|INDUSTRY||Independent Hardlines Distribution & Retail Services|
|PROJECT||Industry PIM Content Subscription Program|
Today’s shoppers rely on the Internet as their primary source for information and, with their mobile devices keeping them constantly connected, they can access the web on demand for immediate answers. Orgill, the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor, recognized that shoppers in their industry are no different. From home improvement DIYers to pro contractors, these shoppers increasingly conduct product research on Orgill retailer sites before buying – regardless if their final purchase is made online or in a dealers’ brick-and-mortar store.
Servicing a large dealer network with more than 10,000 retail hardware stores, home centers, pro lumberyards, and farm stores throughout the world, Orgill provides a wide range of retail services and support, including a large product catalog for dealers to sell in their stores and via their online sales channels. These Orgill items are enriched with all the content shoppers want, including product features, specifications, images, manuals, and more. However, most Orgill dealers sell many more products in their stores beyond the Orgill catalog. As a result, Orgill dealers needed to find a way to enrich that data as well so they could display their entire product offerings on their own websites in a consistent, organized manner in order to help shoppers and pros make more informed buying decisions.
After years of utilizing basic, unenriched data, Aubuchon Hardware enlisted an internal resource to collect additional content from manufacturer sites, which became an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. “With essentially one person trying to enrich over 80,000 SKUs, we were definitely at a scale disadvantage,” said Will Aubuchon, company CEO.
Kevin Shute, Director of Merchandising at McCoy’s, said they spent more than a decade – and big dollars – manually capturing data. They looked to different rep groups and vendors for enriched data and found even the vendors’ own salespeople didn’t have good information about their products. “It was a struggle,” admitted Shute. “Unfortunately, while we made significant progress, it took us 13 years to learn that we couldn’t do this ourselves in the long term.”
In order to alleviate their dealers’ product enrichment challenges and meet end-customer demands for instant and reliable content, Orgill searched for a technology provider who had the capabilities to perform high-quality data enrichment on a massive scale, as well as the eCommerce tools to create a stellar online experience.
Unilog led Orgill’s list of potential providers and was the only company that could offer both a powerful eCommerce solution and product content services under one roof. Their all-in-one digital commerce platform gave Orgill the flexibility and scalability to meet their different dealers’ needs, including integration with many point-of-sale systems, a built-in PIM to manage custom product catalogs, and a first-class shopping experience to emulate their stores. To complement their eCommerce platform, Unilog also had a dedicated team of product specialists to capture, cleanse, and enrich content for Orgill’s comprehensive product offering, as well as products outside of their catalog. This enormous collection of product content would be made available to Orgill dealers who subscribed to their new Industry PIM Content program.
Greg Stine, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Orgill, was excited to see Unilog take their product content – and their dealers’ online sales channels – to the next level. “They clearly had the product knowledge and eCommerce technology needed to help strengthen and expand our dealer brands, and they were committed to helping our independent small businesses be successful,” asserted Stine.
Just as the new partnership with Unilog was being finalized, Dixieline Lumber and Home Centers was looking to improve the online experience for their customers, which meant more enhanced, user-friendly eCommerce sites for their Dixieline and San Lorenzo Lumber brands, and enriched content for their combined 65,000-item catalogs. The San Diego-based dealer was in the process of testing different platforms, so they included Unilog’s software and services as part of their evaluation. Bill Shadden, Dixieline’s Regional Vice President of Supply Chain, was impressed with Unilog’s integrated eCommerce offerings. “Their services and solutions had so many upsides – speed to market, robust content, a better taxonomy, and a great customer experience – all without having to make a huge investment like our big box store competitors,” remarked Shadden. “We felt with Unilog’s solutions and Orgill’s support, they could get us where we needed to be faster and more efficiently, so we became one of the first to sign on with the program.”
In 2017, Unilog began building out Orgill’s massive product catalog, dubbed the “Industry PIM,” starting with Orgill’s regular stocking 120,000-item product assortment. Then, as each new dealer joined the Content Subscription program, if items they carried were not already in the Industry PIM, they were enriched and added to the catalog. By early 2020, the number of products in the Industry PIM had climbed to over 500,000, and the SKU count continues to grow every day. The catalog is maintained and updated by Unilog daily, assuring Orgill dealers of the most current product information for their customers.
In parallel with their content enrichment, Unilog also builds and maintains expansive product taxonomies to suit Orgill dealers’ unique retail market niches and store formats, including Home Center, Pro Lumberyard, Hardware Store, and Farm Store. These taxonomies are classified, organized, and named in a way that makes sense to shoppers and helps them find products as easily as possible, and are continually revised with dealer guidance, based on category changes in the industry at each major store format.
Orgill dealers have the option of implementing the Integrated eCommerce solution and Content Subscription program together or, if they already have an eCommerce platform, they can choose to subscribe to just the Industry PIM Data Program. With flexible eCommerce offerings, a wide breadth of products, and taxonomies to fit each market niche, many dealers have jumped at the opportunity to grow their digital channels.
Aubuchon, Buchheit’s, and McLendon’s were some of the first retailers to subscribe to the content services. As initial participants of the program, their feedback and additional expertise helped Unilog fine-tune the product taxonomies, as well as build out and standardize commodity woods products for universal dealer use. These retailers, along with the newest participants of the Content Subscription program, are already seeing a wide range of benefits – from increased traffic and sales to internal efficiencies.
In tracking the performance of their newly enriched SKUs, building supply retailer McCoy’s is encouraged by what they’re seeing. Due to the better content, more of their web pages are now indexed by Google, which is resulting in higher rankings in organic search results and an increased number of page views. “The more products with enriched data that we add to our site, the better results we get,” stated Shute.
