Called a catalog distributor in the good old days, Digi-Key Corp. continues to make its mark in electronic component distribution and to evolve with the market.
Just a year ago, the distributor announced the retirement of its long-time president and chief operating officer Mark Larson. Dave Doherty, the company's executive vice president of operations, stepped in to take the helm. Larson retains a board-level role as vice chairman and advises the company.
We recently sat down for a chat with Doherty to get his thoughts on what direction he plans to take Digi-Key, as well as how the electronics distribution business and industry are evolving.
EBN: Talk a little about your plans and hopes for Digi-key. What do you see as Digi-Key's key differentiators, market position, etc.? What new directions are planned?
Doherty: I'm hoping that this transition of leadership will feel relatively seamless to outside community. Digi-Key is a company founded by an engineer when technology was transitioning from tubes. Mark [Larson] came into place and has provided visionary leadership for almost four decades. I come from engineering roots, as an EE that was customer of Digi-Key. I started to see the value proposition of efficient way to communicate and reach customers. I watched Mark from afar as a customer then as a supplier then as a competitor and came to marvel at the company and it's leader. Eight years ago, I moved to a place inside the company and tried to understand it. Change is inevitable but what is critical to us is staying true to our core value; providing engineers with products they need.
The transition going well as well as can be expected when you are replacing a legend who has been in the role 39 years. Mark is still accessible and a big part of our company as a mentor and to offer council. Kudos to him for putting together a strong team before he left.
We got aggressive in 2012 and doubled our SKU count. I still believe the basic tenants of selection and availably will continue to drive success. What engineers want is consistent: 24/7 Web site availability for the products they need. Procurement customers look a little more purely at what the company needs to be successful. They want electronic data interchange (EDI), manufacturing resource planning (MRP) sharing, portal access, and more.
Customers, especially in the U.S. and Europe, with so much volume move offshore. These people are looking for places to let innovation flourish, and get product out there quickly. They don't have the luxury of visibility and they build to order. In this world, our model is becoming even more accepted. Customers don't have back end visibility and rely on us to have inventory when I need it.
EBN: Can you speak a little about how business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce is impacting customer expectations?
Doherty: B2B e-commerce is definitely staring to feel more B2C. Now, in our personal time, we have Amazon, Netflix, and others. We expect certain functional utility, like the ability to bounce back and forth to a shopping cart, delay purchase and the rest. That function utility that customers want as a consumer is bleeding over to business customers. On the web you are dealing with single entity on the other side of connection—and they expect a certain experience. We have a defined path to purchase in our e-commerce site. We've identified the traditional ease of use and make sure it is incorporated n to our site as well.