Fulfillment Goes Digital
Using the Web to fulfill requests for information has additional benefits, particularly from a sales and cost perspective, as Catlin points out. “You might get a consumer or a company to the point [where] they’re 90 percent sold without having a sales person involved in the process, and a sales person just brings it home,” notes Catlin. “So that initial selling and gaining a comfort level with a customer can take place over the Web.”
According to Catlin, this approach can be effective particularly when selling high-ticket items in the B-to-B realm—such as technical equipment and machinery—and a format such as streaming video can be used to educate prospects on how a product functions.
Another key advantage Sziklai notes is faster fulfillment turnaround, which he says can have a positive ripple effect and lead to a better overall customer experience. “Let’s say that the Web application is tied directly to the fulfillment database, then the benefits are clear,” says Sziklai. “You have faster fulfillment turnaround [and] much more of an interaction between the end customer and the process, so the customer feels better. … They feel like they get an instantaneous reaction to what they want. I think that’s changing fulfillment.”
The level of customization that digital fulfillment allows for is perhaps one of the most important rewards associated with this approach—one that Catlin has seen work to the advantage of many in the automotive industry who create highly customized brochures based on a prospect’s specifications. “For larger sale items where a person is going to make an inquiry and you’re going to spend a little bit of time marketing to them before they make a big purchase decision, this is a value-add,” he explains.
Going the digital route for fulfillment also allows for a more readily trackable campaign, according to Barry Blumenfield, CEO of Norwalk, Conn.-based BMI Fulfillment Services. “We get much better source code information to track back where people are responding from when there are direct, trackable links,” he says.