A pioneer in business-to-business e-commerce that continues to improve how it engages customers online, W.W. Grainger Inc., a distributor of business and industrial products, earned top honors among B2B companies last week in the inaugural Internet Retailer Excellence Awards presented in Chicago.
“When choosing the overall winner, if there was one thing that made Grainger stand out, it was that it has been a pioneer since the early days of e-commercce,” said Steve Denton, vice president of marketing solutions at eBay Enterprise, the e-commerce technology unit of eBay Inc., who presented the award at a banguet held during the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.
Accepting the award for Grainger were Paul Miller, vice president of global e-commerce and innovation, and Geoff Robertson, vice president of product, innovation and business integration. “Thanks to Internet Retailer for acknowledging the hard work of the Grainger e-commerce team,” Miller said in his acceptance remarks. “We have a relentless focus on improving the working lives of our customers and providing a great place for our team members. We use technology to solve the inherent issues associated with core customer problems. We are proud to earn this award and look forward to continuing to provide our customers with great service.”
Indeed, it was also Grainger’s ongoing improvements to its e-commerce and m-commerce operations that convinced the judges in the awards program to choose Grainger among a field on more than 40 nominees and five finalists.
For example, the latest versions of the distributor’s e-commerce site and mobile app let buyers check available inventory. And to ensure its e-commerce strategy never gets stale, Grainger displays on every web page a button for customer feedback.
In addition, Grainger has excelled at growing its online sales. For its first quarter ended March 31, the company said e-commerce accounted for “about 40%” of total sales. Online sales for the quarter were about $976 million, up 17% from $835 million in the same quarter last year, as total sales increased only about $50 million to $2.44 billion from $2.39 billion, indicating that sales through stores and sales reps fell.
For all of 2014, Grainger’s e-commerce sales grew 16.1% to $3.6 billion from $3.1 billion in 2013, as total sales increased 5.6% to $9.9964 billion from $9.437 billion.
The B2B award competition—the award is called the B2B E-Commerce Player of the Year—was designed to recognize the manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor that most effectively uses a B2B website to increase online sales to business customers and which is considered a pioneer in business-to-business e-commerce development.
A team of judges reviewed all nominees and determined the finalists and winners. The judges were: Gene Alvarez, vice president and e-commerce technology analyst at Gartner Inc.; Andy Hoar, an e-business technology analyst focusing on B2B e-commerce at Forrester Research Inc.; and Miya Knights, senior research analyst for IDC Retail Insights. The judging team also included Mark Brohan, vice president of research at Internet Retailer; Paul Demery, managing editor for B2B e-commerce at B2BecNews and Internet Retailer; Nona Tepper, associate editor of B2BecNews; and Thad Rueter, senior editor, Internet Retailer.
Following are the other four finalists for the B2B award, including comments from the judges on why they were named finalists:
Environmental Lights Inc.—Environmental Lights knows how to use imaging and organized web content to attract business buyers, including architects and engineers – as well as the consumers that also shop its site. It also takes the extra step of ensuring that images of its high-tech LED lighting products render properly on the oversized screens used by its professional customers.
MSC Industrial Supply Co.—With more than a billion dollars in e-commerce sales, MSC Industrial Supply provides the companies that buy its industrial supplies many ways to quickly find and buy what they need online. Our judges felt that its e-commerce site, MSCDirect.com, serves as a model to other B2B sites in overall design and function.
Newark element 14—Newark element 14 offers more than 450,000 in-stock choices for the design, maintenance and repair of electronic systems. Features like 360-degree spins of computer electronics products and how-to videos of electronics assembly provides its customers with the information they need to make complex purchasing decisions.
Tacoma Screw Products Inc.—Based in Seattle, Tacoma Screw Products is living proof of how a regional player can use the Internet to broaden its reach. It has excelled in using both site design and digital marketing to expand its customer base.
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