In addition to increased search metrics, Shute said the gap between their pro commodities sales and the hardlines product purchases inside their store is shrinking. He explained, “We’re driving our hardline sales and that specifically has to do with the data that we’re getting through the Industry PIM and adding to our website.”
McLendon’s is not only a subscriber to the Industry PIM data; the Seattle-based hardware supplier also uses Unilog’s Integrated eCommerce platform as their online storefront. After just nine months, their web sales already represent 2% of their overall revenue. While that may sound like a small percentage to some, Vince Plets, Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, asserted that it translates to quite a bit of revenue for them, and benchmarks closely with industry heavyweights such as Walmart.
Plets said an exciting trend that’s boosting their sales growth is the increased number of big-ticket items purchased directly on their site. McLendon’s website dedicates entire web pages to some of their bigger brands like Stihl, Weber, and Traeger. Each brand page provides shoppers with product videos, helpful guides, and a convenient link to all the products they offer by that brand. Instead of going directly to their brick-and-mortar location to research, compare, and then purchase the item in store, Plets said more of their customers are finding all the information they need online to make a buying decision. “They may have shopped these items before, but now they’re buying the product right on our site and then coming in the store to pick it up,” he explained. “That shows they have a lot of confidence in our products and our brand.”
Now that content subscribers rely on Unilog to capture and generate enriched data, they’re saving time and money to put toward other business initiatives. Shute from McCoy’s said the program is not only more economical for them, it has also helped improve their speed to market. “We were impressed how quickly Unilog enriched our 43,000-item online catalog so that we could get it in front of our shoppers,” remarked Shute. “Plus, as part of the program, we get any updates for our products so our content is always fresh and relevant.”
Enriched content not only benefits these retailers’ shoppers; it’s helping to serve other areas of their organization as well. The pricing analysts at McCoy’s refer to their website data and images to validate products and pricing compared to the big box stores. Their advertising and sales teams also utilize the site content, and their in-store sales associates access the website on their personal cell phones to look up product information for their customers. He added, “This is unanticipated organic growth for us and we’re very excited about it.”
At Buchheit’s, they recently developed an in-store mobile device to give their employees easier access to their enriched data. Jared Hotop, VP of IT for Bucheit’s, explained that before, associates either had to check the product shelf label or walk over to a terminal and try to access information via their point-of-sale system. “Now they have all the information they need right at their fingertips,” he said.
The Content Subscription program thrives because of the continual investments and enhancements made by Orgill, the expertise and technology provided by Unilog, and the valuable input from their dealer participants. As the first retailer to sign onto the program, Aubuchon foresaw the many benefits associated with their group-shared approach to enriching data. In order to compete against retail giants like Lowe’s and Home Depot who have the advantage of scale with more resources and much larger budgets, Aubuchon said the shared nature of the content program was critical to them. He added, “Collaborating on the Industry PIM is helping us build up our own scale advantage. It’s a great strategy and I recommend other dealers take advantage of the program if they want to expand their business.”
Dixieline’s Manager of Master Data Management, Joel Munoz, echoed Aubuchon’s views about the power of the Industry PIM. When they signed onto the program, Unilog had already enriched the majority of Orgill’s items in their distribution facilities, which meant a third of Dixieline’s items were already enriched and ready for them to use. “The group-share program definitely serves us because it saves on manpower and allows us to be more automated,” remarked Munoz. “I know there are other dealers out there that could benefit from more of an automated approach to their data enrichment, and the content subscription program will help them do that.”
“Today’s shoppers have set the bar when it comes to enriched data,” remarked Buchheit’s Hotop. “If we want to remain relevant, we need to meet or exceed that bar and the subscription program allows us to do that.”
ABILITY FOR FUTURE EXPANSION
Enriched content has opened the door to new and exciting opportunities for Orgill dealers. Aubuchon is considering expanding into different brands and categories, stepping outside of their comfort zone in order to offer more options for their customers. Aubuchon said this new concept is only possible because of the extensive assortment of products already in the Industry PIM. “If we didn’t have access to the PIM, there’s no way we could think about enriching any new items for existing categories, let alone new categories,” he maintained.
When Dixieline signed on for an eCommerce website using Unilog’s integrated platform, they chose to break up their implementation into stages in order to accommodate their internal resources and provide a better product in the long run for their customers. They recently launched the first phase, a non-transactional “web catalog” that displays all their enriched products with pricing and availability, giving their store associates access to much more robust content than what their brick-and-mortar system offered. Their next phase will enable transactions and include a buy online, pick up in store option. Munoz added, “We’ve introduced this upcoming feature to our locations and staff and they’re excited to use it.”
As Unilog continues to enrich up to 10,000 products a week, the 500,000-item Industry PIM product catalog keeps adding value for subscribers. “We are encouraged to hear about the enormous amount of Orgill data that’s coming through the warehouse, and that helps us as we prepare for an endless aisle offering,” expressed Shute.
“Our partnership with Orgill and Unilog has been a healthy one,” concluded Munoz. “If we had to make the decision all over again, without question we would choose their Integrated eCommerce and content services. We just don’t have the internal resources to build and maintain our online sales channel, so this is the right call for our business.”
Orgill, Inc., the world’s largest independent hardlines distributor, was founded in 1847 and is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. Orgill serves more than 10,000 retail hardware stores, home centers, pro lumber dealers, and farm stores throughout the United States and Canada, and in over 50 countries around the world. In addition to their Industry PIM content subscription program, Orgill also offers a powerful yet affordable Integrated eCommerce solution that connects dealers’ in-store and online sales channels. Built by Unilog, Integrated eCommerce delivers a first-class online shopping experience shoppers and pros expect from dealer stores for in-store pickup, along with a virtual “extended aisle” of Orgill product offerings. Learn more at www.orgill.com.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.