It was previously thought that e-commerce was out of range for ETO--Engineer to Order—but thanks to new advances in enterprise resource planning systems, it's not only possible, but it also comes with a very particular set of benefits that should make any ETO firm sit up and take notice. Recently, IFS expert Greg Romanello detailed some of the key advantages of introducing an e-commerce system to an ETO firm.
One major benefit for ETO firms is also one of the simplest. A landing page, commonly in use for a variety of smaller businesses, especially retailers, can give ETO firms a big competitive edge. Simple, basic information can be provided on said landing page, like pricing and availability for the variety of products available. Naturally, it's not quite that simple in an ETO environment as there are a lot of extra considerations to be made like specific tooling, discussions and documents that come into play, but it can still provide at least a starting point to help give businesses the best chance to more easily keep all the related material involved centralized for easier access. The use of an asset master or a product master is an ideal solution that doesn’t require having actual people on hand to answer at least the beginning stages of any questions.
This is perhaps the focus of using e-commerce tools in an ETO environment: making communication easier. Facilitating communication, using portals and the like, not only makes it easier for those interested in doing business with an ETO to get what they want, but it also makes it easier for the ETO to connect with its customers. If the potential customer can at least go in with a general idea of what they want, as suggested by a landing page or the like, it reduces the amount of contact required as well as reduces the time needed to get from initial interest to purchased product.
Most specifically, according to Romanello, users should look for the level of ease of use. If users can't easily work with the output, there's no real sense in putting it out in the first place. In addition, the existence of toolkits help modify the output for more specific needs.
e-commerce and its accompanying tools represent a significant opportunity for ETO firms to make a better connection with their customer base, giving them the chance to get those customers from interest to purchase more rapidly and with greater overall satisfaction. That's likely to pay off for both the customers and for Engineer to order firms alike.
Edited by Jamie Epstein