|CLIENT||Stanion Wholesale Electric|
|INDUSTRY||Wholesale Electric Distribution|
|PROJECT||Digital Commerce Growth and Content Enrichment|
For nearly 60 years, Stanion Wholesale Electric has built strong ties with its customers, employees, vendors, and community. From their expansive product offerings and value-added technical services to their local charitable contributions, the independent electrical distributor is always looking for opportunities to share their expertise and support.
Knowing a website would reach a wider audience and provide another sales channel for their business, Stanion developed their initial online storefront using an entry-level eCommerce platform that tied directly to their ERP system. However, it lacked a product information management (PIM) tool, good product content, and B2B-specific functionality, so Stanion searched for a more robust solution to meet their needs. They wanted their new site to be a one-stop shop where customers could build a cart and buy items, access their account information and order history, download technical content, find branch locations, engage with their specialists, and more.
The wholesale distributor turned to Affiliated Distributors (AD) for help. As a charter member of the North American wholesale buying group, Stanion has taken advantage of their expertise and resources for nearly 40 years. “We get a lot out of our membership, and it was through AD that we were introduced to Unilog’s products and services,” stated Stanion’s Executive Vice President, Monty Matthews.
Since 1981, AD has provided financial, networking, and program support to help members drive growth and maintain a competitive foothold in the marketplace. In 2015, they partnered with global technology provider Unilog to build and manage an extensive product catalog for their members’ online storefronts and ERP systems. For those members without a digital branch, they could also subscribe to Unilog’s digital commerce platform, which they built specifically for the B2B marketplace. Today, subscribers have access to over 6 million enriched SKUs across five industries, and a stellar eCommerce site with which to sell their products.
Stanion Wholesale Electric needed both content and eCommerce and liked what Unilog and AD’s dual solution had to offer. Out of the box, Unilog’s eCommerce platform would provide them with an intuitive and configurable site search, advanced shopping cart with multiple checkout options, complete integration with Stanion’s ERP and other business applications, plus an inbuilt CIMM2 PIM to sync and publish their AD eContent Catalog data across business systems. Their subscription to the AD eContent Catalog would give them access to millions of products with images, marketing descriptions, specifications, manuals, and videos – the type of content that attracts search engines, ranks sites higher in search results, and helps buyers make informed purchase decisions.
Stanion subscribed to both solutions and, in November 2017, they launched their new digital branch with Unilog, followed by their mobile app a few months later. Their new eCommerce solution removed many of the obstacles they encountered with their legacy site while adding enhanced functionality, a much larger product offering with better content, and user-friendly features. “It’s just much more improved than our previous tool,” said Matthews. “Everyone is very positive about it – employees and customers alike.”
MORE PRODUCTS AND CONTENT
Stanion doubled the size of their online catalog so now buyers can choose from nearly 116,000 products. And, as the quantity of items has increased, so has the quality of the content. “The enriched content is probably one of our best enhancements, just because of the value it provides our customers,” stated Matthews. The distributor finds many buyers, especially those doing engineering or specification work, frequent their site now for product research. According to Matthews, their electrician customers utilize the multiple product images, while their engineering customers rely on their abundant specifications and technical drawings.
Stanion’s sales and customer service teams see the site as a great content resource as well. If the data is not housed in their ERP, employees go to the website to find specifications, MSDS sheets, and other materials to answer customer questions and find the right product solutions.
Visitor searches and customer input helped Stanion build their catalog to its current scale and caliber. If they saw that a site visitor’s search term led them to wrong products or rendered zero results, they loaded keywords to direct them to the appropriate products. Matthews said customer feedback, especially before their launch, was particularly helpful in building out their SKU count. Customers were asking for products they didn’t currently offer, so they had Unilog enrich close to 1,000 additional products outside of the eContent Catalog.
The electrical distributor says their product content is a huge asset to their site. “We know from industry studies that customers are more likely to make a purchase when your content is enriched, so we do see the value,” added Matthews.
Unilog’s flexible platform and easy-to-use content management system have allowed Stanion to build web pages and add features that better serve their customers’ needs and make their jobs easier.
In Stock Guarantee
The results of a 2017 customer satisfaction survey revealed that often times the distributor didn’t have the depth of stock their customers wanted. In response, Stanion identified almost 400 products they could guarantee to be in stock in each one of their locations. They launched their In Stock Guarantee page on their website shortly after, promising a $25 credit voucher if any one of their guaranteed products was not available. The program has seen great success, especially with their contractors. Even at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, Matthews said they had minimal issues keeping their in-stock guarantees. To continue the momentum, they recently launched phase two of the program to include an additional 300 products to their guaranteed list of items.
