Zoro gears web content to whether the site visitor is new, ready to buy or a returning customer.

Zoro.com segments site visitors into three broad categories and adjusts what they see accordingly. The personalization strategy has increased online sales by 8-10% in a year, e-commerce director Kyle Hilbrenner told attendees today in a presentation at the 2017 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

More than 80% of buyers arriving from Google land on a product detail page, and Zoro, a unit of W.W. Grainger Inc. that targets small businesses, makes those pages the focus of its personalization tactics for this segment. To provide the most relevant offers, Hilbrenner said, Zoro feeds as much information as possible into the personalization technology it uses from Kibo, for example the content of the Google ad the individual clicked on or what search terms the visitor may have used on the site.

The distributor of industrial MRO products—maintenance, repair and operations—also offers complementary products, such as a level to go with the tape measure the person is looking at. At the same time, it may not offer a new visitor as attractive a discount on the product page as it would a returning customer, as those who have purchased previously typically are worth more in terms of lifetime value, Hilbrenner said.

You don’t want to give the shopper pause. Make it possible to buy in one click and don’t take them away from the checkout page.

When someone adds items to a shopping cart and arrives at the checkout page, Zoro moves him into the “ready buyer” category and offers related products on the checkout page. Hilbrenner said this has increased sales for Zoro.com, but that it’s important not to confuse a customer ready to buy with lower-priced items or force him to leave the checkout page to purchase a related product.

“You don’t want to give the shopper pause,” he said. “Make it possible to buy in one click and don’t take them away from the checkout page.”


Zoro has the most information about returning customers and re-orders the site navigation for those buyers to feature categories that the customer has previously purchased from or browsed. “We may move down office supplies, if he hasn’t purchased or looked at those items,” he said. He says this strategy has allowed Zoro, which has a catalog of 1.5 million items, to show visitors more of the products likely to be of interest to them.

Because these returning customers often arrive via the home page, Zoro makes it easy for them to re-order items from that page or to buy items they have recently viewed.

A year after deploying the personalization system from Kibo—which also provides order management, e-commerce and omnichannel technology for both retailers and business-to-business sellers—Zoro has seen 15-20% of site visitors engage with product recommendations, more than Hilbrenner expected, he said. Those who do interact with recommendations spend four times more time on Zoro.com than other visitors and view three times as many pages, he said.


Overall, the conversion rate on the site has gone up 1-2% since Zoro implemented the personalization system, contributing to the 8-10% increase in site revenue, Hilbrenner said. He declined to disclose Zoro.com’s annual sales.

Grainger, No. 35 in the 2017 B2B E-Commerce 300, reported online sales for all its e-commerce sites increased 16.4% to $4.76 billion from $4.09 billion in 2015, as e-commerce accounted for 47% of 2016 sales, up from 41%. In the first quarter of 2017, Grainger said the web accounted for over half of revenue.

Speaking with Hilbrenner in the B2B e-commerce workshop session at IRCE, Danielle Roberts, product manager for personalization and e-commerce at Kibo, advised attendees to avoid common personalization pitfalls. They include offering recommendations that are outdated, such as products that are out of stock or suggesting a site visitor buy something he just purchased.

She also said recommendations in email should be updated when the recipient opens the email, which allows the seller to update the items promoted based on inventory availability as well as on any website behavior by the recipient in the interim since the email was sent.