July 8, 2014, 1:21 PM

An electronics distributor builds its online image

BgBSupply is building on its expertise in electronic control panels to expand via e-commerce.

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Selling online for not quite a year yet, BgBSupply.com is gearing up for a major expansion as it carefully grows its online brand image. “We’re adding another 8,000 SKUs soon,” says Matt Howe, manager of e-commerce.

That will more than double the distributor’s current total of 5,000 SKUs, and there are more to come. “We’re now in a serious growth mode,” Howe says. “We’re adding serious SKU counts over the next 12 months.”

As a new web-only distributor, BgBSupply started out slowly, focusing on a limited product line of electrical control boxes, products Howe and his colleagues know well. They are now, adding complementary electronics items—BgB stands loosely for “beyond the gray box”—like electric fans designed to cool overheated electronics components, as its reputation for quality and service grew, he says.

Meantime, BgBSupply has been carefully building its image across the Internet. In addition to its own e-commerce site, which runs on e-commerce technology from Jagged Peak Inc., it has been developing in-house product demonstration videos posted to YouTube.com and linked from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while also posting blogs, manufacturers’ catalogs and other content related to its products in social media.

While the varied web exposure helps to optimize the content on BgBSupply.com for natural search, it also helps build the distributor’s reputation as a trusted online seller, marketing manager Rachelle Smydra says. Along with product listings on electronics products e-marketplaces like Octopart.com and ThomasNet.com, and publicity in trade magazines, the overall exposure helps the young web company by “giving people proof we’re a real company, with real people,” Smydra says.

As a result, though BgB can’t point to any one marketing venue as having the strongest impact, “our conversion rate has definitely trended up, we’ve seen some correlation,” Smydra says.  

But the company is also building its reputation through a mix of e-commerce technology and old-fashioned personal service, adds Howe, who says he takes calls from customers “as much as I can.”

The company is working on adding more personalized product recommendations on its site, as it learns how groups of customers shop and how they bundle products in shopping carts. But it’s also taking a more hands-on route. When Howe reviewed a customer’s online order for a set of labels made by 3M Corp. used to mark a series of electrical wires in electronics equipment, he noticed that the customer skipped a couple of labels in the full set. He further checked BgB’s inventory stocks, and realized that the unordered items were out of stock. “Then I contacted the customer via e-mail and offered to special-order those items on the spot,” he says. Such personal service has proved to keep customers coming back, he adds.

BgBSupply has extended that type of service into a custom-stocking program, through which it lets customers request to have BgB source items it doesn’t already carry. It’s another reason the company is expanding its number of SKUs. “We tell them, ‘If there’s something you want us to source, just let us know,’” Howe says.

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