For a manufacturer and importer which only works through a national distributor network, it is important to stay engaged with the dealer community and try to make their jobs easier. This is exactly what Uckfield-based Mitchell & Cooper is doing, with a whole host of changes imminently heading into the market.
With the light equipment specialist researching customer engagement, it found that according to Forrester’s Research Company, 68% of B2B buyers already buy online and 83% see a supplier’s website as the most popular channel for conducting research online. Therefore the Bonzer brand creator is currently at the end of a 2 year process to completely revamp its internal and external IT offering, and update its branding.
As MD, Guy Cooper, commented: “It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, you need to have a good couple of years to invest.” Now would certainly qualify as the right time for the firm, as the company has grown by 23% over the last 2 years, with UK sales rising by 27% and exports by 18% over the same period. Export sales are now at 46% of the firm’s business.
The new website was sent live in May, with Cooper describing the undertaking as two projects linked together. The internal ERP system is now cloud-based, so the company’s sales force can access all information from any mobile device, and the website is integrated into this. Cooper detailed: “The website is really an extension of our internal system. When a dealer places an order on the site, it is automatically fed through the ERP and printed in our warehouse, ready to be picked and packed.”
Related products have been collated together in sections on the mobile-responsive site, while logged-in dealers will be able to see live stock numbers. The site will even detail due date of new stock if a product has run out. “Quite often websites will say low, medium or high stock levels, but how do you know what the company’s stocking policy is?” questioned Cooper. “So we thought we would be as transparent as we can be.”
Following feedback, the company has increased its overall levels of stock by 32% and aims to fulfil at least 98% of orders on time in full. “Fewer distributors are holding stock nowadays, so we are trying to assist with that,” Cooper said.
Mitchell & Cooper is in the process of issuing website login details, with multiple logins enabled for dealers who want them. Other features include the ability to build an address book of regular customers and creating and saving order templates for regularly-ordered items.
Next day delivery will be available for orders placed before 3pm, while printable and shareable spec sheets are available for each product. The company will be introducing website launch offers on certain products in the coming weeks and months, and the site will be constantly updated with any new additions. Future site developments will involve linking into the firm’s parcel carriers to track the delivery and internationalising the platform with translations and various currency options.
Additionally the supplier has reduced its carriage charges, with carriage paid for orders over £50 and a £4.95 charge for orders below that threshold. Commercial director Alan Davies commented: “We hope these steps will encourage some of the middle ground distributors who have dealt with us in the past but have moved away to bring their business back. The £4.95 can make a big difference to some.”
There looks to be plenty of new products in the pipeline too, with 11 series currently slated. These range in complexity from barware to the firm’s first step into electrical products. Dr Paul Spendley is overseeing this investment in product design and development. Furthermore, the firm is expanding its imported ranges too, with catalogue items increasing by 38%.
Mitchell & Cooper is also putting operational efficiency under the microscope, employing Dr Tim Franklin as operations director to make efficiencies on the onsite shop floor, warehouse and plan the future of the factory, including barcoding all products later this year. “We are getting a true understanding of where we are efficiency-wise on the shop floor to then make further changes,” reported Cooper.
The firm has undertaken other customer engagements such as more visibility at trade shows for both UK and export markets, plus it held its pricing until the beginning of this year. Cooper explained: “The currency changes meant a lot of suppliers had to change their prices overnight. We’ve got a good balance between what we import and export, which neutralised that and meant we could swallow up the increases for longer than most.”
The next step for the firm is to overhaul its office space as well as creating an onsite demonstration kitchen by possibly rearranging the production and warehouse spaces. “We will invite our customers down on a monthly basis, and get our suppliers to train them and our own staff. It’s about getting our customers walking away feeling inspired and armed with the right information,” said Cooper, concluding: “We want to get closer to our customers; we are here to work with them and grow our businesses together.”