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How to Streamline the Ordering Process Using a Product Configurator 

Learn about how you can streamline the ordering process after setting up your digital sales channel. 

Episode 202: In a recent survey, 86% of respondents buy heavy-duty parts on eCommerce sites. In the past we spoke about the need to set up a digital sales channel, now we need to focus on streamlining the ordering process.

My guest today is Kris Harrington the President & COO of GenAlpha, and she is going to explain how we can do that.  

Kris Harrington is the President & COO of GenAlpha. In this episode, learn about how you can streamline the ordering process after setting up your digital sales channel.

Kris is a returning guest, you can learn more about GenAlpha by listening to episode 61 and episode 70 and you can learn about the role of big data in the customer buying journey in episode 140

Guest Website: GenAlpha.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

In a recent survey that The Heavy-Duty Parts Report did, we found that 74% of respondents are now buying heavy duty parts via eCommerce on a regular basis. This is a huge shift in buying behavior in the trucking industry. And this use of a digital sales channel is more important today now for companies who sell parts than ever before. Now, in the past on the show, we’ve spoken about how important it is for companies to set up a digital sales channel. But today we’re gonna start the conversation in the direction of how to optimize your digital sales channel once you’ve got it set up. My guest today is a returning guest, Kris Harrington, she’s the President and COO of GenAlpha. And she’s gonna explain exactly how we can do that with one of their innovative solutions. Now, Chris is a returning guest. As I mentioned, you can learn more about GenAlpha by listening to Episode 61 and Episode 70. And you can also learn about the role of big data in Episode 140 links will be in the show notes. Chris, welcome back to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Kris Harrington:

Hey, Jamie, so great to be back. Just love this show and always love to engage with you in your audience.

Jamie Irvine:

I’ve been looking forward to this conversation. As I mentioned before we started recording, I specifically wanted to learn about this new feature that you have or talk about a product configurator, what it’s all about. But before we get into that, let’s talk a little bit about the results of that survey that we did. Are you surprised that 74% of people are buying heavy-duty parts via e-commerce now?

Kris Harrington:

Yeah, not at all. As we have been, you know, GenAlpha’s been in business 11 years, it’s hard to believe that sometimes. And we’ve really seen the transition. We’ve seen advancement, we’ve seen adoption. So when you mention statistics like that, doesn’t surprise me at all. I think about sites that many of us are familiar with. If we think about the Graingers, the Fastenal, the McMaster cars of the world, they have really been increasing their online sales year over year. And these have been reported, heavily reported on the success that they’re having. And I think for those of us that are in the heavy-duty parts industry we have in our purchasing departments, people who do business on those sites. So, you know, our own businesses are doing it. It shouldn’t surprise us that our customers, our dealers, our distribution network, they’re all doing it as well. So that doesn’t surprise me at all.

Jamie Irvine:

So I just got introduced to a daily email called The Morning Brew. If you are interested in checking it out, by all means, go and check it out. It’s a very concise summary of what’s going on in the business world and in politics, kind of all in one place in a morning email that you can kind of blast through in just a couple minutes. And it’s really cool. But the other day they talked about kind of the collapse of some of the eCommerce companies. When I say collapse, I mean they were on these massive growth trends through the pandemic, and then the numbers have now dropped down quite a bit. But what’s interesting is those numbers didn’t drop below where they were before the pandemic. So yes, there was a big surge and now people are doing a little bit more shopping in the real world and maybe a little less online, but the overall numbers are still trending up. So my question is to you, do you really think that just the pandemic was the reason that we saw so much adoption of e-commerce or is there something more fundamental going on?

Kris Harrington:

I still think the pandemic advanced things, but I think one of the outcomes and you could blame the pandemic for it, is the supply chain challenges that people are having. Those supply chain challenges have really created this need to look for alternatives and in today’s environment, you know, the world has changed and where we go when we need an alternative is we go to the internet and we search. I think what really has changed significantly is the way we search for information. And that search for information brings us into these other environments. Sometimes you get to a solution that is an eCommerce site. Sometimes you get to a solution online that is just an information informational site, but you need to take another step to either email, to get more information about price or availability of something, or you have to contact somebody to get that information. But the advent of the search is what I think is really creating this opportunity for people to be looking for alternatives that they haven’t looked for before and for companies to step in and take that business. So I think that’s been a big driver, especially when you have inflation. So you have inflationary pricing, you have supply chain constraints. You know, people have to look for alternatives just to do due diligence for their own companies, make sure they’re making the best buying decision and that’s what’s happening.

