Sweden-based Thule Group AB, a manufacturer of car-mounted sports racks and related equipment, sells to more 3,000 dealers across the United States and Canada through its Thule Inc. North American subsidiary.

Getting the right products to the right dealers in time is not a simple matter, says Annie Scopel, director of North American customer service.
But with its North American business-to-business e-commerce site and order management system, it has developed a way to quickly deliver what a dealer needs even if the desired inventory isn’t available in a Thule warehouse located in its country.

Thule’s North American B2B e-commerce site, ThuleConnect.com, features a program called “Fit Kit Express,” which helps dealers quickly order the specific parts required to fit the company’s racks to different cars. “Every car has the ability to carry whatever sport on top of your car.” Scopel says. “You need bars but you also need a fit kit that is particular to your car. Those are very critical for the dealer.” Otherwise, the dealer can’t make the rack sale, she adds.

“So what we’ve done with this Fit Kit Express—where we send the dealer the item overnight—is that we make it available regardless of where he is in the U.S. and Canada, regardless of what warehouse has it,” Scopel says. She notes that Thule operates four North American warehouses with two in eastern and western Canada as well as two in the eastern and western United States.

Thule worked with Insite Software, the provider of its e-commerce software technology, and Sitecore, its provider of content management technology, to simplify how dealers can find the right products and parts to install racks and have their orders automatically routed to the nearest warehouse in either the U.S. or Canada for next-day shipping.

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“So you can be a Canadian dealer looking for a fit kit that unfortunately is not in stock in your warehouse in Canada,” she says. “But the B2B e-commerce system will look and search for it in the U.S. as well. And then we’re able to ship it the next day from the U.S. to the Canadian dealer so he can sell it immediately to the consumer in Canada.”

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Phil Burgert is a Pittsburg, Kan.-based freelance writer.

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