Winsupply’s Unique E-Commerce Strategy Boosts Sales 25%

As the industrial supplier embraces e-commerce, WinSupply is adjusting its digital plan to accomodate an uncommon yet effective sales model.

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Need to Know

  • Winsupply is revamping its new online shopping system and focusing on e-commerce, an unconventional move for any brand in the industrial supplies market.
  • With over 600 locations across the U.S., Winsupply required a system that allowed each franchise to operate independently.
  • In its first year, the industrial supplier has already seen a 25% increase in online sales and e-commerce now makes up 0.4% of total revenue.
  • Winsupply’s annual revenue is roughly $4 billion.
  • Challenges to overcome included prices localized to unique communities and tracking an inventory of over three million SKUs.

Analysis

In an internet-first world where it seems like every business in every industry offers an online shopping option, one industry is still new to e-commerce: industrial supplies. 

But one brand, Winsupply, is changing that. The industrial and plumbing supply company has finally deployed e-commerce technology to all of its 600 distribution centers and has already seen a 25% increase in sales. 

It’s been one year since Winsupply relaunched and expanded its business-to-business e-commerce strategy. According to senior vice president of marketing Steve Edwards, the toughest challenge was convincing senior management that e-commerce was a viable sales channel. 

Winsupply is a 64-year-old company based out of Dayton with over 600 locations across the US. Rather than operating like most major chains, each of Winsupply’s locations operates as a “joint venture between Winsupply and a local entrepreneur.” Winsupply has “equity in each location and provides corporate support services, including e-commerce, to all 600 locations.” 

For Edwards, the organization’s primary e-commerce champion, this unique relationship means he had to convince internal departments, senior management, and each of the affiliated local partners that e-commerce would work. 

Another challenge for Edwards was proving that e-commerce technology could also help and improve relationships, which was a concern for many of the distribution centers who have been doing business with their communities the same way for decades. 

What’s more? Because of Winsupply’s partner’s high degree of independence, each location sets its own pricing and determines how best to serve its customers. This means an e-commerce platform would have to allow for unique websites for each location. 

Utilizing technology from Oracle, Winsupply set up its online product inventory of over three million SKUs. Next, Winsupply deployed a new product information management system from Informatica and a faster site-search engine. 

In the one year since Winsupply’s e-commerce “makeover”, the company has seen a 25% increase in e-commerce revenue. Today, e-commerce accounts for about 0.4%, or $16 million, of the company’s total annual revenue of about $4 billion.

Today, 113 of the 600 distribution centers have been connecting with their own online shop, and that number is expected to grow to about 200 centers by the end of this year. 

For a business like Winsupply, success is rooted in customer experience. Switching to an online system could leave some users feeling left behind, or sales reps feeling de-valued.

Lori McDonald, CEO of Milwaukee-based eCommerce services and website design firm Brilliance Business Solutions, explains that for businesses like Winsupply, sales reps need to be brought in early on. By educating their sales team in using the new system as a tool to support their sales (and by being fairly compensated as such), reps will still be involved in the process and customers will still receive the same level of service they did before.

Affirms Edwards, “Building a community of users based on customer satisfaction helped e-commerce take off.” 

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