At Tonet AG; the print catalogue learns from the web shop

01. September 2003

This case study reports on Tonet’s success in coordinating several sales tools with one another, enabling Tonet to focus even more closely on its customers.

1. Tonet AG

Tonet AG is the market leader in Switzerland for appliances, stock-in-trade and expendable items for treating wood surfaces. With a workforce of 23, of whom nine work in the field, Tonet covers the whole of Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. [1]

Tonet’s markets are highly fragmented. Producers, wholesalers and retailers supply end customers directly and indirectly, depending on the product group. At the same time there is an increasing variety of products. Furthermore, they are frequently found in systemic dependence on each other. Only the right paint, the right choice of spray gun and the right application will produce the required quality of surface treatment. Tonet reacts to these changes. It focuses its attention on guiding customers in making these choices. The business is simultaneously designed to be as convenient as possible for the customer. Tonet is able to raise quality and efficiency through automation and customisation.

“You have to synchronise communication channels
to get the customer’s attention.”
(Rico Tonet, Managing Director, Tonet AG)

Bruno Tonet founded Tonet AG in 1959. Since then, its product range has grown continuously. Rico Tonet heads the company today. The range covers everything that makes treating surfaces easier.

2. An old idea

Rico Tonet is certain: E-Business can only incur costs when E-Business applications run synchronously to other measures.

Two years ago, Tonet recognised the opportunities offered by the internet for his own company. It became clear at the time that opportunities could be grasped.

Individual consulting for every customer was always an important principle at Tonet. For some time, however, it has proved difficult to provide customers with product information in a timely and topical way. The products and their prices change extremely frequently. Tonet serves 8,000 customers with a range of over 1,000 products. The average size of an order is around CHF 380. It is therefore not economical to supply customers regularly with up-to-date printed materials.

The internet, on the other hand, presents an opportunity to provide all customers with permanent access to the latest information. It quickly became clear to Rico Tonet that greater investment would pay off, too. At the same time, he decided to continue pursuing the old idea of directly linking the inventory control system with a sales-orientated model. This is the only way the vision of synchronized management of several sales channels is conceivable.

3. Individual, automatic and always on hand

Success in sales largely depends on whether customers can be contacted at the right time with order options.

Tonet was faced with two challenges:

  1. Successful field workers have an aptitude for contacting customers at the right time. They note the visits, needs and orders on the customer card. This helps them to plan visits. Yet this process leaves little room for manoeuvre in distinguishing between large and small consulting requirements among customers. Tonet was therefore looking for an instrument that enables the field workers to make that differentiation. They should be able to visit customers with a greater need for consultation in order to come away with the most orders. It should be possible to service customers with routine orders more rationally.
  2. Tonet’s staff are regarded by the sector as specialists in surface treatment. There is a danger that the customers obtain advice from Tonet only to order from cut-price suppliers. So Tonet needed a tool that would give customers so many benefits that they would remain loyal.

4. Customised communication is possible online

In planning the introduction of e-business applications to support sales, Tonet made certain that customers could still receive guidance and that their specific requirements were properly recognised in the passage of time.

It was clear from the outset that the potential of E-Business could only be exploited after fundamental consideration of the business processes. This prompted Tonet to initiate a reorganisation. The Institute of Business Economics at the University of Applied Sciences, Basle (Institut für angewandte Betriebsökonomie der Fachhochschule beider Basel) is accompanying it through the ongoing changes.

In the course of launching the e-business applications, organisational, personnel and technical measures were synchronised with each other.

Organisation: A detailed process analysis of all online processes also led to changes to existing processes (e.g. logistics).
A new position was created: the webmaster. Elvira Jäggi has been assigned the tasks that go with this job. She looks after the internet site, handles questions from customers and colleagues. At the same time, she has clerical responsibilities. For example, she takes orders, making her an additional force on the company’s sales front.
Staff: Especially in field work, it has to be shown that the new technology represents not a threat, but an opportunity. The variable wage content of field workers is calculated on the basis of the regional turnover. In this way financial incentives are also created to motivate customers towards efficient order channels.
Technology: Development of the entire system was carried out in close cooperation with Dynasoft AG. Its inventory control system is complemented by the web shop and all interfaces were tailored to Tonet’s specific requirements.

Fig 1: Conventional and online sales at Tonet
Fig 1: Conventional and online sales at Tonet

Today Tonet is able to publish data from its inventory control system which is tailored to its customers in the WebShop. Fig. 1 shows the cooperating people and systems. The product data, their descriptions and images, and customer profiles are saved in the inventory control system. This data is clearly presented in the WebShop.

An important step taken in the course of the WebShop’s launch phase was the structure of customer data. It is designed in such a way as to show each customer his/her personalised prices and preferred products once s/he has logged into the WebShop.

5. Printed, individual catalogues for total synchronism

The internet, along with the WebShop and its link to the inventory control system, appeared to be a useful tool. It enables Tonet to efficiently and individually serve customers’ recurring orders without the customers requiring intensive assistance. This leads to a benefit for the customer that binds him/her to Tonet.

However, there was still no instrument for keeping Tonet ever present in the customer’s mind as the undisputed supplier of surface treatment products.

