The E-Tech catalog also allows greater visibility into what customers are doing on the site at any time, he notes. “We know what they’re looking at in the online catalog, so our salesperson can respond. We can do a better job of customer service. And better customer service equals more sales.”
3. Reduced print costs. With the advent of the E-Tech catalog, SMC cut its print costs by at least 50 percent, Hoffer says. “Most of our catalog mailings are to existing customers. Of course, we’ll always need printed materials. But now more often, customers can help themselves via the online channel.”
In addition to lower printing costs, Hoffer says the online channel allows capabilities the printed channel doesn’t. For instance, a new product configuration option — such as size or even an entirely new product series — can be added immediately, instead of waiting months. Moreover, a new product can be added in days instead of having to wait for the next catalog printing cycle. Now these product modifications and additions are handled via back-end Web sites that allow CAD models to be uploaded and selection options to be entered — a relatively simple process.
“Print catalogs always will be around, but you can’t modify a print catalog on the fly,” Hoffer says. “Plus, with the electronic transfer of catalog information, you always can print it out if you want a hard copy.”
SolidWorks’ Bob Noftle agrees that paper catalogs are here for the foreseeable future. “People still like to pick up a catalog and leaf through the pages.” But he stresses the importance of the step SMC has implemented by stating that for a company in the business of selling industrial components, “Being able to offer customers 3-D CAD models and images in a customized online catalog is going to make it easier for customers to do their jobs and easier for them to decide it’s right to do business with SMC.”