B2B and B2C buyers are not the same, Kellie Casey, manager of ecommerce at manufacturer Hyster-Yale Group, said on Wednesday during a presentation at the 2023 EnvisionB2B Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.
Both types of buyers want to be able to find what they need easily and quickly — but the process is quite different, she said.
“If one of our customers is searching for a part that they needed to fit their forklift, they don’t need thousands of results,” she said. “They need to make sure that they’ve identified the right part that fits their equipment.”
Hyster-Yale Group is an international manufacturer of forklift trucks and related material handling products. The company has been in business for 75 years providing forklifts and material handling solutions everywhere from ports to warehouses. Casey is tasked with updating the company’s legacy systems to meet customers’ growing demand for ecommerce.
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Know your B2B customer, Casey said. “The very first thing we did was customer segmentation studies,” she said. “You’re not going to know unless you ask.”
After asking customers what is important to them, map the data out, she said. “Define what their customer personas are, map out their journeys to give you a guiding North Star,” she said.
Hyster-Yale also implemented product information management (PIM) to manage its hundreds of thousands of SKUs. The company also updated its ecommerce software, upgrading from an aging homegrown system to a one that offers the kind of personalization B2B customers expect, she said.
Communicating with dealers vs. customers
Hyster-Yale sells to different types of customers, but they all fall under the umbrella of dealers vs. customers, Casey said. A dealer may be a service manager, a parts clerk working the shop counter, or a service technician. Customer sub segments include operations managers that do their own maintenance on their equipment using their own technicians.
“All three of these types of customers interact with sales in different ways,” she said. “They need different digital tools to make their jobs easy so they can serve their customer.” The goal is to make it easy for everyone to find the right parts.
Hyster-Yale worked with digital agency and systems integrator Ntara to collect and conduct a deep audit on product data spanning the company’s multiple systems.
“What we found was pretty discouraging,” Casey said.
For example, the manufacturer’s product data management system had a character limit that hindered product descriptions. The company also wanted to have both parts and truck data accessible in one place. Hyster-Yale deployed Znode ecommerce software in September 2021 to connect the data from its existing legacy systems, she said.
COVID-19 accelerated upgrade urgency
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Hyster-Yale noticed customers stopped scheduling maintenance appointments with technicians to avoid having people from outside the organization inside their facilities, she said. The company launched its ecommerce platform, allowing customers to log in and access information to help their own technicians maintain machinery while ordering what they needed online, she said.
Allowing customers to use Hyster-Yale’s platform was a great strategy, Casey said. It is a gated website where customers log in to gain access to their accounts.
“That’s the business strategy that works for us right now,” Casey said. “We may change that at some point. But right now, it’s really important.”
It’s important because Hyster-Yale’s customers have negotiated pricing, she said. “That’s different for every customer based on their dealership relationship,” Casey said.
How Hyster-Yale’s simplified search results make it easier to find parts that fit
The customer segmentation study also showed that customers were frustrated about the multiple sites they had to access in order to find what they were looking for, she said.
So, the company pulled together the ability to find parts, technical reference information and product detail pages. “It allows us to find the right fitment,” Casey said. About 70% of Hyster-Yale’s products are specially engineered. Fitments are parts or accessories manufactured to be affixed or attached to a vehicle or assembly.
“Fitment is very important to our customers,” she said. Hyster-Yale’s legacy system did not have the capacity to include the detailed product descriptions and photos it now shows customers, she said.
Real-time inventory is also available on the site. Dealers always know what’s in stock. If a customer is asking for something they don’t have in store on the shelves, they have the information needed to find it another way for the customer.
Lesson learned: Customers care about quality and availability over price
Casey said that by conducting research upfront, leadership can avoid assuming the wrong things.
“We made an assumption that customers are making decisions based on everyday low pricing,” Casey said. We found “that their purchasing decision and their buying habits were the most important buying drivers for them over price.
“What we actually found is the complete opposite. Quality and availability were the most important buying drivers for them over price.”
As a result, Hyster-Yale prioritizes availability and products that will fit.
Casey continues to review product processes to see what is working, what isn’t, and putting automation in place where it makes sense. “You have to make sure you’re communicating with your manufacturer and if you have a distribution channel, you’ve got a dealer network or relationship,” she said. “It’s really important to make sure every group is informed because it affects them.”
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