As the manager of aftermarket communications and ecommerce at Hyster-Yale Group, an international manufacturer of forklift trucks and related materials-handling products, Kellie Casey is playing a critical role in upgrading her company’s B2B ecommerce operations. Here she discusses Hyster-Yale’s digital commerce plans and expectations.
DC 360: What is driving B2B companies like Hyster-Yale Group to expand online?
Casey: Hyster-Yale Group has a legacy of delivering solutions that maximize how work is performed, going all the way back to our original lift truck, which revolutionized the masonry industry. We are driven to meet our customers where they are — and they are online. With this in mind, we saw opportunities to better serve our customers by expanding our online offerings. We have offered a home-grown ecommerce solution for more than 15 years; however, expanding this offering to meet the growing demands of our customers is one of our top strategic initiatives.
DC 360: What are your biggest internal or and external barriers?
Casey: We are one of the few materials-handling equipment manufacturers that works with a network of independent dealers to deliver our products to the market. With that, we often are challenged to deliver online solutions that can integrate with a variety of systems easily and seamlessly. We also must be mindful to deploy our solutions in such a way to accommodate the dealerships’’ability to invest into technologies, logistics, and other business tools to collectively accomplish our goals to evolve digitally. Fortunately, the relationship we’ve fostered with the dealer network allows us to collaboratively develop plans and programs that meet the needs of their customers.
Our biggest barriers are often our legacy systems. Hyster-Yale Group has been in business for over 75 years. As you can imagine, technology and systems that were foundational to operations 75 years ago have drastically changed and improved. However, for large global companies, it is hard to replace these systems not only because of the cost and time investment, but also developing plans to ensure operations are not disrupted.
DC 360: What are the chief gains you’re realizing?
Casey: We launched our new ecommerce platform late in 2021’s third quarter, and since then online sales have increased by 20%. Additionally, the site has garnered a 133% increase in customer access since the launch. Amazingly, these gains do not account for the entire dealer network we serve, as we have a small group of dealers that have yet to migrate to the new site but will in Q3 of this year. We expect even greater gains when we see full use of the site.
DC 360: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have on how to launch online B2B sales or increase them?
Casey: Listen to your customers. Ask them what would influence them to use the site more. Use this information to help guide your feature development and measure the results. Communicate early and often with key stakeholders in a way that creates a feedback loop that helps drive engagement, alignment, adoption, and utilization.
DC 360: Regarding COVID-19 and supply chain disruption, what is the biggest adaptation your company has made?
Casey: The supply chain disruptions have slowed new truck manufacturing. We are selling trucks at a record pace, but as with many in our industry, the extended times to new truck delivery is an adjustment we are all facing. With that, we have seen a significant increase in the demand for lift truck parts. Our new ecommerce site enables dealers to continue to serve their customers by giving them a place where they can search, confirm, and buy parts with ease. Additionally, we streamlined our parts-numbering system to help customers and dealers more easily find the part they need.
DC 360: Looking back over the past few years, is there anything you wish you had done differently in ecommerce?
Casey: We had a solid strategy built upon data from both our dealer network and customers. Implementing our strategy proved to be a very intensive project involving complex data sets and multiple system integrations to build the new ecommerce platform. This took more time than any of us expected. However, we are confident our ecommerce solution is right-sized to meet today’s challenges and beyond.
DC 360: What excites you the most in new digital commerce technology?
Casey: The flexibility to deliver a truly personalized experience based on the unique ways our customers who want to transact with us. Ecommerce technology is filling the gap for us to connect and provide higher service support.
DC 360: Going forward, what do you see as the most significant commerce challenges and opportunities?
Casey: B2B consumers are seeking an ecommerce experience like what they see in B2C. Meeting this expectation can prove to be a difficult endeavor, given the complexity of synchronizing systems, particularly in our case, where we must align separate entities into a single offering. We see predictive commerce as a great opportunity that will deepen the customer relationship by meeting their need before they realize there is a need.
Casey will give a featured presentation, “Not All Buyers Want an Amazon Experience,” and participate in a customer loyalty panel and workshop at the EnvisionB2B 2023 Conference & Exhibition in June in Chicago.
Jim Daly is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy.
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