Jamie Irvine:

And it’s been a crazy ride. Like if you look at some of these e-com companies, the big ones, like if they grew by a hundred percent in the last two years, and now they’ve dropped off by 25%, that’s still 75% more than pre- pandemic. So the underlying trends I think, were already in place and the pandemic was an accelerator of much of this, but I also think that the demographic inversion that’s going on in the world where there’s just, you know, there’s just less younger people than there are older people. I saw this global survey that was done in 2019 it’s a global census. And there’s something like 705 or 708 million people over the age of 65 globally right now. And there’s 680 million children under the age of five, that’s going in the wrong direction. And so that’s gonna double by 2050, according to the current trend in birth rates.

What that means is, is that as people retire, the younger people who are left behind, there’s gonna be fewer of them. They’re gonna have more to do. And so that’s a big driver in buying behavior. You’re gonna go where it’s easy and you’re gonna go to people who offer you a solution that’s going to make you more productive. And so e-commerce is gonna play a big part of that. And so there’s a lot of these big macro things that are going on globally that are driving the behavior of B2B and B2C buyers in industries up to, and including the trucking industry.

Kris Harrington:

Yeah. And I’m so glad you brought that up because I’ve been doing, I’m fascinated by the whole digital native versus, you know, native analog. And certainly from now until 2025, we are supposed to have the largest number of baby boomers retiring. And we already have challenges, you know, getting the right diesel technicians into the industry and other training challenges. So not only have we struggled to get people in, we are gonna have this exodus of the trained people leaving over the next three to five years and new people coming in, you know, we gotta find a way to attract them. And as you mentioned, they have to do more with less. And you know, how are we gonna do that? These people like to use their phones. They like to use technology devices, and that’s the way that you’re gonna attract. It’s how you’re gonna retain. It’s how you’re going to both satisfy employees, but also satisfy customers. So I’m so glad you brought that up, because that’s something we’re seeing across many industries, especially OEMs.

Jamie Irvine:

One of my favorite expressions is, a man or woman convinced against their will is of the same opinion still. So we’re not gonna spend more time today trying to convince you that this is a lasting trend and that digital sales channels are very important. Let’s move on. The people who do want to use a digital sales channel or maybe need to, because of the work environment they’re in and the lack of experienced people that are around them, what are they specifically looking for to make it a great buying experience? Let’s start there. And then we’ll talk about how to optimize that experience after the break.

Kris Harrington:

I think about in this industry, really what they need is the safest place to identify what they’re looking for. So, you know, we can talk about, they want it fast. They want it easy, right? But they really need accuracy. So they wanna be able to search and search by a VIN or they wanna be able to search by a part number that might be on the component that they’ve taken off of the truck or the trailer so that they can easily go in and identify safely, hey, this product fits my VIN. It’s in my bill of material. And then of course they want price. They want availability. They want to be able to certainly order. But then there are all kinds of things that they want after they place the order. You know, they want that status notification of where that order is in the process.

They wanna be notified when it ships and they want the ability to quickly come back in and reorder later if they need that component again. So what we’re talking about here is some level of personalization. I have a truck and my truck needs service. So I wanna be able to tell you as much as I know about my truck and the components that I need to safely be told, this is the product that you’re looking for. So those are some of the elements that I really think about when we think about this industry and what people are looking for to have drive that great customer experience.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking about the underlying trends that are driving more and more people to use digital sales channels and eCommerce solutions to help them find the parts they need for their vehicles. And we are talking about really what constitutes a good buying experience. So now I wanna shift gears a little bit. So for those that sell heavy-duty parts online, Kris, the first big hurdle obviously is getting that set up. But then after that there’s a streamlining process or there’s an optimizing process that has to happen. Can you talk to us a little bit about how important that is?