Many distributors employ printed catalogues as a device to achieve this. Several times in the past, the large quantity of products coupled with widely differing customer requirements have seen attempts to develop a catalogue fail. One trial in 1985 cost Tonet around 150,000 Swiss francs. Updates were not carried out regularly because of their high cost.

The initial situation meanwhile appeared much more convenient: the customers’ profiles are stored centrally, information on all customers’ order behaviour is available at the push of a button. The only thing missing was the option to use these details to produce a printed, bespoke catalogue. In other words, it should be able to combine the advantages of the WebShop with those of the print shop.

As a result, Tonet integrated the X.print product of meierXmedia with Dynasoft’s Tosca inventory control system. X.print enables data to be processed into catalogue pages ready for the press.

Now it’s possible to use the customer profiles to print individual catalogues, special offers and customised pricelists for customers. Tonet has designed a binder to present its individual catalogues. The printed pages are placed in the binders and sent to the customers (cf. Fig. 2).

Fig 2: Individualised catalogues
Fig 2: Individualised catalogues

Experience has shown that customers display the binder in their workshop where it serves the employees as a reference work. Tonet has thus achieved its two goals: The printed catalogue is useful for customers because it is personalised, and for Tonet it represents another sales tool that is becoming a daily work instrument at customers’.

6. Benefit

Rico Tonet talks of synchronising the channels. With the WebShop and X.print, it is possible to coordinate with a common target all sales tasks to a customer. The field staff and office workers use the WebShop in the same way as the customers. It means that orders that they take personally are saved in the customer’s profile. The customer can access this data at his/her next visit to the WebShop. And when Tonet produces a printed catalogue, it does so taking into account the same details. This, for example, means it can promote customised campaigns on all four channels simultaneously with the same prices and the same products.

The automation of individual customer service has freed up two positions, one in logistics and one in the general office. These positions were not lost altogether, but entrusted with new tasks. They look after internet orders and support the field staff and other Tonet colleagues in handling the new IT infrastructure.

Information about products, discounts and even individual customer details are now equally accessible to the field workers, office staff and the customers. The quality of information is higher – and again, synchronism dominates in all channels (cf. Fig. 3).

Fig 3: Synchronised sales at Tonet
Fig 3: Synchronised sales at Tonet

With the new infrastructure, non-local sales can be processed with less capacity in the field staff. This raises viability and offers Tonet the opportunity to acquire key accounts and service them more intensively. Rico Tonet already knows that this “project business” is the opening to a new business area.

Internet sales currently amount to 5% of turnover. In an ongoing process, the field workers show the customers on-site how to use the WebShop. This measure leads to fast increases in the number of online customers.

The data from the sales staff is available centrally, giving management a faster overview of the development of sales broken down into products, sectors, customer segments and regions. Conversely, the field workers can access data from anywhere in the company. They can see which products are selling well and draw conclusions for their behaviour.

7. Challenges

Synchronised sales over the four channels can only function successfully if the data about customers and the range is up-to-date. This requires discipline from all involved. Tonet has reengineered the processes step by step and is now gradually beginning to work with the new possibilities. Among other ideas, it has plans for direct e-mail campaigns. Tonet in turn benefits from the availability of customer data. It means personalised e-mails can be sent to every customer with offers suited to his or her needs. The same applies here, too: the e-mail campaign runs synchronously to other activities. It means the field workers are informed of which offers customers have received by e-mail, and s/he also knows which customers have reacted to offers. This helps in planning and carrying out the next visit.

8. Conclusion

This example shows how the technological transformation of small and medium-sized companies can be taken on board into a relatively conservative industry sector with the aim of developing competitive advantages.

Tonet AG occupies a niche position. While it trades in products that are indispensable for customers, the dependent relationship between customer and Tonet is tenuous. Hence it is a huge challenge to win customers’ loyalty.

Tonet achieves this primarily with excellent assistance. Guidance is expensive, however, and it is thus crucial for Tonet to decide when it is appropriate. In the past, the order and advisory processes were linked. On the one hand, the field workers provided guidance during customer customers and on the other, when orders were taken. With the technologies described it is possible to uncouple these processes. Guidance can be offered when it creates as much benefit as possible, with the field worker not necessarily needing to concentrate on a deal. Orders, conversely, can be taken at any time over the four channels without the need to open expensive personal contact with the customer at the same time. Individuality is still ensured.

The customised printed catalogues that complement this now enables Tonet to supply its customers with synchronised information in a handy and accessible form. That supports the unwavering goal: each customer is served individually, with guidance and order options as well as high availability.

[1] This case study is based on interviews between Elvira Jäggi and Rico Tonet which took place between 6th and 31st August, 2003.

Owner/s of the solution

Tonet AG
Rico Tonet, Geschäftsführer
Elvira Jäggi, Webmaster
Industry: Wood processing/Paper and cardboard, surface treatment
Company size: Medium-sized enterpriseTonet AG

Solution partner/s

Stephan Pua, Project Manager

Case study author/s

Pascal Sieber, Nicole Scheidegger
Sieber & Partners
Gerrit Taaks
Unic AG

01. September 2003
Scheidegger; N.; Sieber; P.: The Organisation of E-Business III; Verlag Paul Haupt; Berne; Stuttgart; Vienna 2003.

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