In manufacturing, a different production batch or customization of a machine may result in one spare part fitting and another not, making the exact installed base essential. So, when selling spare parts or services online, customers need to be provided with exact aftermarket information.
Having an online store has become crucial for B2B companies as demand for online purchasing in businesses increases. Many start by selling spare parts, accessories or services in the aftermarket, while configurable, complex products are often still sold by sales reps personally.
It's no surprise that in both B2B and B2C, the user experience is key for a long lasting customer relationship. But how can manufacturers make sure that personalization in the aftermarket is correct? The key to success lies in leveraging all available data, based on the customer's installed base, and brought together in a digital customer portal.
You need an e-commerce solution that provides the right tools and by implementing necessary feature-sets that range from navigation and quick purchases to multi-system integrations. Then you can start to personalize the aftermarket for your customer.
Personalization is a key element in designing an e-commerce solution. Typically, a well-implemented personalization strategy can improve customer experience, customer retention, loyalty to your business and revenue.
What is personalization in the aftermarket?
Relevant search results, a lesser number of clicks, saved payments, no overload of information – these are just a few of the expectations of today’s online B2B buyer. As a seller, it is as important to provide relevant buyer-specific information to help customers find the right product.
While B2C personalization is aimed at driving sales by making the customer add more items to the shopping basket, often by “impulse buys”, B2B personalization must be more sophisticated. It is unlikely a B2B customer will engage in a procurement process on impulse. Instead, B2B personalization must create value and efficiency for the user. Typically, personalization in the aftermarket focuses on delivering efficiency to the customers.
Personalization in the aftermarket means providing customized catalogs, contract pricing, supporting segmented information based on roles, allowing quick bulk orders and handling roles in the order process. It requires the use of all knowledge about your products and customers that you have access to.
What is personalization when selling spare parts online?
Many manufacturers still sell spare parts by providing a long catalog of SKUs and having buyers talk to their account managers to make sure the rights parts are purchased. This process is time-consuming, ineffective and costly.
When it comes to selling spare parts online, businesses need to make it easy for customers and supply chain partners to find, select, buy and install the right spare parts. Buyers need to have access to correct, complete high-quality information of the products and matching spare parts through easy-to-access channels like e-catalogs, digital customer portals, and e-commerce sites. Also, any customization of a bought machine needs to be reflected in the underlying data to make sure the spare part still fits.
So, it is very crucial for OEMs to distribute relevant and up-to-date data of machines, equipment and spare parts along the distribution network during the entire lifetime of the product. The thing is, most product-related aftermarket data is usually found in data silos. Breaking down those technical barriers is one of the main challenge in aftermarket personalization.
Good and validated master data is the foundation for personalization when it comes to:
• cross-sell and up-sell opportunities
• accessories for products
• product kits
• rich content and relevant documentation
• tool subscriptions
Strategies for personalization in the aftermarket
The expectations that users bring with them from their B2C shopping experiences must be met. It must be equally easy and fast to find and get the right spare part for an existing product as to purchase a piece of clothing.
As an OEM, personalization can be taken further to make it more efficient and easier to get the needed parts. Naturally, the B2B personalization strategies will apply also to the aftermarket and sale of spare parts, but they must be complemented with additional tools. Here is an overview of the tool set available for an OEM to personalize the spare part business:
- Keep track of installed base. Knowing your customer’s installed base is the key to making it relevant and presenting the parts needed. It may save several clicks and thus valuable time.
- Ensure to store the connection between the ordered part and the product it is needed for. It will help in making future purchases smoother as well as important information to the R&D when improving product quality.
- Focus the spare part search on finding the exact right product version or individual to ensure the right parts and service information is presented.
- Provide visual support for the selection of the right spare part, like exportable CAD Drawings in 2D or 3D, integrated with the internal PLM.
- Use cross-sales and up-sales strategies for your spare part business. Cross-sales and up-sales will differ a bit compared to product sales. What others have shown interest in will not be relevant, and algorithms presenting offerings based on statistics can turn out to be misleading. Instead it must be based on the experience of a spare part team and tailored to the specific product. When a customer orders a spare part for a product, an accessory that fits that product may be relevant. Suggesting additional spare parts that may be wearing down could give great value to the user.
- Ensure to handle legacy parts and their replacements. Old parts may have been replaced in several steps and this needs to be communicated and handled on the e-commerce site.
- Add content for easy maintenance and support. If customers can find the needed information to change parts, as videos or textual descriptions of the support, along with the parts, valuable time will be saved. Getting the correct part is equally important as an efficient service operation.
- Provide a unique digital interface for the whole purchase experience. Contextual to the purchase of a spare part, allow customers to book service or installation, follow up the shipment, download the invoice, and even have an easy return process.
Some other useful features that ensures a pleasant aftermarket customer experience:
- Advanced and intuitive search: one of the most important navigation tools since it enables buyers to find the right product quickly and easily and thus increases conversion rate.
- Shopping cart: assist buyers while making the purchase. It allows them to add items in their basket and start the checkout process.
- Integration with ERP systems: speeds up the process fulfillment by automatically updating the inventory levels both at the front end and the back end, displays personalized prices based on user type, etc.
- Multiple users: Each user may have rights to access the platform which can be managed by an administrator.
- Availability and catalog: These features enable real-time inventory updates of each product and offer information that are useful to the buyer.
In conclusion, implementing a digital customer portal that is tightly integrated with your aftermarket PIM and catalog system, with smart personalization strategies, is bound to increase your customer’s experience and at the same time efficiently compete with third-party vendors. Keeping track of the installed base will help the end-user find the exact right part. At the end, it will strengthen the brand loyalty and increase the aftermarket revenue.
If you want to dig deeper into the topic of personalization in the aftermarket, we have a free whitepaper that discusses the importance of a tight integration of an aftermarket PIM and a digital customer
portal, with personalization strategies: