As a Seattle-based manufacturer of custom awnings, tents and related products, Rainier Industries Ltd. doesn’t take a “one size fits all” approach to doing business.
There’s also nothing cookie-cutter in the way Rainier, in business since 1896, conducts business-to-business ecommerce.
Since launching its ecommerce site nearly four years ago, Rainier, a family-owned business, is on track to generate ecommerce sales of at least $20 million, about a 20% increase over web sales of about $15 million in 2018, the company says.
Ecommerce as a differentiator
Rainier, which runs on enterprise resource planning and Epicor Commerce Connect ecommerce software from Epicor Software Corp., sees ecommerce as a big differentiator in the more than $1 billion tenting, shade and screen products market. “Ecommerce using proven technology makes us the fastest company in the market,” says Traub, who began working at Rainier as a technical designer in 2010 and was named CEO in February 2018. “We can now ship products in hours that used to take us about eight days.”
These days Tukwila, Washington-based Rainier is on a mission to diversify its ecommerce business even more with a special emphasis on personalization and custom product configuration.
For openers, the company reduced the number of data-entry points for processing customers’ custom orders 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.
A product configurator and live chat service
Rainier also internally designed and launched a new product configurator that Traub calls “pretty unique.”
The product configurator handles a high-end order that can cost a customer $20,000 to have Rainier build a custom tent, cottage, tipi or yurt, a portable, round structure traditionally used as home by nomads in Central Asia.
Rainier describes its customer configurator as a one-stop product research and purchasing feature that gives customers detailed images, floor plans and related product content such as pricing, product specifications and colors.
The configuration tool also provides buyers with access to customer service agents and live chat to help answer questions about custom-building a tent, tipi, cottage or yurt they and completing an order.
What makes Rainier’s product configurator unique, Traub says, is the combination of detailed product content, images and technical specifications assisted by service reps and live chat for a “step by step” guide to building a product based on a customer’s specifications. “The product configurator has all the touch points,” he says. “We can create and ship a custom order in six days or less—we actually have customers that refuse delivery because they weren’t ready to accept it until several weeks later.”
Website-ERP integration cuts time to process orders
With its ecommerce site integrated with its back-end ERP and related systems, Rainier has reduced by two days the time it used to take to get an order in its shade division keyed in and moving into the manufacturing and order fulfillment pipeline, Traub says.
“No longer are our customer service agents just doing order-entry because ecommerce has helped free them up to help customers,” he says. “Our dealer retention and recruitment are also up because now they can enter their own orders and track them.”
Working in the same geographic space as Amazon.com, which also is headquartered in Seattle, has given Rainier a good understanding of the ongoing importance of ecommerce, Traub says.
“We live in this age where you can access all the order-status information from Amazon once you log in,” he says. “If we don’t provide that same functionality, the customers are unhappy—they don’t want to call and say ‘where’s my order?’ and wait for someone to look it up because they would rather find the information right where they need it.”
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