February 11, 2014, 10:37 AM

How equipment distributor Hubert satisfies its online and print catalog customers

The distributor of food-handling equipment for commercial and institutional kitchens and grocery stores finds that by managing product content across e-commerce sites and print catalogs, it bumps up sales from customers who use both channels.

Lead Photo

Mark Woodrow

With a history of selling products to food merchandisers and commercial and institutional kitchens since the 1940s, Hubert Co. has a deep expertise in selling through paper catalogs. But a move over the past decade to also selling online has created a challenge of how to manage product images and information through both channels.

In 2010, Hubert migrated from home-grown e-commerce technology to an e-commerce platform from Intershop AG for Hubert.com. That included deploying several foreign versions of the site for multiple markets, including Germany, France, Switzerland and Netherlands.

Hubert manages the content in its print catalogs with a content management system from Agility Multichannel, a United Kingdom-based company that has long specialized in managing content for print catalogs and was formerly known in the United States as Pindar, which continues to operate a U.S. headquarters in Chicago. Although Hubert had also used the Agility system for its initial web site developed in the 1990s, the move to new e-commerce sites with multiple languages, currencies and different local content called for a new content management system for its online operations, Mark Woodrow, vice president of marketing, says.

For its e-commerce sites, Hubert decided to build a new content management system in-house on .Net technology, complete with its own built-in product information management system. Hubert integrated its CMS with the Intershop e-commerce technology, which enables it to work with a similar content template across its multiple sites and easily modify them as necessary, Woodrow says.

“Now we deal with different languages and currencies, so our business is more complex—and we need more help to manage that.” With its content management and product information software integrated across the Intershop platform, he adds, Hubert can display the same content across multiple foreign market sites, then directly modify through its CMS each site to its local language, without having to worry that the product data and images are accurate and up-to-date. “We can take web site content for one country and make it applicable for another, taking the product content from the CMS and, for example, layering in the French language and currency.” For example: the same “chafing-dish Multiset” display appears in the pertinent local language on its German site, Hubert-versand.de, and on its French site, Hubert-online.fr.

Hubert also uses its CMS and Intershop technology to develop its more than 100 specialized microsites for individual customers, including pricing and products that can differ for each client or groups of clients. When selling to a larger number of clients within the same industry—university kitchens, for example, or chains of gourmet food stores—Hubert may develop differing site content depending on the level of service a client wants under its contract terms. Under a basic level, for example, customers within a group of university kitchens may see a limited range of food trays and platters for, say, presenting pizza and fried chicken in cafeteria displays.

But a national chain of gourmet food stores, Woodrow adds, is likely to want to see personalized content showing a wider variety of brands and price levels for trays, platters and racks that suit its high-end shopping atmosphere.

Now Hubert finds that as it draws more customers into self-service buying through both its e-commerce site and print catalogs, they buy more, are more loyal. At the same time Hubert’s customer service reps have more time—as well as more effective online selling tools—to help customers through the most complicated purchases. “Some customers only shop through our web site, some only through our catalog,” Woodrow says. “Our best customers use both. When we look at their lifetime customer value, we get a considerable bump.”

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