Outlook 2012: Social networking drives distribution

4 mins read

Digi-Key is one of the five largest global distributors of electronic components, offering companies in more than 170 countries products from more than 470 world class manufacturers.

Originally a catalogue distributor, Digi-Key has developed a leading online presence, using the strength, convenience and accessibility of the World Wide Web. At digikey.co.uk, engineers and procurement professionals can find essential product information and access leading edge purchasing tools. The website is available in 81 country specific versions and eight languages, with transactions available in 14 currencies. Digi-Key has differentiated itself from other electronic components distributors in terms of product availability. With the broadest selection of electronic components in the world, product can be shipped immediately to meet customer needs. This has been recognised by independent surveys in Japan, Germany and North America. Digi-Key stocks more than 600,000 components in its 65,000m2 distribution centre in Thief River Falls, Minnesota. From there, millions of orders are shipped each year to hundreds of thousands of customers. Orders shipped to the UK are typically in customers' hands within two business days. The internet is Digi-Key's most useful resource when connecting with customers. While online initiatives are driven by the fundamental needs of design engineers and professional purchasers, internet based campaigns present far more to interested purchasers than the original Digi-Key catalogue. Building on its original offering of state of the art components, Digi-Key has added informative and interactive tools to educate design engineers and procurement professionals in the best way to use those solutions in their designs. The global customer base now has unrestricted access to leading components, insight into product data, application notes and forums at their convenience. OFFERING A CUSTOM EXPERIENCE Digi-Key's success in partly down to offering a customisable experience to each of its customers. For example, if an engineer needs prototype quantities, they can select the optimum product from all the devices available for off the shelf delivery. Rarely are they faced with having to compromise because of limited selection. Technical support can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by phone, fax, web chat or e-mail, with immediate responses. In addition, if the engineer would like information about a specific newly released part, Digi-Key's Product Training Modules (PTMs) provide tutorials on the latest products and innovative technologies. PTMs are training modules to which design engineers can refer on demand, at a time when they are most relevant and convenient. At the same time, a new customer or an engineering student may need an easy and efficient means of organising parts. Digi-Key's BOM (Bill of Materials) Manager is an essential resource for any customer. BOM Manager provides real time pricing and availability, secure storage and easy search and reference features. It allows purchasers to create separate BOMs for specific projects and to place orders for varying quantities of assemblies to be produced. Purchasers can create and save a BOM with correct part ratios and multiply by the number of assemblies during the ordering process. Recent additions to BOM manager allow customers to enter cut tape, tape and reel or manufacturers' part numbers. Based on the type and quantity entered, part numbers will be 'auto sensed' and displayed automatically. This improved system also informs customers if the quantity requested is available or if it does not meet the requirements of tape and reel or cut tape packages. By the same token, professional buyers of components in production quantities once had to rely on distributor sales representatives for product availability, pricing, lead times, possible substitutions and tracking shipments. The Digi- Key website gives purchasers instant access to this information and far more. For purchasers of production quantities who require or desire a single point of contact, Digi-Key's Production Business representatives can work with them on daily sourcing issues and scheduled releases. Digi-Key is aware and sensitive to the diverse needs of its customers. While customers may have different goals in regards to the products they purchase, Digi-Key's online resources and consistent attention to service provide satisfaction to millions globally. Some of the latest resources on the Digi-Key website are the TechZone technology zones, which house informative articles, white papers and application notes addressing Energy Harvesting, Lighting, Microcontroller, Power, Sensor and Wireless technologies. These technology specific resources have been developed so users can focus on the solutions and components most relevant to their designs. This provides access to content from suppliers and members of the engineering community with expertise in given areas. TechZones are dynamic and include consistently updated information regarding new products available online. In addition to providing resources online, Digi-Key also provides access to its product line via mobile applications. Gaining access to products 'on the go' is becoming increasingly important and sometimes crucial for customers around the world as mobile popularity grows. The features of Digi-Key's iPhone and Android applications enable users to search for parts, create shopping carts, place orders, access their My Digi-Key accounts, get product specifications, view product photos, learn about new products and new technologies at Digi-Key and more. In order to provide a full circle, customer experience, Digi-Key has created communities on popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. If you follow Digi-Key on Twitter, you can participate in online contests and receive updates on the latest product additions to Digi- Key's offering. Winners of weekly contests receive prizes from suppliers such as Texas Instruments, CUI and CK Switches. Becoming a fan of Digi-Key on Facebook brings the latest news about Digi-Key, new supplier additions, information regarding the company's attendance at tradeshows and sponsorship of major events. A social networking identity has become an integral part of the company's online presence. In future, Digi-Key will develop its online persona with further online resources for engineers, which will be easy to access and which will connect purchasers directly to the company. Online distribution is essential to Digi-Key's success and its 2011 sales is evidence of this. These growth rates have not occurred by accident; a thoughtfully developed business model allows Digi-Key to anticipate customer's needs in an uncertain economic climate. Amongst the planned online services are an easy to use Reference Design Library, which houses blueprints for electronic design in an accessible archive, and the Design Services Providers network, which provides connections for engineers in need of assistance for design projects. And the newly launched TechXchange community – an online forum for design engineers, electronics industry professionals, and hobbyists to communicate, share ideas, and offer expertise in any and all areas of the electronics industry – will also be expanded. Digi-Key's online services are significant to its success as a whole and these will be enhanced on its global websites for the benefit of customers. Digi-Key knows it must earn the business of each customer. That requires consistent performance – shipping components quickly and accurately and resolving any problems quickly and fairly. Dedication to this goal has made Digi-Key the top rated electronic component distributor for overall performance in North America for 19 consecutive years. The goal now is to achieve this rating from customers worldwide.