RS to do aggressive online marketing business

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Shiv Bhambri, CEO, RS Components

EB: What makes RS India a leader in the components industry? And what makes it stand out from its competitors?

RS India was the first player to introduce the unique concept of ‘small-volume high-service distribution’ to the Indian market. It maintains its position as the preferred supplier for small volume needs to sell small quantities of a number of products to a large number of customers. Through a multi-channel strategy including e-commerce and catalogues, RS offers high service distribution worldwide for all small volume purchases of industrial and electronic products.

Over 70 years ago, the founding principals of RS brand were built around service excellence, quality products and timely delivery. Many businesses advertise low price but increase their margin by adding on delivery charges, payment for catalogues, minimum order charges, etc. In case of RS, the price includes everything, making us the best place to come to for all low-medium volume needs. In fact, it is a one stop shop.Many state this but few can back it up with over Rs 4.2 billion worth of stock available to be despatched the same day from a centralised warehouse.

EB: What are the new marketing strategies you have adopted in recent times?

Our e-commerce strategy has transformed the way we do business and also the service we offer to our customers. Both existing and new customers have supported us in their utilisation of the Internet to research solutions as per their business needs. We are also investing in search engine marketing to ensure that the company registers first in the minds of potential and existing customers.

Our website offers customers the ability to check stock availability as well as to order and pay online. We also conduct regular marketing campaigns to encourage our offline customers to migrate to the online medium.

We have created an online forum, Design Spark, for engineers. It also gives engineers access to over 1100 development kits from all the leading semiconductor providers in the world.

EB: Online marketing is not yet popular in India. What is RS’ rationale behind pushing online marketing aggressively?

Web and e-commerce is fast becoming our way of life. It is transforming the way we run our lives. By nature, electronics design engineers are Web savvy. They use search engines to research a component or find the right distributor. They also use manufacturers’ websites to compare products. So we have been developing our online marketing and improving services to meet customer’s needs.

E-commerce provides our customers with an improved service offering through tailored information and marketing programmes, rapid introduction of new products, a wider product range and other benefits from a deeper supplier relationship.

EB: What online services do you offer to your customers and principals?

Our website gives engineers access to over 300,000 products from more than 2000 leading brands. Customers flock to our site because they can easily find and choose from the broadest and most relevant range of products.

We have recently launched a dedicated electronics section on our website—Electronics Centre, a hub for all kinds of information relating to products, technical literature, applications, design tools or references to design links.

Design Spark, which was mentioned earlier, focuses on creating a reliable online design environment. It provides an online community for electronics design engineers to share experiences, make design and product recommendations and exchange ideas. It also has Design Spark PCB, a free schematic and PCB layout tool developed by RS, with unique features and characteristics. Other than this, we offer over 101,000 technical documents, new products every month, online stock availability report, and enable online orders with online payments. We also offer a 13 month order history.

EB: What are the pros and cons of doing business online?

Many of us now recognise the benefits of doing business online; using our computers facilitates day-to-day tasks in a myriad way. Online business is time saving—one can also research and compare an infinite number of products quickly and easily. One can even check stock availability with just a click of the mouse. Online business doesn’t just provide you more choice but also gives access to a worldwide community.

The only disadvantage with doing business online can be the lack of universal access. However, RS still offers its customers excellent off-line service, as well as help and encouragement in getting customers online.

EB: Could you mention three major strategies that RS has adopted for customer satisfaction.

We continually adopt new measures to improve customer services. We have a sales team which is in constant touch with our customers. Moreover, we have dedicated telephone lines to handle any kind of pre-sales, after sales or technical support required by our customers.

Recently, we have launched a text pricing service, mQuote, which provides instant prices for multiple items through SMS. Customers merely need to text the stock number of the product to a short dial number and within seconds, they will receive a text reply giving them the latest price of the product. With this new service, our customers have our current prices at their finger tips.

Creating an online community for engineers is a fresh and original method of supporting our customers and showing them that RS is more than just an online shop. Through Electronics Centre and Design Spark, we, at RS provide free and practical help to our customers. This creates credibility amongst our customers, who know that we are there to help them achieve the best they can and that together we can grow and develop.

We constantly innovate—honing our understanding of current and prospective customers’ needs and bringing the best of e-commerce to improve the online customer experience.

EB: What are your future expansion plans?

RS Group is committed to significant investments in India, in terms of infrastructure, people and products. In 2009, we added over one lakh new products, focussed on providing electronics design engineers, prototype engineers and buyers for small volume production with all the products they need. Other than this, we continue to expand our e-commerce capability. Customers now see us as the first port of call for their low volume, regular supply needs—we are no longer the supplier of the last resort. We also plan to add around 60,000 new products to our portfolio by the end of the financial year of 2011, a majority being from the electronics category.

EB: What are the key customer challenges faced by you in India?

Our offer is market leading and adds significant value to businesses by catering to all their low volume needs from one supplier. Spreading this message across the length and breadth of the country and explaining the true value offered by RS rather than just focussing on price, is one of our biggest challenges. We have recently lowered prices for over 70,000 products to make us more competitive while also improving our product range and local stock, making our offer even more compelling for customers.

We find that engineers search a lot of products online but order offline. People download a huge amount of data from our website and the number of page views and new visits to our website quite high. However, when it comes to transacting, we find that seems to go offline. Understanding and adapting our offer to cater to this is a challenge. While we remain committed to our e-commerce and focussed e-marketing strategies, this is backed up by a world class offline offer giving customers the choice to utilise RS in the way that fits best with their business.

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