July 20, 2011, 2:52 PM

The web grows in importance at W. W. Grainger

Within several years e-commerce could account for 40% of total sales.

Mark Brohan

Research Director

Lead Photo

Paul Miller

E-commerce is taking on a more significant role and within several years could account for up to 40% of total sales for W. W. Grainger Inc., vice president of e-commerce Paul Miller tells Internet Retailer.

In 2010, web sales for Grainger, No. 15 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide grew about 31.3% to $1.80 billion from $1.37 billion in 2009. Last year e-commerce accounted for 25% of Grainger’s total sales of about $7.2 billion, compared with 22% of all sales of $6.2 billion in the prior year.

 But over time as Grainger, a Chicago-based business-to-business distributor of facilities maintenance supplies, adds more functionality to Grainger.com and b2b shoppers begin to place even more orders of products for maintenance, repair and operations—a category often referred to as MRO—the web will account for an even larger portion of the business. “The web at some point over time will be 40% of the total business,” says Miller.

Miller, previously the senior vice president of direct commerce at Sears Holdings Corp. (No. 7) and vice president of e-commerce at Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 25), says Grainger is currently taking a “back to basics” look at its e-commerce operation. “We are looking at what’s driving our customer relationships and at basic, but important metrics, such as shopping cart abandonment rate,” he says.

At the same time as Grainger is taking a fresh look at all things online, the number of SKUs available on Grainger.com is approaching about 1 million, which means more product choices to manage online. Grainger also is looking to add new functionality to its web site in the near future, including click to call or chat options. The company didn’t name its vendor or if the feature will be developed in-house. “Better and faster access to information helps people make better decisions,” says Miller, who joined Grainger in December, and also has served as president, of Enservio Retail at Enservio Inc., which provides software and services to property insurance carriers and their policy holders nationwide.

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