The online retailer has spent nearly $300 million acquiring three shipping software vendors over the past nine months.
G.L. Huyett has opened its first transactional web site to help customers find and buy from among the 95,000 parts in the more than 600 product lines it offers. The site allows businesses to order in small quantities, a departure from how such machine parts are typically sold.
For machine parts manufacturer G.L. Huyett, its first e-commerce site, launching this month, arrives none too soon, says Greg Tabor, vice president of marketing.
“It is very clear that e-commerce is not an option for distributors that want to compete nationally or even globally, so this is becoming a business necessity, even for smaller companies,” he says. “In today’s market the launch of a new web site may not be seen as groundbreaking, but within our niche, we recognized a need for and developed an e-commerce site that provides photos of every product category, individual prices, illustrations, technical drawings and complete technical specifications of every part we sell.”
Tabor expects 5% to 7% of the company’s sales to transact online this year, he adds.
The newly arrived Huyett.com offers all 95,000 parts in the 600 product lines that the company sells, including fasteners, fittings, machine keys and bearings. It allows customers to manage their accounts online, including viewing past orders and re-ordering them, saving products for later consideration and viewing quick quotes and negotiated pricing.
“We have been producing print catalogs for many years and our customer service department is highly trained, so adding e-commerce provides additional scale,” Tabor says. “Due to the breadth and depth of our product line it was to a point where a web site was really the only effective way to expose it to both existing and potential customers.” The manufacturer is in the process of converting the PDF versions of its print catalogs into digital magazines that customers can read on the web.
The site also includes technical diagrams, extensive support documentation in a section called the Knowledge Vault and the ability to order in small quantities or request custom parts. “More often than not, companies that make these parts are difficult to buy from because they really only want to sell them in high volumes,” CEO Timothy O’Keeffe says. Not only does the new site let customers place small orders, it more broadly overhauls the process of getting a quote and making a purchase, he adds. “We hope to migrate our current customer base to an e-commerce platform instead of an ‘e-mail-RFQ-e-mail-quote-e-mail-PO’ paradigm,” he says.
So far, the customer response has been “very positive,” Tabor says, without providing specific figures. “E-commerce in our market segment is not as widely deployed as in other distribution channels,so customers have been surprised at the level of functionality and information available,” he says. “The fact that we have dimensional illustrations and very detailed product data has drawn the most response.”
G.L. Huyett had three main objectives in building the new site, Tabor says: to make it easy for customers to search and transact, to inform customers about the company and to provide educational material and resources to help them make buying decisions. “Based on early feedback, we have hit those marks,” he says.
G.L. Huyett in the past had a home-grown informational web site that customers used for research. The new site is built on Kentico Software’s web content management system and hosted on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Azure “cloud” system of Internet servers, Tabor says. It uses the open-source Solr technology for the extensive site search functionality needed to find items in its copious product catalog, he adds.
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