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Give Dealers a Virtual Rep
Specialized Bicycles "adds" to its sales force with a comprehensive dealer portal.
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The employees of Specialized Bicycles take great pride in their devotion to cycling. In fact, Specialized employees are often found cycling up to 20 miles during their lunch break. This devotion sets high standards within the company, so when building its online presence, the organization focused on delivering the same level of service as its employees deliver. Specialized has more than 40 distributors throughout 40 countries, and an additional 1,300 independent bike dealers throughout the United States. To support these distributors, dealers, and end consumers, the company combined it Web storefront with its catalog using Oracle's 9i Application Server technology. Now customers can view bikes and purchase components online, locate Specialized dealers, and check on product availability. In February 2003 the company added a new B2B site, S-Store. In fewer than four months more than half of Specialized's U.S. dealers signed up for it. The site gives them real-time access to promotions, products, invoices, orders, and product availability. Anything that sales reps did for dealers, the distributors can now accomplish themselves online. This has also allowed Specialized's sales representatives to become more intimate with their accounts by focusing on more complex issues and personalized service. "Companies many times have a fear factor of whether or not this is going to take away from the sales reps' job," says Ron Pollard, CIO and president of e-Commerce for Specialized Bicycle. "We saw an improvement." The addition of the business Web site has forged better relationships with dealers and forged consistency throughout the company. S-Store has attracted more than 750 dealers, who use the system to order Specialized products, and more than 2,200 users access the system regularly. Mechanics in the field can now go to the site to get the latest information on repair and parts warranties. Special deals and promotions are also includ-ed on the site. All of this has led to an increase in sales. "Once you have a business-to-business portal for dealers, all it is, is another sales rep," Pollard says. "It forces you to be consistent," because you need to offer the same deal to customers, whether offered by inside sales reps or on the B2B site. "It's forced us to go back and look at the promotions...that are available."
Specialized has seen hits to its site increase to tens of thousands per month, and has experienced a reduction in phone expenses on inbound calls. An unexpected surprise came when Specialized dealers began to use the Web store as a "tee-off," Pollard says. The company has added a function that allows dealers to turn off the pricing so their end customers can go online and check product availability, which has increased both dealers and customers' use of the site. Additionally, customers can now order available products directly online, giving dealers another channel to connect with customers. The Payoff As a result of upgrading its Web presence, Specialized Bicycles has:
  • had more than half of its U.S. dealers sign up for its business site;
  • attracted more than 750 dealers that use the system to order Specialized products;
  • seen more than 2,200 users access the system regularly.
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