000 SKUs.
While buyers can place orders online, they still need to request a price quote through Semi Source’s site. The reason, Lund explains, is that prices are controlled by OEMs and fluctuate due to availability. Prices for hard-to-find items, for example, can change over the course of a day. The variability in pricing is why Semi Source doesn’t list prices. “But once we quote a price, that’s the price the customer pays,” Lund says.
Buyers can pay for purchases via credit card or set up an account to apply for net credit terms, such as net 30 days.
A big jump in customers’ page-viewing time
Since the new site launched, buyers are spending an average of 1.5 minutes viewing a page, compared with 20 seconds on the old site. Bounce rates have also decreased 40%, Lund says. The number of users visiting the site is growing weekly, though the company declines to be more specific. The privately held company also doesn’t report ecommerce or total financial numbers.
Equally encouraging, Lund says, is that Semi Source’s sales representatives are reporting the new site is enhancing customer relationships by making it easier for buyers to purchase online, which eliminates the risk of mistakes with manual order entry.
“Our goal was to create a more customer-centric experience, and to do that we had to take a deep dive into ecommerce,” Lund says. “The website overhaul is only one piece of the larger digital strategy that incorporates other marketing channels.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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