Since launching its first ecommerce transaction site about 16 months ago, Quality Mill Supply Co. Inc. is seeing the hard-won value of the online channel for its lines of metal-cutting, woodworking and other types of industrial machinery and equipment.
The company, based in the southern Indiana town of Franklin, primarily serves a regional market through its five Indiana branch locations.
But with the April 2017 launch of its ecommerce site at QualityMill.com, the distributor has been opening new doors to a broader market, says Wilford Gosser, manager of ecommerce and marketing. The new site, built on the CIMM2 ecommerce platform from Unilog Content Solutions, has gotten off to an important, if slow, start to online sales, he adds.
Online sales still account for less than 1% of total sales, but the new site is engaging customers like Quality Mill’s prior website never could, Gosser says.
“Before 2017, we had a website, but it had no ecommerce functionality; it was not that helpful,” he says.
Quality Mill Supply is a member of Affiliated Distributors Inc., an association of independent industrial distributors that works with Unilog to provide its members with their own CIMM2 ecommerce sites.
With a built-in product information management system, the new ecommerce platform now provides online access to more than 600,000 products available for online order. That has helped Quality Mill Supply broadly expand its exposure through internet search and produce a significant uptick in online customer activity over the past year.
The new ecommerce site produces product image content that “makes us appear on standard Google searches,” Gosser says, adding: “Before we launched this site, we had around 500 sessions per month in Google analytics; in July alone this year we had over 12,000 sessions. That alone provides value to us.”
Moreover, “we’ve seen a definite correlation between sales growth and how active people are on our website,” Gosser says.
For now, “we’ve just scratched the surface” of the online channel, he says. But he expects online sales to begin growing to about 8% of total sales, particularly as customers continue to use what have proved to be popular new online tools, including the ability of buyers to place a product into an online cart, then click to route to a supervisor for approval and final purchase. The CIMM2 platform also integrates with the distributor’s Epicor Prophet 21 enterprise resource planning software for updating such information as customer order activity and inventory records.
Quality Mill Supply’s ecommerce site features products for purchase ranging from fasteners priced at under $1.00 per item, to large lathe machines priced at tens of thousands of dollars.
The family-owned distributor, founded in southern Indiana by Alvah Gilbert 75 years ago, opened for business to keep its client manufacturers humming during World War II. Ever since, it has worked at a “customer-centric” business model to help its manufacturing customers solve problems and innovate better production methods to gain a competitive edge in their markets, Quality Mill Supply says on its website.
“It’s why nearly 2,000 manufacturers have come to rely on Quality Mill for growth, innovation and success,” it says.
The company is now headed by CEO Alan Gilbert, the son of Alvah Gilbert, and Alan’s son Evan, who is president.
The new ecommerce site, which prominently lists all of the distributor’s services—including calibrating the accuracy of tools sold to customers, and an online portal that shows where customers have been able to save on purchasing costs—Quality Mill Supply is looking toward a much broader base of customers for all of its products and services, Gosser says.
In addition to attracting new customers through internet search, Quality Mill Supply is also gathering many new email addresses as new customers sign up online for accounts. “It has opened up other marketing opportunities,” Gosser says.
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