SustainableSupply.com is making a name for itself by selling “green” products to environmentally conscious businesses as well as others seeking industrial, restroom and maintenance supplies, and building materials. Since its launch in 2009 the web-only company has recorded steady growth with 2015 sales up by 32.3% to $12.3 million.
2015 sales growth came from such sources as new customer acquisition, product line expansion and more business from repeat customers, says CEO Brian Fricano. Some growth came from short-term paid search marketing, but other efforts included developing a more detailed content management strategy, he says, highlighting the “greenness” of SustainableSupply.com’s products. “We started writing a lot of blogs, like how to ‘green’ your restroom. We are still relatively unknown, so we’re spreading the word on our brand,” he says.
Blogs are a great place to take on the role of thought leadership, with such content as three reasons to pursue a green restroom, says Scott Krueger, sustainability manager. Other tactics included adding resource guides on product pages, enhancing product descriptions and engaging potential customers through LinkedIn Professionals, a premium service from LinkedIn, and other social networks, Krueger says.
About half of SustainableSupply.com’s customer base buys green products, the rest buy standard products, in some cases because they appreciate the company’s pro-environment efforts, Fricano says.
Growth is expected to continue in 2016, but only at a rate of about 10% because of website performance problems associated with installing a new e-commerce platform, Fricano says.
The new technology, NetSuite Inc.’s Suite Commerce Advanced platform, rolled out in December and replaced a Volusion platform in place since the website’s launch seven years ago. SustainableSupply had been using NetSuite’s financial software “and decided to add their e-commerce piece,” Fricano says. But progress has been slow.
Performance issues include page load times of 12-plus seconds on many long-tail product detail and category pages and slow checkout, Fricano says. “These website performance issues have contributed to a much higher rate of abandoned carts compared to our Volusion-hosted stores, and a lower conversion rate post-replatforming. Poor site speed is our No. 1 conversion killer right now,” he says. NetSuite did not immediately return a request for comment.
SustainableSupply.com has invested about $500,000 in the new platform, for technology and development, Fricano says.
The new e-commerce platform includes technology from two companies SustainableSupply.com has worked with in the past, including Search Spring, for site search, and 4-tell, for personalization and product recommendations.
SustainableSupply.com likely will move to another e-commerce platform later this year, Fricano says. But he says he is “very happy” with NetSuite’s enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and order management system and has no plans to switch to another provider for that software.
SustainableSupply.com has maintained growth this year in several ways, including expanding into eBay Inc.’s eBay.com marketplace and a foray into Amazon.com Inc.’s Amazon Business portal. “Amazon is too big for us to ignore,” Fricano says. Amazon Business is a business-to-business e-commerce marketplace that Amazon says offers millions of products.
SustainableSupply.com also recently formed a strategic partnership with eBay to offer its catalog of 1 million products to B2B and business-to-consumer buyers on the eBay platform, Fricano says. “This will be a major contributor to our growth in Q3 and Q4.”
The company also has two niche webstores that are driving sales growth. They are Eyewashdirect.com, targeting schools and businesses, and Portablehandwashing.com, which sells to food stands. Both sell non-green products and will continue running on the Volusion platform, Fricano says. SustainableSupply.com also plans to use email marketing this year to inform all customers of products available on each website, to increase cross-over business.
Fricano expects 2017 online sales to rebound to growth rates ranging from 40% to100%. SustainableSupply.com was a finalist for the B2B E-Commerce Website Design of the Year award at this year’s Internet Retailer Excellence Awards program at IRCE 2016 in Chicago.
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