Digitalisation often means different things to different industries and companies. In general, digitalisation is characterised by aspirations and objectives in areas such as enhancing business efficiency and automating routine work. However, the Etola Group has taken a slightly different approach, in addition to these aspects.
“In our opinion, successful digitalisation strengthens the company’s capabilities and makes them available to’ customers more widely. For example, within Etra, these capabilities include the expert personnel and an extensive selection of high-quality products,” says Mikael Etola, CEO of Etola Group.
Digitalisation has a lot to offer to Etola Group, which consists of 18 companies serving a broad customer base. This is particularly apparent in the multichannel business of Etra, which sells technical products.
“Thanks to digital development, orders can be delivered rapidly from our modern, automated central warehouse, the product details and customer register are up-to-date on the enterprise resource planning system, and customers can easily access their order histories,” Etola says.
Digitalisation across every layer
From the system perspective, Etra has made determined progress along its digitalisation pathway. The company has not fallen into the trap of executing several small, disjointed projects. Instead, it has digitalised in a way that is genuinely beneficial to the core business.
Among the enablers of efficient operations are integrations that combine the enterprise resource planning system with the other systems that the company uses, as well as the systems used by customers and suppliers. Etola has also worked with Digia to create various mobile solutions for employees and customers.
“Within the company, our sales staff can use their mobile devices for purposes such as sending quotes and orders, checking historical data and receiving all of the necessary information from the Digia Enterprise ERP system in real time. The personnel working in the shelf-stacking service can use mobile devices to place replenishment orders, and stock-taking can also be handled by mobile if necessary,” Etola says.
The mobile solutions are also available to customers.
“We have a dedicated ordering app for our customers, enabling them to read barcodes and place orders. Customers can also use the ordering app in-store.”
The online store caters for various customer needs
The latest step along Etra’s digitalisation pathway is the B2B online store, which was implemented using Magento technology in September 2019. The online store leans heavily on the data available from the enterprise resource planning system.
“Etra has used the Digia Enterprise system since 2007 and, over that period, it has accumulated an enormous volume of data on the supplies required by manufacturing industry, as well as maintenance,” Etola says.
“The online store will provide our customers with access to the same information that Etra’s salespeople have: they will be able to view their own purchasing history and obtain information about Etra’s entire product range. This will facilitate repurchasing, which will, in turn, free up our salespeople from routine tasks and enable them to focus on wider-ranging customer services.”
Etra’s online store is no ordinary e-commerce site: it provides service on five different operating models. Registered business customers can be offered Etra’s entire product range or a predetermined selection of products online. Alternatively, Etra’s online store can be integrated directly into the customer’s purchasing system, or a catalogue containing product links and prices can be imported into the purchasing system. Business customers can also pay for their online orders by credit card.
“The new online service will be most beneficial to customers who always order from Etra, as it is easy for them to place reorders. A Canter product information management system operates in the background and manages product features and dimensions, making everything easy for customers.”
Etra has realised tangible benefits from improving its product information management.
“Our analytics have helped us to notice that customers sometimes spent up to 20 minutes searching for a single product. Now it is much easier for them to filter their searches and find the right product from our range of more than 100,000 items. Naturally, our customer service team is always happy to help if a customer cannot seem to find what they are looking for. Helping our customers use their time more efficiently is one aspect of the added value that we endeavour to provide.”
A genuinely customer-oriented multichannel approach
Much has been said about the growing importance of e-commerce and the difficulties facing brick-and-mortar stores, but the debate has also been steered towards multichannel approaches. Brick-and-mortar stores remain important to Etra, as they form a delivery network for orders from the online store, in addition to their normal functions as shops.
According to Etola, very few companies take the same multichannel approach as Etola Group. In addition to the online store and brick-and-mortar stores, sales are also made by email and phone, as well as through the service warehouse solution provided by Etra.
“When a customer orders a service warehouse solution, we maintain an appropriate inventory of items on the customer’s premises to ensure that they are readily available. Different variations of this service are available according to the customer’s requirements. For example, the warehouse may have a scanner, which the customer uses to read off the products they take from the warehouse. This ensures that our systems have the latest information, and we can monitor the need for replenishment,” Etola says.
Ultimately, all development concerns serving customers better and saving them time.
“If a customer needs additional information on a product such as a washer, the contact details of the appropriate team of experts are available on the website. When customers visit brick-and-mortar stores, they get the products they need right away. On the other hand, the online store provides visibility for our entire product range,” Etola says.
“In everything we do, our aim is to save the customer from having to think about what to buy and how to buy it, as the customer can place all their orders with a single, high-quality, comprehensive supplier.”