Publishers note: I heard from Ace Hardware in response to this column. Ace explains that the rewards program expands far beyond just the online thesupplyplace website. Any customer, including those who are not professional contractors, can be a member of the rewards program and can use those rewards during in-store purchases. Ace also wants to make it clear that the goal of thesupplyplace website is to bring together local contractors with their local Ace Hardware store. —Scott
By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine
There are two things you can always count on. One, you can find anything you want on the internet, even if it’s not true. And two, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
I can head to the internet and type in that I have a toothache, an upset stomach and my back is sore and find any number of horrific illnesses. But I probably just have a toothache, an upset stomach and a sore back.
I am finding the same thing every time I look into what Ace Hardware is doing with its TheSupplyPlace.com website. Am I calling them out? Not necessarily. Am I not believing everything I read? Absolutely!
If you didn’t know, the Ace Hardware website launched about 2 years ago, with the hope of attracting contractors in all areas, including electrical, to shop for any of Ace’s 80,000 products.
The marketing plan seems to make sense: find local businesses and have them do their business with the locally-owned hardware chain. Ace boasts having more than 8,000 locally-owned hardware stores, after it recently acquired Spokane, Washington–based Jensen Distribution Services along with Emery-Waterhouse earlier in 2014. Nationwide, the newly formed Ace Hardware is expected to do about $4.7 billion in business.
But here is where the facts get a little blurred. In its 2014 year-end update, Ace says it has 30 million people in the customer rewards program that are connected to their new website.
That’s 10 million more than Amazon Prime, and Amazon Prime sells a lot more than just hardware. And, Amazon has built a reputation over a period of 10 plus years. Ace is a relative “newby” to e-commerce. And let’s not forget, the SupplyPlace website has only been in use for 2 years. So, over a period of 730 days, 30 million people signed up. Really?
And what is actually on this website? We don’t really know right now. I signed up to be a member on Tuesday, January 13th, and I am still waiting to see if I qualified. How they managed to sign up 30 million members when you have to wait at least 24 hours to be approved is a huge question to me.
But, I talked with Denise Keating, the president of DATAgility about the SupplyPlace website to see if she could offer me some insight into what is happening behind this Ace Hardware curtain. She told me the SupplyPlace website touts, “…more discrete selling attributes to better describe your product…,” to which Keating says, “Currently, Ace mixes features and benefits with marketing copy and attributes into a single area that it calls ‘description’ in the consumer site.”
Keating also told me the SupplyPlace website is trying to get manufacturers to provide multiple images for its products which she says is, “… so sad, since we are still trying to get a single image for each product.” But, Keating adds, “It sounds like Ace gets poor quality data from manufacturers, much like our distributors do, when they in fact get data down from the manufacturer.”
Keating and DATAgility agreed to keep an eye on TheSupplyPlace.com website once she has been admitted to the site, and will stay in touch with me about what she finds. Meanwhile, the Ace corporate office did announce its plans for 2015 back on December 23 of 2014. It includes spending 25% more on marketing and advertising, and opening 200 new stores in the next year. Executive Vice-President John Surane said in the company’s year-end report, “Our sights are set on growing this portfolio to over $6 billion by 2020. For aggressive, smart-minded suppliers, this represents a huge opportunity – we challenge you to make sure you get your share!”
tED magazine will keep an eye on strategic planning by Ace Hardware throughout 2015 to keep you informed of all of its developments. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts or questions, do not hesitate to leave a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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