Nefco Corp., a distributor of construction industry supplies, is a family-owned company founded in 1981 that has grown over the years to a revenue range in 2014 of “from $50 million to $75 million,” says Mickey Slater, head of digital strategy, marketing and e-commerce.
This year, the Hartford, Conn.-based company expects strong, double-digit sales growth, he adds. To help generate that growth, salesmen from the company’s six distribution centers—located in the Albany, N.Y.; Boston; New York City; Philadelphia; Washington, and Hartford—search for construction projects through Dodge Reports from Dodge Data &
Analytics, a company that provides online information on construction projects and bidding opportunities.
Nefco is also beginning to sell its construction supplies online. Two years ago, the company “realized we needed to start exploring e-commerce and see what that’s going to mean for our business,” Slater said earlier this month during his presentation at the B2B Workshop at the annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. Last year, it launched its e-commerce site, GoNefco.com.
Slater noted, however, that many of Nefco’s customers still order at job sites without using the Internet, preferring to order by phone, often through sales reps with whom they have developed long relationships. To help bring more customers into online ordering, Nefco is featuring on GoNefco.com 25,000 of its most popular SKUs from a base of 400,000. And it has worked with Perficient, a digital consulting agency, to develop online features designed to making online buying easier and faster, Slater said.
The goal of the e-commerce site is to transform more of Nefco’s 20,000 existing customers into online shoppers, Slater said. More than 500 web users visit GoNefco.com daily, with more than 15% of that traffic comes from mobile devices. If its mobile traffic continues to grow, a mobile app and other mobile developments may be in the company’s future to help boost conversion rates, he said.
The distributor chose to build its e-commerce site with Magento Enterprise, e-commerce software from the eBay Enterprise technology unit of eBay Inc., because it was flexible and integrated well with the company’s Eclipse by Epicor enterprise resource planning, or ERP, system, Slater said. The company uses the ERP software to organize its inventory and financial records.
Among the products Nefco started to sell online last year was metal strut, a material used to build the framework for such projects as houses, casinos and apartment buildings. Although Nefco’s online sales accounted for only a small percentage of the 4.4 million feet of metal strut it sold last year, the company hopes to move more such sales to the web with features on GoNefco.com designed to facilitate online buying, Slater said.
GoNefco.com provides such features as enabling buyers to make wish lists that their procurement managers can approve or reject; site search that displays a drop-down menu of suggested products as a customer enters terms into the search window; and product comparisons.
The distributor also created on GoNefco.com an Account Center where contractors can manage a project’s overall cost of materials, negotiate pricing by accounts and by individual job sites, communicate with their Nefco sales reps, and use an online project management tool to figure a project’s projected cost, supplies and materials requirements, and timeline for completion.
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