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Servicing the invisible customer

15 June 2023

IF YOU visit the Apple App store or Google Play you’ll find ERIKS UK has its own App available. But what does this App do and why should we all want to know about it? We spoke to Mick Holland, Chief Product Officer and Suzie Knowles, Online Marketing Manager, to find out!

Powered by shop.eriks.co.uk the new ERIKS App has just been launched. It’s a simple tool to ensure that customers experience fast, efficient and reliable next day delivery and it moves both us and them further along in our digital journeys.

For application in point of use or open stores the App is designed to help our customers re-order. It’s a simple tool that allows them to create their own QR codes, scan QR codes, select the right quantities of product they wish to order and to complete an order in the webshop. They can print out and put the codes on their racking, boxes or wherever their machine is, and their process is then fully integrated into our webshop. It’s not just the App, it’s the App combined with some of the advanced features of the webshop that makes this such a powerful tool.

Using the App in conjunction with the web shop allows customers to search for products, to set up a favorites list and to build a shopping cart – much as most people do when they use Amazon or other web shops. It’s simple to check out and a full order history is available to easily view. An important feature of the App is that lead times for products are shown when searching for them and, as with Amazon, products are picked, dispatched and delivered in 24 hours via the ERIKS Fulfilment Centre.

Mick Holland, ERIKS chief product officer said: “The App removes the challenge of distance and allows customers to interact seamlessly with our IT system in a way that adds genuine value and a great deal of process efficiency. It’s important to note that this is a replenishment process – it's not vendor managed inventory, it’s not an inventory management algorithm and it’s not stock control - it’s purely replenishment because that’s what most people need.”

Faster, easier ordering

The ERIKS App is simple but powerful and once downloaded customers can have all their product and order information in their pockets. Using the App means less chance of making mistakes with no more writing down or copying item numbers or quantities. It all provides faster and easier ordering.

“Many of our customers are what I would call ‘the busy buyer’” says Mick Holland. “Our product is not their core focus, it’s a small percentage of their overall spending. They are not interested in engineering components per se, but they need to follow a set of purchasing procedures as they cannot allow what I call ‘maverick spending’ – where people order what they want without following a rigorous set of criteria. We want to ‘unburden’ the busy buyer in this regard.”

Another major advantage to the busy buyer of using the App is that it is possible for them to add a default purchase order to the system for a certain period (such as a month). It’s possible to specify a PO number which applies to all maintenance products, and this can be repeated month by month. This combined with the spend authority controls allows the busy buyer to give autonomy to the maintenance engineers to buy products up to a certain spend limit through the App and then receive all the spending information on one invoice at the end of the month – which obviously makes life much simpler for them in terms of vendor management and budget control.

As Suzie Knowles, online marketing manager, points out: “There’s no hassle for them, the buyer does not need to be involved in the daily process, so all that noise just goes away and that’s a huge benefit. Plus, by using the App there’s no chance of ending up with grey market, counterfeit goods. To paraphrase the famous quote about IBM ‘No-one gets fired for buying from ERIKS’. If you want an SKF bearing you can get it from us – we work with trusted brands and premium products. The busy buyer does not need to worry and can be assured that the engineers are buying from a reputable supplier.”

To set up the system customers need to understand what they have and want on their shelves, and this requires a little bit of planning (and we can help customers with this if they need it). The great thing about the App is that it scales easily and quickly. As Mick Holland points out, “It’s a judgement call between how much space people have, how much cash they want to spend on having the product around them and how often it turns.”

Once customers have ascertained the part numbers and quantity per location that they want, they simply drop that information into an ordering list on the Webshop to create QR codes to print onto Avery labels on a standard printer. ERIKS has also put together a solution whereby customers can buy racking shelves, tote bins and labels all in one place on the webshop to get set up quickly.

Fits all sizes

The size of the account that this solution is suitable for is an interesting question. While small businesses can use the App and digital replenishment to create a ‘self-serve’ experience (which is efficient for both them and ERIKS), larger companies can also integrate digital replenishment into the way in which they work with us to gain further benefits. As Knowles says, “It’s just an effective way of replenishing stocks whether that’s in someone’s garage and they have 20 barcodes to scan right up to someone in the nuclear industry with a dedicated stores person using it to replenish the stocks on their site. It also works for customers that need to transport products in the back of a van, the App and digital replenishment solution pays dividends here also.”

An important point to note about the App and Digital Replenishment is that this system has been used successfully elsewhere in ERIKS, on the continent, and so is a proven system.

ERIKS staff who want more information should says Suzie Knowles, “Look at the information we have available on SharePoint and on the website and get familiar with how it works. If you want customer specific articles added, that are not within the normal range, then action a query trail asking for a product reference creation plus web and this will create a workflow.

“As for customers,” Knowles continues, “It’s a one stop shop. Because it’s phone-based technology, people are very comfortable with it and they can use it to quickly improve their workshop or engineering stores. There’s no need any longer for them to be rushing around. Plus, we have made it really easy for them, in one order they can get the products they need to set up a solution which serves them perfectly. This will free up capacity in their workshops and make things more efficient. It is remarkably simple, intuitive and it takes just minutes. The biggest investment in time is printing the labels and sticking them on boxes. However, should customers want more information they can go to the e-business team, which Dan Walker runs, and make contact through the webshop.

"The App and the launch of Digital Replenishment is the start of a journey and our first venture in providing our customers with a fully digital experience – it's a big focus for us. The user interface means that customers will control all aspects of their digital experience with ERIKS. The objective is to make us easy to work with."

To summarise, as Holland says: “If you ask me ‘Do our customers love it?’ I’d say ‘They don’t care, it just happens’. It’s an irrelevance to them. But that’s the beauty of it – through the App and digital replenishment we can be ‘helpfully invisible’.”