National Instruments, a manufacturer of scientific and engineering equipment and software, recently overhauled its web site to inspire customers to purchase more lower-cost goods online, Nathan Schatz, the e-commerce senior manager for National Instruments, said at a B2B commerce technology conference last week. 

The company, founded in 1976, reported $289 million in revenue for the first quarter ended March 31, up nearly 2% from $285 million in the same quarter last year. 

Schatz, in a presentation last week at B2B Online 2015, an annual conference for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers, attributed part of the company’s growth to its business-to-business e-commerce site,, which it relaunched earlier this year on technology from IBM Corp. and another industry professional to replace a 17-year-old site designed and built in-house.

Before the redesign, only a small number of National Instruments’ more than 35,000 global customers placed orders online, Schatz said. Because of the complex nature of the company’s products, and the limited amount of information the web site offered, customers felt more comfortable calling the company’s call center to ask questions and place orders, Schatz said. Sales reps dealt with all types of customers, even one-off buyers who purchased only one, lower-cost item for the entire year, he added.

But with a more user-friendly e-commerce site, National Instruments figured it could get customers to place more orders online for basic, relatively low-cost products, in turn freeing up its sales reps to focus on selling more complex products that carry higher profit margins, Schatz said. “We wanted a better balance between online and offline sales,” he said.


As it planned its new e-commerce site about two years ago, National Instruments asked its existing and prospective customers what they liked about, and what needed to change. The company learned, for example, that customers wanted better product descriptions, images and videos to make it easier to research the site and find the right products.

About 2013, National Instruments began working to replace its in-house e-commerce platform with IBM WebSphere Commerce software, and what Schatz described as a dated in-house content management system with another outside expert Schatz declined to name. The new technology will allow merchandise managers at National Instruments to more quickly and easily upload a broad mix of high-resolution photos and other images and graphics associated with each product, providing what customers said they needed to make the site more useful, Schatz said. The redesigned site will also feature a zoom tool for viewing details in enlarged product images.

The content management system will also gather data on what products are selling well online and what types of customers are buying. National Instruments uses that data to identify where to expand the company’s online offerings. It will also allow for more recommendations of related products.

Schatz says the new features will launch through 2015 and into 2016. With the new site, National Instruments hopes to increase the number of customers shopping on the site, as well as the amount that clients spend per visit. 


National Instruments, which was also involved in presentations last week at the IBM Amplify conference on e-commerce technology, worked with outside vendors including systems integrator Rosetta, customer experience and content development agency Centerline Digital, and Avnet Academy for employee training related to the new web site design.

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