Monday, June 20, 2016

Online options strengthen relationship with indirect sales channel

This article was published on June 17, 2016 by Link Magazine.

WILA, a supplier of press brake tooling in Lochem, has launched an online portal for its European customers. WILA processes their orders directly, but the indirect sales channel is not being side-lined. The relationship between distributors and both their customers and WILA will now be more intensive in fact. “We don’t plan to play distributor since, after all, the distributor always provides added value in after-sale processes.”

The demand for high-quality tools for customers is growing steadily, says WILA, a supplier that identifies itself as a specialist in press brake productivity. The company invests continuously in product innovation (automatic recognition of tools, easy and accurate positioning and exchange, and so on) and ongoing production automation. Its sales process is now also undergoing an update. WILA has had a sales office in the U.S. for many years and opened one in China last year. The newest ‘outlet’ opened on 1 June on the World Wide Web. “We consider ourselves a business in the service sector," explains Commercial Director Michiel Wensing. “We want to give customers the possibility to order WILA tooling online in an intuitive manner with all necessary information on functionality, delivery times and direct processing by WILA.” This is perfectly in line with the smart industry and process automation ambitions of this company. “The internal processing of orders from the webshop is integrated and fully digitised, including the operations office that creates the instructions that the operator sees on the screen in the factory; it is now a fully paperless process. This enables us to market our products  more quickly and with greater transparency.”

Customer intimacy

The opening of the Webshop does not mean that WILA’s traditional sales channels have been side-lined. On the contrary, customers need to select a WILA-authorised service partner online. “We don’t plan to play distributor since, after all, the distributor always provides added value in after-sale processes by providing customers with advice and other products and services. Customer intimacy is found in the relationship with the distributor, who can serve the customer in his or her own language and culture (the export percentage of WILA's sales is 95%, ed.). We deliver the online orders directly to the customer, but the distributor receives a commission.” WILA does not have its own sales organisation, nor does it want one. “We've had a strong distribution channel in the U.S. from day one. Our intention is to strengthen this model in Europe by designating appropriate service partners and through more active promotion.” WILA has launched authorised service partners (ASPs) in the Netherlands (four) and more than ten other European countries. In those countries where WILA does not yet have or has insufficient coverage, customers can submit a suggestion for an ASP. “We want to use the Webshop as a mechanism to strengthen our distribution system.”

Promotional tool

The Webshop should in fact strengthen the relationship with the distributors. “After all, it’s a promotional tool they can use to manage their promotional codes and vouchers for customers.” Those vouchers are used, for example, when a customer orders a press brake from the distributor and wishes to choose a tool later on. In the sales process, a voucher with a blank tool selection is then sent so that the customer and distributor can together make the right choice at a later date. The distributor has his or her own login code that is used to receive complete overviews of offers, as well as notification of leads. Of course, WILA also aims to benefit from this partnership. “It gives us more control over, for example, the price policy. At present, it’s not always clear how distributors are pricing products. It is important that they respect our strict price policy and do not add too much margin to the products. Obviously, they’re free to offer their customers a discount, but we also want to maintain control of that. If distributors do not want our involvement in this, they can purchase the products and then resell them to their customers.”


After some initial hesitance, the European distributors are now enthusiastic about the new approach, says Michiel Wensing. “It’s clear to them that we’re promoting them as an ASP and taking care of the administrative tasks. We’re also assuming their financial risk because we have customers pay us directly, whether upfront or on credit.” Only standard products can be ordered online at this time, but the goal is to use feedback from the market to expand the Webshop and add specials to it in the future. The Webshop also serves as a portal with information on accessories, components and tool systems that are not (yet) available for order online. All product information, with the exception of market price, can be seen by all. If someone wants to place or order or view a price, he will have to create an account and select an ASP.

The Webshop is expected to go live in North and South America in September and possibly next year in Asia.

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Online options strengthen relationship with indirect sales channel

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