By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine
A lot of talk at the NAED AdVenture Conference in Chicago centered on e-commerce. On Monday, Greg Carter of Electrical Marketing talked about e-business tactics. On Tuesday, IDEA hosted nearly three hours of breakout sessions on e-commerce and the data that is available to electrical distributors. And on Wednesday, Linda Taddonio of Insight Software explained the importance of creating and implementing an e-commerce strategy now instead of later.
And while all of that was happening, Do-It-Yourself chain Lowe’s was re-launching a stronger e-commerce strategy aimed at your customers.
LowesForPros has been around for a while. There’s nothing new about the fact that it would like to attract a larger professional contractor market. The company says about 30 percent of its total sales comes from contractors. And it says it would like that number to be even higher.
There are three significant changes to the LowesForPros website. The first is the number of products available on the site. At last report, Lowes made about 350,000 items available on the site. As of last week, that number has jumped to 500,000. The company did not disclose the specific categories of items that has made that number rise, but did note that it made an investment in the website to make it user-friendly on desktop, tablets and smartphones.
Lowes also announced it will now deliver online purchases directly to a business or jobsite. This will reduce the time it takes to go to the store itself and pick up the items that are purchased online. Lowe’s adds it will be, “offering more efficient functionality that allows Pros to develop requisition lists, access purchase history reports and create custom catalogs. These catalogs enable customers, such as property management companies, to maintain their brand and design standards across multiple buyers and locations while saving time creating new orders. The website also allows Pro customers to manage their company spend by setting purchase approvals and providing the ability to process tax-exempt transactions.”
And third, LowesForPros will be offering credit for its online customers. In fact, ordering through the site will mean an automatic 5% discount on everything. Plus, Lowe’s credit will allow customers to take advantage of tax-exempt purchases.
Lowe’s enlisted the help of professional contractors to build the updated website. It allowed for contractors to give them feedback while they were still in the design phase, and now LowesForPros describes itself as a website “designed by the Pro, for the Pro.”
So, what should you do to combat this latest online threat to the traditional supply chain? You can start by downloading some of the materials that were on display at the NAED AdVenture Conference or Tech Boot Camp. That can, at the very least, get you the information you need to know to strengthen your online strategy.
It would also be a good time to download the information your employee received while at the conference. I spent a lot of time inside the sessions, and some solid strategies emerged. Take a few hours, or even a full day, to talk with the marketing people who were at AdVenture and learn what they learned so you can improve in the eyes of your customers.
And don’t hesitate. If you think this particular threat from LowesForPros is not really significant, I have some information you probably need to know. For the first time in at least the past three years, Lowe’s is headed to this year’s NECA Show in San Francisco. Not with some tiny booth. With a large display that will certainly be aimed at introducing as many electrical contractors as possible to the wide variety of online and in-store possibilities.
The good news is, I will keep an eye on the Lowe’s booth and see how things are progressing. But I wouldn’t wait nearly 6 weeks to find out. I would make sure my customers are happy with my online offerings now, before it’s too late.
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