DIY Home Center, an online-only distributor of building supplies, is following a new blueprint for acquiring customers and growing sales.
It’s not that it hasn’t already been performing well, president and founder Michael Anderson says. The company, which does more than half of its sales to do-it-yourself consumers, has recorded steady double-digit annual growth rates since its founding in 2004, he says. The privately held company doesn’t release its revenue figures.
But to forge a higher growth rate, operate more efficiently and provide better service, DIY Home Center is expanding its inventory and stepping up how it engages the professional contractors that account for more than a third of its customer base. “The business customers are the ones we’re trying to go after,” Anderson says. “They’re the ones that come back to us without our having to market heavily to them.” While a typical consumer might visit DIY only once or occasionally to order building supplies, a professional contractor may return frequently for multiple construction projects.
DIY focuses on selling materials its customers use to build structures like outdoor decks, including railings, fasteners and other construction materials. “We try to focus on things you can put in a UPS or FedEx delivery truck,” Anderson says.
It also sells home improvement and décor products ranging from patio furniture to pond fountain kits and outdoor lighting fixtures. In all, it carries between 10,000 and 12,000 SKUs from some 35 suppliers. DIY is an authorized distributor for a number of brand manufacturers, including Polywood outdoor furniture, Atlantic Water Gardens and Trex Furniture.
Its growth strategy has put it on a course to greatly expand the inventory it sells. “We’d like to see that SKU number double in the next year,” Anderson says. For example: it will add to its kitchen-and-bath product lines to keep up with the constantly evolving demand from contractors as well as homeowners for the kinds of fixtures and materials that fit in modern home designs.
As an online-only distributor, however, it realized it also needed to upgrade the technology—both the customer-facing e-commerce site and the back-end enterprise resource planning software for managing things like inventory, customer activity and financial records—that its business runs on. Its back-end operations software, for example, needed a strong product information management, or PIM, system to ensure that DIYHomeCenter.com displayed accurate information on all of its products. “The last thing we want is a customer coming to our site and not finding what they need,” Anderson says.
DIY decided early last year to deploy a “unified cloud commerce platform” from Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit, a part of Oracle Corp. that sells cloud-based e-commerce and ERP software to manufacturers, distributors and retailers. DIY opted for a NetSuite platform that includes SuiteCommerce Advanced e-commerce software directly integrated with NetSuite’s ERP system.
The new platform—which replaced a mix of legacy e-commerce and financial management software and a home-grown PIM application—has produced several improvements that have made DIYHomeCenter.com easier and faster for customers to use, Anderson says. Professional and retail customers are finding more products to purchase, resulting in several performance metrics ticking up in the first few months after the new platform went live in June 2016: a 15% increase in average time per customer spent on the site; a 16% increase in conversion rates; and a 6% increase in average order value.
The new platform was developed by NetSuite-certified web design agency Intente using responsive design, which automatically renders DIYHomeCenter.com content properly on any mobile device a customer uses. Previously, DIY offered only a desktop version of its e-commerce site; now 50% of its online visitors access DIY’s site via mobile devices, DIY says.
The NetSuite platform also provides email marketing management that DIY may use to target business customers with particular products related to their work—for example, special screws designed for cabinet makers—Anderson says.
The new platform also provides a Preferred Building Program for business customers, who can log into the site to view product pricing discounts and access account management tools for viewing invoices and past orders, pay bills and re-order products.
That program, along with more accurate information on DIYHomeCenter.com for finding products, has resulted in a noticeable reduction in call volume into DIY’s customer contact center, Anderson says. In turn, that has freed up customer service agents to help professional customers with complex orders.
“Many of the products we sell are complex and take one-on-one assistance,” Anderson says, adding: “We’re seeing a shift in our call volume to fewer ‘Where’s my order?’ to more ‘How can you help me with railing products?’ Those are the type of calls we want to take.”
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