Read Part I of this article series here.
An in-depth look at how one electrical distributor is successfully leveraging e-commerce to create an impactful web presence.
When Crescent Electric Supply Company purchased Home Products Etc., LLC in 2016, it knew it was making a strategic acquisition to enhance its e-commerce platform, offer a more robust online search function, and provide high levels of service online. The company was positioning itself for success in a world where more and more of its customers were researching and shopping online.
“Our strategic plan calls for significant growth in sales through our online channel in parallel with market share gains from our traditional brick-and-mortar locations,” said Crescent President and CEO Marty Burbridge in a 2016 press release announcing the acquisition. “The purchase of HPE will allow us to expand our online presence rapidly and provide additional services to our current customers.”
Giving Customers What They Want
With Crescent having acquired Stoneway, BA Supply, IES, Womack, MESCO, and National Electric over the prior few years, it wanted a nimble platform that would easily integrate each of those firms into a powerful online presence that works across all devices and that would become an extension of its robust salesforce.
Knowing, for example, that many of its B2B contractor customers are probably standing out at a jobsite with a mobile phone or tablet in hand, searching for products that they’ll need for the following morning, Crescent has created a mobile-friendly site that caters to that audience of buyers. Through the use of responsive design, for example, Crescent Electric optimizes its site for every step of the customer journey, as well as for every customer type.
“You really have to cast a wide net and try to get the entire audience. So, we’re not focused just on someone who’s using a PC, laptop, phone, or even a tablet,” says Steven Annese, Crescent’s director of eBusiness strategy & commerce.
For example, a builder out in the field may need to look something up on his smart phone, while a procurement professional working in an office may want to use her PC to research products and pricing. Whatever the situation may be, Crescent “wants to capture that whole audience, and that’s why we use a wide-net approach,” says Annese.
Crescent continuously takes the time to survey its customers and talk to them about their specific needs. This is important in a world where what a distributor thinks its customers need—and what they actually do need—aren’t always the same thing.
“If you really want to get it right, you have to talk to the customers,” Annese advises. “You also have to understand what they’re looking for; that’s the only way you can really hit the nail on the head.”
Before They Ask For It
To date, Crescent is pleased with its e-commerce offering, including its mobile capabilities and search functions. But the distributor isn’t resting on its laurels. “We’re creating digital assets for the products themselves, including content, images, and specification sheets—all the things that will help the customer make his or her decision,” says Annese.
Crescent is also using the website to deepen its omni-channel experience for its customers, syncing various channels of online and offline activity between customers and sales staff. Cesco.com provides instant access to personalized product and account information, as well as the ability to place orders at their convenience for will call or Crescent Truck Delivery, among expedited shipping options.
Personalization is also a key effort for the distributor. Customer-selected default preference options are constantly refined, Annese notes, with the focus on offering customers the ability to streamline future site visits and eliminate user error for purchasers. “We’ve also added functionality that makes the site user-friendly to customers of different sizes,” he says, “namely offering the ability to manage permission levels user-by-user.”Tagged with best practices, e-commerce