Kris Harrington:

Yeah. I would say that, you know, once you make your products available online and you have the product specifications and you have good imagery, so people are confident, they have the thing that they need. You’re you’re mapping back that we are used to the truck that they own or that bill of material for the product that they’re maintaining. It’s really important that you think about your checkout process, because this is where you lose people really fast. You know, if it’s not a streamlined checkout process where the inputs, particularly if you know someone, if you have an account with somebody in a B2B type transaction and you already have them set up in your system, you wanna make it really easy for them to still order on account. And if they have a login to your system, default information like their bill to information like their different ship to addresses, maybe they have one ship to, maybe they have 50 to a hundred ship tos, whatever it might be, make it easy for them to select the things that you already know about them.

Make sure that they have the right shipping options. You know, some people are gonna come to your site and they’re gonna need things very quickly. And your standard delivery time, isn’t gonna work for them. Assuming you have the product on the shelf and you could get it out right away that day. You know, there are ways that you can upcharge for things if customers need it quickly and others can wait. So, you know, fees can be added, but you wanna give your customers in a very easy checkout form the options that they need to make that process easy. And of course, if they wanna buy on account or buy with a credit card, make sure you make that option available. This is where we see the greatest number of people. Exit e-commerce stores is in that checkout process. So that seamless, very easy and safe, you know, give them confidence.

It shouldn’t be slow. It shouldn’t be spinning for a long period of time. If they have to enter their credit card information, it should feel like standard ways that they enter that credit card information in other places. And it should really make them have a sense of security as they’re doing business with you. Because if for whatever reason, they exit at that point in time and you’ve helped them get all the other information. Now they can take that information and go look for alternatives in other places. And the world is becoming easier that way. And that’s why that optimized checkout process is really important.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, that makes so much sense. So what is a product configurator and how does it work?

Kris Harrington:

So a product configurator, and we’re pretty excited about this because as you know, we’ve been in the aftermarket space for a long time, helping original equipment manufacturers and distributors set up their eCommerce sites. And what has happened as a result is when you create a great experience for your aftermarket. So customers are coming back, they’re happy with the experience. They continue to do business with you, when they need to purchase that next capital asset, they come back to you looking for that. So if you’ve already got a storefront and you already have an easy place to identify product, a configurator really is an option to build that next capital piece of equipment. So it’s an opportunity to select from a number of options, what you need. So think about your cab design, your chassis design, anything related to the axles. It can be as much as your interior colors and, you know, do you want leather, do you want something specific, your exterior accessories and other things they get to basically select from a variable number of options and what is stored behind that is a set of rules. So the rules will change according to what is selected. So if you select one cab option, maybe you only have a limited set of chassis options that go with that cab. And that’s the way a product configurator is designed to make it really easy for a user, not to have anyone in between to really get a budgetary quote or even place an order. If it’s something that they are, they’re looking for, the exact same thing and that they own, they might even be as comfortable to just check out and buy that new piece of equipment from you. But typically what they’re doing is it’s a step process in the purchasing of that capital piece of equipment where they’re budgeting.

So as they’re making these selections, visually something’s changing, they can see what the options are that they’re selecting and the price is coming up. So if they select one option, they get one price. And then if they say, okay, that’s higher than my budget or what I think my budget’s gonna be. They can select a different option now see a new price. So it really helps them with that budgeting and a variable selection, according to what is driving the business need for the purchase. So yeah, our, our manufacturing and distributor clients have really pulled us into this because it’s not enough in the world of digital to just sell aftermarket components. You’re also selling these more complex pieces of equipment as well.

Jamie Irvine:

I see how that would be used for like a manufacturer of a truck or something. But I also see it from a parts perspective because one of my mentors always said, sell them what they need, not just what they ask for. There’s lots of applications for that. People who are building like truck bodies or trailer axles or things like that, you could give the customer the ability to spec their own thing. And then you go and assemble it and ship it off to them. Another great option for that technology would just be, if a person selects this part, like, for example, I’m thinking of a brake wheel end kind of work, right. You start off with something like brake shoes, but then there’s wheel bearings and there’s wheel seals and there’s S cams and there’s slack adjusters, and there’s all these other parts. And you could actually build a quote for yourself. I need all these parts to do this brake job. So that is fantastic. I mean, that has so many applications.

