Rainier Industries launched its e-commerce site in late 2017 to modernize customer orders. The manufacturer of custom-built shade, shelter and art displays—like "The Canyon" overhead art at Salt Lake City International Airport pictured here—got a lot more than it expected online.

Emails, faxes, phone calls and interacting with sales reps have been the primary channels for submitting B2B orders for decades. While buyers accept this manual process, order entry on the back-end is labor intensive for the seller and prone to error.

As we push more towards a more responsive and mobile-friendly online environment, we expect to see greater returns.

Rainier Industries, a manufacturer of custom-built shade, shelter and outdoor products, such as retractable awnings, boat windows, tents and industrial art displays, launched its e-commerce site in November 2017 with the expectation of streamlining the complex and time-consuming dance that is B2B ordering.

The Tukwila, Washington-based company’s site has not only met its goal, delivered other benefits including increased sales, shorter order lead times and improved dealer retention and recruitment.

For openers, the site reduced the number of Rainier’s data entry points from 13 to one—its ecommerce site, RainierOutdoor.com, which flows that information directly to Rainier’s ERP system. In addition, total sales for the shade division grew 14% through 2018, while lead times for orders dropped 20%, says Tony Eder, manager of e-commerce for Rainier.

TonyEder-Rainier

Tony Eder, manager of ecommerce, Rainier Industries

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“We had a lot of data entry points which increased the chance for a discrepancy and created a lot duplication,” he says. “Integrating our e-commerce site and ERP system allows data to flow directly from the site to the ERP system, making the transfer of information more accurate and efficient. We can process and fulfill orders faster, which has increased sales volume.”

Rainier, which uses Epicor Software Corp.’s ERP system, chose Epicor’s Commerce Connect e-commerce platform for its website because it assured compatibility between the two systems, Eder says.

The new site has also improved dealer retention and recruitment, because it allows Rainier’s dealer base to automate order entry remotely, as opposed to placing an order through a sales representative, the company says.

“Instead of an old line, manual ordering process, dealers can provide customers a modern ordering experience by using a mobile device connected to Rainier’s website,” says Kerrie Jordan, senior manager, product marketing for Epicor.

Integration between Rainier’s ERP system and e-commerce site has further enhanced the customer experience by automatically emailing buyers confirmations when their order ships. “This has been a big hit with buyers and something we couldn’t do prior,” Eder says. “It’s really improved our marketing communications capabilities.”

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The e-commerce site, which allows buyers to access their account information and order history through a dashboard, has improved sales and order efficiency so much that Rainier expanded the technology to its tent and outdoor products divisions.

So far, those sites have been slower to demonstrate the same gains in efficiency and sales as Rainier’s shade division, Eder says. The stumbling block is that many customers visiting the new sites log onto the website using mobile devices.

“Performance on mobile devices has not been as good, but it’s something we are working to fix,” says Eder. “As we push more towards a more responsive and mobile-friendly online environment, we expect to see greater returns. We will still accept manual orders, but there is a surcharge. The website allowed us to move out of the world of forms, faxes, phones calls, and manual data entry, and fill more orders faster.”

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance writer covering business and technology.

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