Berntsen International Inc. helps people find their way with its markers for surveyors, national park trails and signs for navigating Disney World. The manufacturer found its own way into e-commerce 17 years ago and continues to grow the online segment of its business, says Tim Klaben, marketing and e-commerce manager.
Berntsen, No. 288 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, makes custom markers and signs and also is a distributor of construction tools and other products. The company’s roots go back to 1972 when it began making survey markers.
The manufacturer is on track to grow 2017 online sales 8.3% to $2.6 million from $2.4 million last year, Klaben says. That’s a 53% increase from $1.7 million in 2014 and reflects the company’s diverse customers and more than 1,200 products, he adds. “We carry much more than markers and we also sell to utility companies, contractors, government agencies, parks and trails. We also sell posts for property lines and pipelines.”
While Berntsen began as a catalog company and customers still call with orders or questions, about half of all calls come through a telephone number posted on its website, Berntsen.com. “The easy orders go through the web,” Klaben says. “The more complicated the order, the better the chance they can’t do it online.”
The manufacturer has begun posting some products on the Amazon Business marketplace and Klaben sees it as an opportunity to grow sales. Amazon Business poses a competitive threat to many businesses, but Klaben says Berntsen’s mix of custom-made products and distribution will help it compete. “If we were just a distributor we’d be more worried,” he says
The company’s e-commerce platform was built in-house on technology from DNN Corp., as is its web content management system. Berntsen is in the midst of integrating its enterprise resource planning system, from Macola, to push custom orders directly into its e-commerce system, Klaben says. The ERP system was recently upgraded and staff was training on it last week. ERP systems include software applications for managing inventory, financial accounting and other operations.
The upgraded ERP technology includes customer relationship management software to help Berntsen better interact with its customers based on their needs. Berntsen also uses CRM technology from Salesforce.com in its InfraMarker software product line. InfraMarker enables customers to mark, map and manage underground or above-ground assets via a mobile app. Functions include enabling users to read radio frequency identification markers in the field.
RFID technology enables users to tag and track data on products. CRM technology enables sales reps to access multiple sources of information about their customers to interact with them on a personal basis.
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