Rather than create an ecommerce identity for each of its 14 divisions, commercial door distributor The Cook & Boardman Group created an ecommerce brand under its flagship Cook & Boardman name to provide buyers with a single online purchasing destination.
The new site (www.cookandboardman.com), launched earlier this month, is part of Cook and Boardman’s new corporate website, and includes a customer portal. Buyers can access the customer portal to perform such tasks as managing their account and paying invoices. The corporate site provides links to the websites for each Cook & Boardman division and corporate information about Cook & Boardman, such as solutions and industries served. Prior to launching the new site, Cook & Boardman did not have an ecommerce transaction site.
Cook & Boardman, which is a distributor of commercial doors, frames, hardware and related specialty products such as electronic-access equipment, expects the new site will not only expand its sales reach beyond its 44 locations in 14 states, but satisfy the needs of its customers that prefer to purchase online. Some of the divisions within Cook & Boardman include Contract Hardware of Florida, Delta Door and Hardware, and Martin Architectural Products.
“We have a large segment of customers that prefer to purchase via a portal as opposed to through a salesperson,” says Bob Settle, a fulltime marketing consultant for Cook & Boardman. “The new site gives us an opportunity to create customized digital user experiences.”
Custom portals for national accounts
Through their accounts, buyers can access their order history, select items from past orders to add to their shopping cart for a new purchase, and create and save shopping lists for frequently purchased items.
“We can also set up custom portals for national accounts specific to the client company’s needs,” Settle says.
Such portals would likely be a punchout catalog available through a customer’s e-procurement system or through a third-party procurement system such as SAP Ariba. Creating a punchout catalog through a third-party is a feature that would be added down the road, Settle adds. Punchout catalogs are customized versions of a supplier’s online catalog connected to a buyer’s e-procurement system.
As a distributor, one benefit of integrating its ecommerce site with its ERP system is receiving real-time shipping information from its suppliers, as well as pricing and inventory levels. “We do a lot of drop shipping with our suppliers so having that kind of information available to buyers is key,” Settle says.
While its initial catalog is relatively small, about 5,500 items, Cook & Boardman plans to add about 5,000 new products a month, says Settle. The site, which was built by a commercial developer, runs on the StoreFront eCommerce platform from AwesomeCommerce LLC.
In addition to purchasing, buyers visiting the new site can contact industry experts via live chat, phone or email to discuss such issues as fire and safety code compliance. Customers of the company include general contractors, design-build contractors, commercial building owners, state agencies and national account customers. Buyers can also access a library of technical data and instructional videos on such topics as how to build a door frame or install a replacement door. Future plans call for the addition of a product configurator.
Beginning in September, Cook & Boardman will embark on a digital marketing campaign to create customer awareness about its new site that will include search marketing, social media and traditional non-digital direct marketing channels. “It’s going to be a robust marketing campaign,” says Settle.
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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