Kris Harrington:

Yeah certainly we see it in the rebuilds. We do have a customer who is building their configurator for truck bodies right now. So that’s a great example of more on that aftermarket side. You’ve already got the manufactured piece of equipment, the truck, and now you’re going to adjust that truck according to all the different things that you need on the truck body.

Jamie Irvine:

Another thing that just came to mind is like, when you’re rigging rig up, they call them. So for example, if you’re in oil field, or if you’re in logging, there’s sometimes when you have your base vehicle, your truck and trailer, but then you have to rig it up for a specific type of, of work. And so you’re changing a bunch of stuff and I could see how that would be amazing to just be able to sit there and go, yeah, I want this and I want this and I want this and I want this. And then everything comes in a skid and then the guy can go ahead and install it and rig that vehicle up for whatever vocation they’re shifting that asset over to. So, wow, this is really great. So what kind of an impact on sales can this have for someone who’s offering this on their eCommerce site,

Kris Harrington:

The sales are huge, right? So now you’re into more than just the aftermarket components. You’re also driving major purchases. These more complex purchases are typically where a lot of sales people’s time and energy and phone calls and emails. And, you know, the delays between all of that, when a customer is requesting something, and, you know, if you have a dealer in the middle and the dealer has to go back to the manufacturer, manufacturer comes back to dealer dealer to the end customer, the savings of time. And then the revenue opportunity online is huge. So it’s basically taking a whole nother side of your business and making it available online. And it’s typically that more complex, more delayed communication side, making it easier. And it gives you a great opportunity to, you know, so many customers are using CRM systems today to gather that whatever they wanna follow up on with the customer.

So if the customer’s coming to your site and they’re doing a rigging unit, or they’ve created a truck body quotation, now, the salesperson has something real valuable to follow up on. They’ve seen the selections that that customer has made, and it really advances that sales process. So a customer can come back online and turn that into an order, or the salesperson can walk them through maybe some hesitation that, you know, they’ve quoted it. They just haven’t ordered yet. The salesperson comes in, makes a significant change, and it helps in the order of that product. So much value there, Jamie.

Jamie Irvine:

That isn’t just for the supplier. It it’s for the customer too, because there’s a lot of wasted time, you know, running a fleet or running a truck of some kind, or it’s a complicated business. And it takes you in so many different directions. So if you can simplify any aspect of the business, I actually personally think that that’s going to be one of the big places where competition is going to happen. Yes, it’s about, you know, quality products and good delivery and availability and all those things and always has been about. But it’s also gonna be about how efficient do you as a supplier, make me as a customer and the person who makes me the most efficient, because I’m suffering the same problems with lack of people as you are as a supplier. So as a customer, I’m gonna look for a supplier that makes me more efficient and any one of these kind of technologies that make the whole process easier is going to win every single day. So this is really exciting. And it sounds like you’ve already rolled this out. So is this available to all of your customers now?

Kris Harrington:

Yeah. You know, and I just wanna follow up something. You just said that one thing we have learned is that we have to help customers do their job. If you continue to help customers do their job, they’ll keep coming back to you. So the transparency, the speed, the accuracy, those are so key, but if they can just come and do it right there at their fingertips, absolutely it becomes valuable for both the distributor, the manufacturer and the customer. So, yes, we have it available today. We just rolled out our configurator in February. So we are, you know, showing it to prospective clients. And then of course it’s an opportunity for our existing clients as well.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. And I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Kris Harrington, the President and COO of GenAlpha. To learn more about GenAlpha and their product configurator, head over to genalpha.com. And you’ll be able to get information about their entire offering. It is a great company, and I highly encourage you if you’re in the business of selling parts that you reach out to them. Kris, thank you for coming back on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. Again, I really appreciate it.

Kris Harrington:

Such a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

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