With the onset of COVID-19, engineers are engaging with the design process online like never before. This move to virtual spaces coincides with the trend of next-generation engineers with high digital expectations exerting a growing influence on the purchasing process within their companies.

Electronics companies unequipped to meet the needs of a wholly web-reliant user base have seen as much as a 50% reduction in orders because they lack the virtual channels to manage their online business.

When you understand how engineers think about digital sources when they’re ideating a project, prototyping a design, or preparing a product for market, you are better prepared to put the most useful resources at their fingertips.

Here are five things to keep in mind as electronic companies build their digital presences to accommodate the changing needs of electronic designers.

1. Continually deliver quality content.

 

Surveyed engineers agreed that one of the most fulfilling parts of their jobs is the opportunity to solve problems and continue learning throughout their careers. 

IEEE Global Spec found that sixty-one percent of designers highly value the expertise of senior engineers, believing that institutional knowledge goes out the door with retiring employees. 

We also know that younger engineers, perhaps with a self-training mindset, reported a significantly higher desire to access more online learning resources.  

Combining these two bits of knowledge can lead you to a digital content strategy. By immortalizing the knowledge of senior engineers in blogs, white papers, app notes, and other technical errata, you can speak to the engineers’ desire to preserve institutional knowledge in an online location. 

Do keep in mind, though, that younger engineers highly reported an aversion to premium content blocked behind paywalls and extensive registration requirements. Consider making content free and accessible whenever possible.

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Image used courtesy of IEEE Global Spec

2. Meet engineers’ needs throughout the design process.

Like most professionals, knowledge finding isn’t a static process for engineers. At various stages of the design process, engineers may gravitate toward different digital search avenues. 

  • Ideation: 

To stay in touch with what’s going on in the industry, engineers often turn to podcasts or social networking sites. Designers are also likely to tap into industry media, like email newsletters, or attend industry events like conferences and trade-shows

digital-content
Image used courtesy of EE Times and EDN

In light of mass cancellations of such in-person events, you might consider filling the void with your own virtual trade show. You might also brush up on your LinkedIn and Facebook presence as well as your email content to help spark ideas for engineers passively perusing what’s new in the field.

Design planning:
At the onset of projects, many engineers go directly to an electronic manufacturer or distributor’s site, so make sure your keyword and parametric search is par for the course.

supplier-and-distributor
Image used courtesy of EE Times and EDN

Sourcing parts:
To stay abreast of these new technologies, engineers ranked their most followed information sources:

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Image used courtesy of EE Times and EDN

Once designers have made up their minds about which parts they want, they are most likely to purchase the part directly from a manufacturer or distributor’s site. This is where a robust user interface is crucial–from search to check out.

Technical support:
In the latter stages of the design process, engineers highly value ongoing technical support. This is especially true when engineers encounter specific challenges in their designs.

In these instances, engineers claimed that online communities were a fruitful resource for product information or engineering advice. Many of the communities engineers belonged to are hosted on manufacturer or distributor sites

online-communities
Image used courtesy of EE Times and EDN

This particular data also depicts the types of content in such communities that were most helpful: recommendations and advice, videos, tutorials, and blogs, and more direct access to product information, amongst others.

 

3.Provide the technical documentation engineers need most. 

In each of the three surveys, engineers were transparent in identifying the types of technical documentations that were most useful for their designs.

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Image used courtesy of IEEE Global Spec

Another survey provided similar results:

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Image used courtesy of EETech Media & Marketing

It’s essential that these documents are clearly labeled and easy to find through your search tools.

The more content, the better, said engineers in the IEEE Global Spec survey. Additionally, respondents noted that they preferred resources to be as technical and detailed as possible. 

IEEE found that engineers’ most frequent behaviors for consuming new information was social networking services and email newsletters.

checking-newsletters
Image used courtesy of EE Times and EDN

Industry media websites, online communities, and vendor websites were also highly trafficked.  

4. Stay up to date on your online informational content. 

When asked what kinds of informational content they would like to see more of, EETech respondents asserted that tutorials and walkthroughs were of most value to them.

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Image used courtesy of EETech Media & Marketing

They also highly ranked theory-level technical articles, video tutorials, product comparisons, and research development coverage.

Engineers also want to stay abreast of emerging industry trends as they make career changes.

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Image used courtesy of IEEE Global Spec

While the specifics of these technologies may vary year over year, suppliers and distributors should keep in mind that engineers are always looking forward. Provide them with technical and editorial content that keeps them at the bleeding edge and they will likely come back for more.

 

5. Align your digital priorities with engineers’ search priorities. 

With so many moving parts to technical search, how can a manufacturer or distributor put the most valuable content at engineers’ fingertips? 

The EETech survey asked respondents about the most important quality they look for in a distributor, like Digi-Key and Mouser. 

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Image used courtesy of EETech Media & Marketing

Engineers ranked short lead times first, trailed by low prices and speed of fulfillment. When it came to a user’s search experience on a company’s site, respondents valued website usability and service/support as key attractions.

These results support a certainty about hardware designers: they’re looking for practical solutions in a short time frame. The better a company is able to point them to where they’re going (for instance, with functional keyword and parametric search), provide quality technical content, fulfil an order, and offer ongoing support, the more likely a user is to build trust in a vendor and return for more business.

Conclusion

Few industries evolve more rapidly than the electronics industry. As electrical engineers increasingly find themselves working online, electronic companies should adapt their digital content strategy and online tools. 

Solidifying a digital presence requires feedback and flexibility. Ask engineers how you can better support them online as they tackle specific projects and consider career changes. 

Specifically, solicit feedback on how your website could better accommodate them during the design process. Doing so will affirm your ethos to individual clients and solidify your place as an adaptable, yet reliable industry leader.

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