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Helle Kinning

Multi-channel selling & how technology is driving change for businesses

Author: Helle Kinning, Marketing and distribution support specialist


19th Feb 2015


Helle started the New Year by visiting Schachermayer, our Austrian distribution partner.

She had the opportunity to question Mr Andreas Niedermair, Vice President and Mr Stefan Mader, Product Marketing about how they have adapted their business model to make the most of the latest web and product technologies.

How has the business landscape in Austria changed over the past years and how have these changes shaped or impacted your business?

A.N. In Austria export is becoming more important and growth is becoming more difficult.

Austria is a high cost environment and our brands demand a higher price than those from some other countries. We have to invest in innovation and product design and then produce to an affordable quality. Price is a trigger for purchasing decisions, but even if it is expensive, it may still be purchased; branding is important.

Business is also influenced by many guidelines and laws, which can be a blessing or a curse.

S.M. There has been a huge change in terms of e-commerce. Driven by the growth and success of e-commerce in B2C, it has become increasingly important and valuable in the B2B area.

People see benefits in buying from companies like Amazon and they don’t want to miss out on these when they are at work. I think that purchasing behaviour in B2B will change a lot in the coming years.

What about new trends in furniture industry?

A.N. The inclusion of active lighting in furniture will be one of the future developments. Furthermore there are going to be different mixes of new materials and “smart furniture” - meaning the combination of furniture and smartphone functions.

Is Austrian industry quite different from your neighbouring counties?

A.N. There are some large and well known producers in Austria. But in comparison to Germany (for example) our companies are not as big. Austrian industry, in general, is more focused on producing customized items instead of mass production.

You have invested heavily into giving your clients multi-channel purchasing options, such as the recently launched web shop with mobile app for ordering -“PuSCH-App”.

How much impact and benefits will the internet have on your daily business? What has been your clients’ feedback on this new app?


A.N. We have noticed a change among our customers. Supporting customers online is becoming more important and ordering online is increasing. The internet has allowed speed and opportunity to compare products, but on the downside information overload can also be a problem. Products and services need to stand out from the crowd.

What % of your clients are using online ordering?

A.N. It is very difficult to give a clear figure, since ordering habits differ from country to country. A lot of clients look for info online and then pick up the phone to place an order or ask questions.

Our Webshop in Austria has over 300.000 visits each month. And around 300 small to medium sized companies are currently using our “PuSCH-App”, which launched in October 2014 in Austria, to place repeat orders.

It doesn’t matter how a client chooses to place an order. More important is to provide the customers with all the information they need and across all the channels.

S.M. We want to give our clients the opportunity to search for information and products around the clock. Our webshop has no opening or closing times!

In addition we provide many other services to our clients via the “Partner Portal” such as product videos, technical datasheets, installation guides, CAD drawings, etc. We’ve also installed a feedback function, so our clients can leave comments and suggest improvements.

Our “PuSCH App” offers support for controlling our clients’ stock levels.

Is online ordering used more by younger people?

A.N. Yes, but also by older generation who feel young in their heads:-)

Our next step is to ask our clients what they actually want and expect next from electronic media, rather than us telling them what they need.

But internet definitely gives us a good opportunity to answer the technical and legal questions many clients have about our product range.

E-commerce offers a marvelous opportunity to gather customer data. What opportunities may this give Schachermayer in developing each client’s “personalized shopping experience”?


S.M. The clients’ purchasing behaviour is very interesting. What info do they need? What products they are interested in? This data will allows us to tell them about new products or industry standards or whatever is relevant to them.

Many businesses, like Schachermayer, also have beautiful showrooms. How much influence will the internet have on the role of showrooms?

Would people still prefer to touch & see the products and solutions, or do you see the future being just web based with virtual showrooms? Could these two complement each other?

A.N. At the moment people still like coming to the showroom. But because of the internet, the client now has a good technical understanding of the products and wants to see how the product can be used in different applications. This has changed how we present the products in our showroom; it’s more about functionality.

For example, you can listen to music at home or go to a live performance. They complement each other. Both are important. But the experience you get is different.

S.M. As we have 95.000 products in our webshop, I do think it is necessary to have a showroom. When you want a client to invest in a product, they should have the opportunity to experience it.

Currently we have no virtual showrooms but in my opinion, for some of the product ranges, it would be really useful.

What do you predict will happen in the market in the next few years? What are your plans?

A.N. New materials and technology will influence not only design, but all future developments. Making furniture more functional for the older generation will also be a very important aspect of future design.

S.M. In my opinion, the market is a bit difficult; we need to keep ahead. We try to win new customers via our wide product range and services. As for the existing clients, we hope to inspire them with our on-trend innovations, products and services.

What would you say makes you stand out from your competitors?

A.N. We are a family company and we do business like that. We have many long term employees and that gives our clients security and quality of service.

S.M. We are not just a trading company but a family company offering top level service.

But what also makes Schachermayer unique is the large and varied product range.

As I already mentioned, we have 95.000 articles available, from tools, fittings, fasteners, doors to flooring, etc., and we have a dedicated “Partner Portal” and “PuSCH App” to help the buying journey.

What are the biggest challenges for businesses in 2015?

A.N. We want to add value by offering additional services alongside our products. Personally, I think that selling services is more complex.

Also, export can be difficult as some countries are now placing bureaucratic barriers in the way.

S.M. I think the biggest challenge in the future will be the fast changes in technology. We always need to be creative and offer fast solutions so we don’t lose that connection with the market and our partners.

What are your predictions for furniture trends in the European market for 2015 and 2016?

S.M. I think the future in the furniture industry will be customization – keyword “mass customization”. Individuality and creative solutions will be on an increase in the coming years.

https://webshop.schachermayer.com

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