INDUSTRY INTERVIEW: Lincat’s Helen Applewhite on creating a catering equipment web platform like no other

Helen Applewhite, marketing manager

Lincat has launched a new website that dramatically changes the nature of catering equipment purchases by giving caterers the opportunity to compare and choose products, access detailed technical information, and even source and buy spare parts online. FEJ caught up with marketing manager, Helen Applewhite, to hear why no stone has been left unturned in its quest to create an unrivalled web platform for customers in the UK.

We hear about manufacturers relaunching their websites all the time, but this feels dramatically different due to the level of technicality and functionality behind it. What led you to embark on such a project?

The catering equipment sales process is fast evolving. In an industry that operates around the clock, dealers and end-users now require product and stock information on-demand, 24/7. As a leading force in the catering equipment industry, we have to keep pace. We worked closely with our extensive network of dealers to discover how we could make buying products quicker and easier for them. The result is a new, cutting-edge Lincat website to simplify the purchasing process and add flexibility, which we see as a real game-changer for our industry.

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How much feedback did you seek from operators at the outset?

Our first task was to talk to all stakeholders and get detailed feedback, as we wanted to make this a tool which helps everyone, both internally and externally. We held focus groups with our own staff to explore what they needed from the new site. We interviewed end-users about the information they required when making purchasing decisions, and we also spoke to dealers about what they liked about our existing site, other industry sites and what functions they wanted to carry out online.

This is the first time that any Middleby Group company worldwide has undertaken such a comprehensive digital project — what was the mission statement behind the website launch?

Our vision was to deliver a website that makes it easier for dealers and end-users to work with Lincat, and to provide the information they need to make an informed purchase. Middleby is synonymous with innovation, so the team there was incredibly enthusiastic about us producing a cutting-edge website, designed for the UK operation, to help us lead in our sector. We have had their support from the beginning.

Coming onto the main benefits of the website, what will strike end-customers most when they log on?

The sheer volume of information available to them and the ease of navigation is impressive. It provides a clear, simple educational process for those who know what equipment they need, but don’t necessarily know exactly what product they’re looking for. The new imagery is also striking.

Lincat sought feedback from staff, dealers and end-user clients before embarking on an 18-month project to build an industry-leading website.

We’ve replaced clinical product images with shots of equipment in use in a variety of end-user environments, from an ice cream outlet to a national pub group. In addition, the extent of the range is exhibited on a carousel on the homepage, and a rotating banner introduces new products.

The filter tool is a key aspect of the site and will allow end-users to narrow down their product search in a convenient way that many will be familiar with when shopping as a consumer. What sort of advantages will that bring?

Some of our product groups are vast, such as fryers, for example. We offer no fewer than 172 different fryers, available in gas or electric, spanning counter-top, built-in and freestanding models. Intuitive filters enable end-users to drill down products based on the space and power output they have available, their basket and filtration requirements, and much more.

We’ve considered the purchasing decisions for each type of equipment we sell, meaning the filters for each category have been tailored specifically to the product group.

You have also created a product comparison tool that allows customers to compare up to four pieces of equipment, side by side. What information can they view?

They can view dimensions, the power and performance they offer, and the supply connections required, which will enable them to easily compare our products against each other and to make an informed purchasing decision.

End-users can now purchase 3,000 different spare parts at the click of a button. That must have been highly difficult to coordinate?

Our objective was to make it easy for end-users to locate the part they need, so we created a search function. By simply entering a serial or product code, they can find the exact product, providing 100% accuracy. To support this, we wanted to include clear, high-quality images of each item. We had to develop our systems to feed this information to the website and photograph over 3,000 spare parts.

How do you expect this spare parts service to benefit end-customers? Where will they see the greatest change?

In the past, end-users looking for spare parts have had to call our spares desk, describe the part they require and give their credit card details to make a purchase. As many in the catering industry work outside of Lincat’s nine-to-five business hours, this is often inconvenient.

Lincat’s new website is rich with detail to make it easy for customers to locate the exact requirements for their business.

The new website gives end-users 24/7 access to our spare parts stock, so they can order at a time that suits. They can search by serial or product code, giving them 100% certainty that the spare they have ordered is correct. They can see a picture of it, check stock availability and see delivery options instantly.

Product lines such as Panther and FriFri are often difficult to specify. How have you addressed that aspect of the portfolio?

Having a vast array of options to build a bespoke product is fantastic, however it can make the specification process complex and difficult. Having an online product configurator for Panther and FriFri allows dealers to build products to exact requirements, in a clear and concise way. They are walked through the decision-making process, step by step, question by question, until they arrive at a fully configured unit.

Can end-operators now purchase products directly from customers following this website launch?

No — it has always been, and continues to be, our business model to only supply to end-users through our comprehensive network of dealers.

Do you expect the new website to fundamentally change the way in which end-user customers engage and interact with Lincat on a digital level?

Certainly — however this is only the beginning. We have lots more exciting ideas about developing the site further
to make Lincat even easier to work with and our products more accessible.

5 features of Lincat’s new website that operators need to know about

Tags : Lincatwebsite
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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