June 8, 2007, 12:00 AM

A relaunched Acehardware.com working to bring the local store to life

New features such as ratings and reviews and IP location identification serve up more content that drives shoppers to the brand.

Ace Hardware Corp.’s February site relaunch has made big strides toward its key objective: bringing Ace’s almost 5,000 stores to life online, Dana Kevish, e-commerce marketing manager, tells Internet Retailer.

“It`s been a success from a branding standpoint, with the new look and feel, the ease of finding helpful information and the MyStore piece,” says Kevish, referring to a new localized page on Acehardware.com that each store can manage and update on its own. “It’s what our brand is all about. Sales have increased a bit. We have seen visitors are spending more time on the site than they were previously. And we are working on tracking harder metrics.”

Other features helping to drive those developing metrics include ratings and reviews incorporated into the site with the relaunch, says Kevish, who was pre-interviewed for an appearance at the 2007 Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition’s Media Center, as well as a feature that identifies the geographical location of the shopper’s IP address and automatically displays the closest stores on Acehardware.com’s home page.

The relaunch was Acehardware.com`s first major site redesign since 2003. Ace’s web strategy is to use the site to push traffic to local stores, with about 70% of the online dollar volume estimated at $8 million last year shipping to stores rather than directly to customers. Total sales are now about $13 billion at retail, Kevish said.

Ace’s store network provides a competitive advantage for online ordering in its wide geographic distribution. “Due to the number of stores we have, it’s likely that you will be driving by one on your way home anyway, so you can stop and pick it up,” Kevish says.

But the fact that Ace is a cooperative whose stores are individually owned does present some challenges to getting consistency from all the stores in how they handle online orders shipped to store, Kevish adds. Ace addresses that with best practice kits, articles on best practice attached to its online communication to stores, field reps and retailer advisory groups.

Later this summer, Ace plans to integrate its rewards program, now accessible on a separate site, into Acehardware.com. “Now that we have enough local stores that participate in the rewards program, we can roll it out on a national level,” Kevish said.

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