Stanion has a large team of technical experts on hand to build solutions for their customers. To support their “people-topeople” business philosophy, they built industry-specific Specialists pages on their website to give buyers convenient access to their experts. From Automation, DataCom, Utility, and Clean Energy to Switchgear, Lighting, and Strategic Services, each industry page includes the specialist names along with their photos and contact information. Matthews said while this direct connection to their specialists does not necessarily generate online revenue, it drives quite a bit of business for them indirectly.
Unilog’s advanced API tool set enabled Stanion to integrate manufacturer product tools within their site. The prebuilt configurators help buyers identify the specific part numbers for products from manufacturers like Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric to build application specific solutions. The wholesale distributor utilized manufacturer product configurators early on, but now that the tools are fully integrated into their platform they see the added efficiency and value they provide.
The platform’s simple form builder tool lets Stanion create multiple types of forms with variable fields and requirements. On each product’s detail page, customers can fill out a quick request for more information or provide product feedback. Stanion’s Resources page houses more advanced forms like credit applications and job setup forms, which are routed directly to their accounts receivable department. Online forms enable their buyers the convenience to complete them on their time and frees up Stanion resources to process the forms more efficiently.
The wholesaler doesn’t expect all their customers to transact on their website, but they do want them to have the choice. With their digital branch’s self-service options, customers no longer have to call, text, or e-mail their sales staff to place an easy reorder. “Now that basic transactional type orders pretty much take care of themselves, sales can spend their time doing more solution selling,” affirmed Matthews.
POSITIVE ANALYTICS INSIGHT
Stanion’s digital transformation has bolstered their omnichannel business and online presence. They have seen their sales grow and their brand strengthen as a result. Since their implementation, they have tracked and measured their site’s performance using their platform’s built-in Google Analytics tool and a Matomo analytics module. In 2019, they hired a full-time data analyst to manage their eCommerce analytics.
Stanion tracks core metrics like number of users, number of sessions, landing and exit pages, and bounce rates to better understand their customers’ behaviors and identify potential issues or trends. Their number of orders and online sales metrics, though, have proven their strongest findings: consistent sales growth. From 2018 to 2019, they tripled their eCommerce sales and expect 56% year-over-year growth this year. Their number of orders is tracking at a 39% increase year-over-year as well.
Even at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, Stanion fared better than many of their counterparts who lacked a good online presence. In fact, for two months during the pandemic, online registrations actually increased 40% and they saw a small spike in sales.
Stanion’s digital journey is not complete. They continue to add enhancements to their digital road map to serve customer needs and improve efficiencies. Even while they complete their ERP upgrade, Stanion is integrating new features and tools.
Ship Complete Feature
In response to a customer request, Stanion recently added a “Ship Complete” option to their shopping cart. The feature lets the customer designate whether they want Stanion to ship the order complete as one shipment once all items are available or send them as separate shipments if some items are on back order.
Manufacturer Inventory Availability
They are also in the process of adding an API call for a manufacturer inventory availability feature. Once complete, their site will not only display their current inventory availability for an item, it will also have the option to see the manufacturer’s inventory. In situations where Stanion may not have enough inventory to cover the customer’s order, this feature will show them how much the manufacturer has in stock. If the manufacturer’s inventory is high, they know Stanion can obtain the additional items quickly to fulfill their order.
Web Content Development
Stanion has built a good social media presence on LinkedIn and Facebook. Their next goal is to kickstart their web content efforts and publish more blog posts and videos on a regular basis. Knowing that fresh, relevant web content increases engagement, improves SEO, and builds brand awareness, Stanion’s marketing team plans to dedicate more time creating new product videos, industry news, tips and tricks, and thought leadership pieces. Matthews admitted their eCommerce implementation was a monumental task but that Unilog was there to help them every step of the way. From their project managers who kept them on track and pushed them through, to their Vice President of Customer Success, Meg Guard, who put an emphasis on their customer service, he said Unilog made it a pleasant experience for them all the way around.
“If we had to do it all over again, if the solution fit our needs, we would not hesitate to use Unilog again,” said Matthews.
About Stanion Wholesale Electric
Stanion Wholesale Electric is a family-owned wholesale electrical distributor based out of Pratt, KS. Established in 1961, Stanion operates 17 branch locations within Kansas and northwest Missouri and sells to numerous other locations both inside and outside the United States. The self-described “people-to-people” company has dedicated specialists that build custom solutions for the Data Communications, Lighting, Utilities, Clean Energy, Switchgear, and Industrial Automation industries. To learn more, visit www.stanion.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.