Tangled Webs

tangledmess2I believe it was Sir Walter Scott that wrote a long time ago, “What a tangled web we weave.”  I have been thinking about our websites and our distributors’ websites, and it is a pretty tangled situation – but it’s getting better.  I will share a few observations.

 Over the last months we have made numerous improvements to our website for Woodhead® and Brad® branded products  On our site a visitor can get complete product specs, see a photo of the part, download a drawing, find out what the part mates with, etc.  In addition, we have a special website just for distributors called VIP, which also provides ordering information.  And it’s easy to use – if I can maneuver around the site without difficulty, I am sure that our customers can, too.

 But getting our detailed electronic product information to our distributors (so they in turn can put it on their websites) remains a tricky proposition.  We have 100s of distributor partners, and we don’t have the bandwidth to work directly with the web teams from all of those companies, so we have contracted with ElectricSmarts to help this situation.  Many of our distributors use ElectricSmarts content to populate their websites with Molex content, and this has helped significantly. 

 About 18 months ago, I received a call from the president of one of our distributors who asked me if we were actively working on putting together “attributed data” in “UNSPSC” format for IDW.  Since I had never heard of those terms before, it was pretty obvious that we hadn’t started tackling this one.  Luckily, I hooked up with some smart people here at Molex, who agreed to lead this effort.  After about 18 months of effort, I am happy to say that we now have a “Platinum rating” from IDEA / IDW.  Over 8,000 of our part numbers are now populated with attributed data, images and links to product specs – all in IDW.

 So we (and our industry) have made a ton of progress getting our product information “out there.”

 But we at Molex/Woodhead don’t really sell our products direct.  End users don’t buy from us.  Probably over 90% of Woodhead and Brad product sales go through our distribution partners, so even if we have done a good job of making it easy for our customers to find the features and benefits of our products, they have to leave molex.com to actually buy our stuff.  Stated another way, an end user who has searched the web to find the products that they want, in many cases, has to leave the web to order it.

 I was pleased to learn, while attending the South Central NAED that our distributor partners are actively trying to get their websites capable of accepting orders.  I believe this is very good news indeed. 

 I also think there is an opportunity for suppliers and distributors to integrate our websites better.  Here are a few examples:

–      Once an end-user has searched our site and decided upon a part number that they want to buy, it would be cool if we could provide a link that shows the inventory of our stocking distributors, so our end user customers can immediately know where they can get our products quickly.

–      In the same way, it would be cool to see all of Molex’s product inventory and delivery information on distributors’ web sites.  Even if our distributor does not have inventory of a Molex part, maybe we do.  We are proud of the inventory we keep and our generally good lead times.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have that information immediately available to our customers?

Like most things, we have come a long way, but still have a long ways to travel.  Still, I think the path we are on is the right one, and it’s a lot less tangled.