Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

Feb 17, 2019

David GordonBy David Gordon

Over the past six months we’ve seen a number of distributors upgrade their websites — either the look and feel, evolve to a webstore or upgrade both. Why the investments? Because these distributors recognize that “table stakes” for at least some customers is requiring, or will require, offering an e/omni-channel experience. Customers are evolving to seeking more information online and, in some cases, transacting business online, especially for repeatable orders and “on-offs”. As a manufacturer, you’ve probably experienced increasing traffic (ask to see your site analytics/Google Analytics trends).

With increased traffic, coupled with increased “consumer” demands — after all, aren’t our “customers” also consumers who are impacted by retail expectations — the questions become

    • How do I attract traffic?

    • How do I convert that traffic into sales (either directly or through distributors)?

    • How do I ensure customers get “the right” product information (defined as everything they need to make a decision?

    • How do I make my site the “go to” for buyers of my product category?

Given that eCommerce is here to stay, the next question is how to differentiate your webstore/web offering from your competition. You’ll still compete with “offline” criterion, but your online store needs to have an enhanced customer experience.

One way is with offering better content, and an element of this is how products are displayed on your site or on your distributors’ sites.

Snap36 is a leader in helping manufacturers and distributors enhance product content to provide a more complete product experience, almost tactile, to customers. Here’s Snap36’s perspective on the changing market:

“Everything is digital now, and the electrical industry is no exception. According to the 2018 Channel Marketing Group Electrical Buyer eCommerce Insights Report, 80.3% of electrical buyers felt eCommerce was “the future” and they would be increasing their online activity.

In contrast to B2C, B2B buyers are trying to solve a problem quickly; they are not just on a site to browse. The challenge lies in effectively replicating the in-person experience B2B buyers are accustomed to for the digital world.


How can a manufacturer bring their products to life online? On their site and on their distributors’ sites.


How can they instill the same level of confidence during the buying process? Leaders in the electrical industry are aspiring to solve this problem by creating and syndicating 360-degree and 3D content via their eCommerce channels. They are also leveraging this content to power sales enablement tools and visual search.


While historically 360°/3D image capture and syndication were complex and costly, recent advances in automation and robotics have enabled Snap36 to fully automate the process, allowing manufacturers and distributors to cost-effectively reap the benefits of high-quality 360°/3D content.


What is 360°/3D imagery?


360° photography is created by stitching together a sequence of still images — from 24 to 96 — in a fluid and seamless 3-dimensional view of a product, similar to a flipbook. An online buyer can use a mouse or finger to “spin” the product, interactively rotating and zooming in on every angle to see specific details. Products can be animated to highlight movement and hidden product features, enabled for zoom and pinch, and differentiated with detailed product information.

Contrary to popular belief, the true cost of image capture actually lies in the logistical activities surrounding image capture — picking products out of inventory, shipping products to a studio, checking products in, prepping products, approving product photos, and shipping products back. On a per-image basis, 360° product photography is far less expensive than traditional static photography.


By capturing 24 to 96 images of a product from all angles at one time, manufacturers can quickly build a content repository of individual assets to use for everything from branch POP displays to email campaigns to mobile applications, without having to reshoot individual products.

 “Everyone is asking for more content, constantly,” said Snap36 customer Nic Saeger, Director of Marketing at Southwire Tools & Equipment. “Three years ago, one picture did the trick but it’s not the case any longer. The more content we can provide, the more product we can sell. Having a partner like Snap36 allows us to do so quickly and cost-effectively while ensuring we meet content compliance requirements.”


The top drivers of 360°/3D imagery

Product research is the driving force behind creating a rich, high-quality eCommerce experience.

Manufacturers are scaling up their 360°/3D product imagery, and electrical distributors are racing to add viewer capabilities to their websites. Grainger and Allied Electronics & Automation were the first to lead the charge. Both companies saw the value of 360°/3D imagery, using it as a virtual assistant for technicians and engineers and empowering them to find the right part, the first time, every time.

“Whenever someone looks at a product on our website, we want it to be exactly what they get when the box arrives,” said Dan Stewart, Vice President of Marketing at Allied. “360° spin helps our customers feel like they are opening up the box and pulling out the product before they ever buy it.”

The second driver of spin imagery is scalability. The 360° process allows manufacturers to create all of the product photography they’ll need, that they then own. These rich content assets, including still images, can be used on websites and shared with all distributors and data providers such as IDEA, who now accepts spin. The ROI not only makes economic sense but eliminates the need to shoot products again.

Finally, sales reps are still invaluable to the customer journey and need best-in-class digital tools to showcase products in the best light possible. Equipping them with real-time, authentic, interactive 360° product experiences on a tablet or mobile device is a major differentiator. So too are advances in visual search, which are proving to help people identify products more quickly. The algorithms powering visual search, however, require thousands of images in order to identify products. The 360° image capture process allows organizations to quickly build the required content database to power these machine learning applications.

“People want to see exact product images with high-quality resolution. If the picture doesn’t match the actual product, customers will be disappointed,” comments Snap36 customer Howie Hsu, head of e-commerce and digital strategy at Siemens. “This is especially true when you have significantly less real estate on a smaller screen. 360-degree imagery is a core differentiator for the mobile experience and visual search.”

Katy de Leon is the VP Marketing for Snap36.

A couple of thoughts:

    • Okay, sounds expensive. From speaking with Snap36, it’s not as expensive as you may think and they offer three different services, inclusive of teaching you how to do this using their specialized equipment and software.


    • Distributors, there are models available that can help you engage your manufacturers that can help you differentiate your site… and perhaps bring additional value to your manufacturers.


    • Integrating 360/3D imagery into your product content database is feasible as there are product data services in the electrical industry that can provide the products and recommend the tools to support your eCommerce platform.


Snap36 has an impressive list of electrical manufacturer early adopters and is working directly with some distributors. If you’re serious about eCommerce and building a differentiated capability, recognize that at some point your platform is not a differentiator. The key is the customer experience and that begins with content… product content as well as other value-added content that enables your customers to get their job done. Making your site more tactile can begin the process.


For more information on Snap36 visit their website or contact Colleen Ehrhardt, Director of Strategic Accounts: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

For insights into how to enhance your site experience or give us a call: www.electricaltrends.com/about-electricaltrends

David Gordon is President of Channel Marketing Group. Channel Marketing Group develops market share and growth strategies for manufacturers and distributors and develops market research. CMG’s specialty is the electrical industry. He also authors an electrical industry blog, www.electricaltrends.com.
He can be reached at 919-488-8635 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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