Company: Grainger Inc.
Target audience: Facilities maintenance professionals, corporate purchasing professionals, executives from government, heavy and light manufacturing, retail/wholesale, contractors and resellers
Key Web executive: Paul Miller, VP-U.S. eCommerce
No. of people working on the site: More than 100
Last major redesign: 2009, with ongoing enhancements
No. of pages on the site: Hundreds of thousands
Web developer: In-house, with consultant support
When more than 25% of your company's revenue comes from online sales, any site changes you make have got to be executed carefully. Still, this summer Paul Miller, VP-U.S. e-commerce at Grainger Inc., realized that the company had to make changes when it came to Web self-service and troubleshooting.
“We had the ability to help solve problems, but our website [help] was weak,” he said. “When people run into problems on the site, why make them work hard to get an answer?”
That's why this summer his team implemented a series of site improvements designed to boost customer service and ease of use. For example, the site now has click-to-call and click-to-chat links so people can get answers to their questions without having to pick up a phone on their end. In addition, the site now has what Grainger calls an “account ribbon,” a personalized navigation toolbar that gives them comprehensive information about their accounts, including past purchases, order tracking and budgeting data. “Once someone signs in, all of that information is sitting at the top of every page,” Miller said.
The site's order management and product display was already strong, and it remains the top content draw when people visit the site. The search engine, for instance, allows search by keyword or part number, product category, brand and “Grainger Recommendations,” which are displayed at the bottom of the home page. Every product is displayed with a photograph, and extensive details—including price, country of origin, weight, shipping time and manufacturer's model number. Customers are also able to use Grainger's fast ordering tab, typing in a desired quantity and item number to get what they want. Finally, Grainger also offers an e-procurement option—located under the Services menu—that integrates customer buying platforms. The changes and additions are designed to help Grainger boost its website sales to 40% of its total business over the next few years, Miller said.
Expert commentary: “Grainger is delivering e-commerce functionality using modern techniques of interaction design with clear payback. This is a good example of blurring the lines of b2b and b-to-c. Rich functionality such as comparison charts and user-controlled page sizes and views are complemented with consumer-friendly faceted search,” said Paul Eisen, principal user experience architect at TandemSeven.