A small manufacturer and marketer of workplace safety gear is getting a big lift from B2B e-commerce.
But success in e-commerce wasn’t always the case for Ergodyne, a St. Paul, Minnesota, manufacturer that for 35 years has been making workplace safety products ranging from lanyards for securing tools to bright fluorescent vests worn by road repair crews.
The company likes to invent—and invest—in new things. Since its founding in 1983, Ergodyne—which in September was acquired for an undisclosed price by KleinsTool Inc., a maker of handheld tools based in Lincolnshire, Ill.—has developed 124 global patents and 104 trademarks for product lines ranging from hand protection, kneepads and back supports to cooling and warming products and head and eye protection gear. That strategy has paid off with a strong company brand.
But when it came to e-commerce, Ergodyne’s early investment in online technology didn’t pay off, says Ergodyne senior digital marketing manager Theresa Kuske. The company launched e-commerce in 2009 and accepted orders through two of three websites, but Ergodyne’s e-commerce system was basic, hard to work with but did easily integrate with the manufacturer’s Microsoft Dynamics enterprise resource planning system for managing inventory, financial records and other operations.
As a result users had to navigate between three different B2B websites to research and place orders for Ergodyne’s online product inventory. “We were dealing with the inefficiencies of managing and synchronizing data between all three sites,” she says. “We launched a simple e-commerce site in 2009 that was a low cost barrier to entry and already had integrations set up with our ERP.”
In 2016, Ergodyne relaunched e-commerce on a new platform from Magento, now a part of Adobe Systems Inc. The redesign made it easier to check inventory levels, speeding up order processing, and included a quick-order tool where buyers could enter SKU numbers or upload a product file to complete an order online, Ergodyne says.
Customers also wanted a request-a-quote tool. Another goal was relaunching e-commerce with a website and features that appealed to a wide range of users—some sophisticated and others not so much. “Some distributors were not tech savvy and just knew what they wanted and like to order from their desktops,” Kuske says. “Others wanted to learn about products on a mobile-friendly site, but everyone wanted easy checkout.”
Rebuilding and relaunching e-commerce was about a year-long process that involved the use of multiple vendors to implement the Magento platform and integrate with the back-end ERP system. “There was lots of customer integration,” Kuske says.
Ergodyne worked with Echidna, a digital systems agency based in Minneapolis, to conduct customer interviews and conduct usability testing and analysis. Ergodyne next used services from nChannel Inc., a systems integration company based in Columbus, Ohio, to manage databases and integrate order, item and customer information between the Magento e-commerce platform and the ERP system.
The final piece to complete the transition to a new e-commerce system was to implement faster payment processing using Nodus Technologies Inc., a credit processor and payment systems services company based in Anaheim, Calif.
Ergodyne’s new e-commerce platform went live in April 2016, but it’s only been lately that the manufacturer is beginning to see a real uptick in a range of performance and business metrics, including e-commerce sales.
Web sales are on track to grow about 11% from 2017. Other key metrics also are trending better. A new e-commerce platform fully implemented and integrated with Ergodyne’s back-end software systems, now gives the manufacturer the ability to better segment customers, develop more personalized promotions and make quicker merchandising and product page changes, the company says.
As a result, it says, the conversion rate on some B2B product pages has improved by more than 50%. Conversion rates range from 6% to 8% on B2B online transactions and from 3% to 5% on business-to-consumer transactions.
Ergodyne’s also been able to significantly improve what used to be a vexing problem—slowly loading pages. Even with a new platform, page load speed didn’t really improve until the company reviewed and updated some coding. “We had lots of product data and images to integrate and that took a lot of heavy lifting,” Kuske says.
Today page-load speed has dropped from a range of six to seven seconds to about one second, she adds. Customers now have faster access to the company’s inventory of 2,100 SKUs.
But perhaps the biggest gain for Ergodyne’s e-commerce technology overhaul is the manufacturer’s ability to make website changes faster in order to capitalize on new opportunities based on B2B buyer behavior. “We have a lot more flexibility, and now it’s all on one site,” Kuske says.
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