Würth: “We Take the Online Shop out of Anonymity”

Würth: “We Take the Online Shop out of Anonymity”

by Roelof Swiers

The key to transforming a traditional organization into a digital, innovative company lies in getting the sales force enthusiastic for e-commerce, says Gerco van Leeuwen, e-commerce specialist at Würth. By doing so, the company transformed itself into an organization in which field sales makes full use of the opportunities offered by e-commerce.

In 2008, Würth, world market leader in assembly and fastening materials, decided that “online” was no longer to be ignored. With a first online shop, they set out on the road to digitization. Since then, Würth focused on constant innovation in its e-commerce strategy and is now a master of omnichannel. Everything, from sales representatives to vending machines and automated orders is focused on the customer.

Activating the sales force

The key question is: How do you get the sales team to embrace and even stimulate the possibilities of digital commerce?

Sales people who fear for their jobs as soon as e-commerce is mentioned are one of the obstacles to a good transition into a digital organization. The understanding that digital is no replacement, but an integration, is hard to come by, especially from a traditional sales organization, says Gerco van Leeuwen. "We have therefore focused on motivating our 300+ sales representatives through training and support. By giving customers access to our shops and installing the app, our representatives ensure that Würth remains in the customer's eye 24/7. This is basically the same as they did, when they used to put a leaflet on the table or hand over a desk pad with our logo on it."

Own shop, own representative

According to van Leeuwen, channels are not competitive but complementary. By focusing more on e-commerce, the additional sales has increased. "For us, more channels equal more customer loyalty. A sales person never knows all our 125,000 products by heart. Through a recommendation engine, customers receive online suggestions that a sales representative did not or could not make. If you are looking for a rear light, you will now also get a suggestion for mounting clips. In practice, customers now make 38 percent more new, additional purchases. For the sales people, there is no difference in commission. This means that the various sales channels don’t become a threat to their jobs.” One aspect of business strategy has not changed ever since: Würth customers remain linked to a representative. "That's how we get the online shop out of anonymity. This is how we make a large organization very personal."

Omnichannel organization

With its customer centric digital platform and online management tools, Würth responds to the needs of its customers. One of these applications is the ORSY® 1 (Order and System 1), which gives Würth insights into how much stock is kept on the shelves of its customers. Is a product almost running out? Then, thanks to ORSY® system regal sensors, the system automatically places an order.

A clever innovation was the establishment of vending machines at customers’ sites. Here, employees use their personal ID cards to obtain products such as drills, gloves or other personal protective equipment from stock. “By this, customers get insights into their consumption. The vending machine automatically orders when stocks run out," says Van Leeuwen. "This sometimes causes some resistance on the part of employees, because they sometimes feel kind of controlled. But in the end there is no need for hassle ever again because they ran out of stock faster than expected. What is even more surprising, such systems reduce consumption by almost 35 percent! People now think twice before they use anything."

Reduced sales and Würth is happy about it? "Yes, the sales of a few product groups may be reduced, but with the use of vending machines, we often expand the range with new products and establish a long-term relationship with our customers!”

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