The distributor’s digital selling channels, including its ecommerce sites and KeepStock inventory management programs, accounted for more than 70% of orders in 2019, up from less than half in 2012.

At W.W. Grainger Inc.’s annual summit for customers and suppliers in 2017, CEO D.G. Macpherson said in a meeting with journalists that he’d “be surprised” if the company’s digital commerce sales didn’t account for 80% of total sales within five years.

Since then, Grainger has moved closer to that mark, with its digital channels accounting for nearly three-fourths of orders for the year ended Dec. 31, 2019, up from less than half in 2012.

The multibillion-dollar distributor of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products, which businesses purchase to run their facilities, doesn’t always separate figures on digital commerce.

Shifting from phone and counter to ecommerce

But in the annual 10K financial statement it filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last month for its 2019 fiscal year, Grainger notes that the following shares of total orders from its three groupings of digital channels: website, 30%; EDI and e-procurement, 25%; and its KeepStock inventory management services, 16%. That comes to 71% of orders through its digital channels, with the remaining 29% received through its physical branch network and via the telephone. The company reported total 2019 sales of $11.5 billion, with the 71% digital share amounting to $8.2 billion.

By comparison, in 2012 the same digital channels accounted for 41% of orders, including 22% via its websites, 10% via EDI and e-procurement, and 9% via KeepStock. Phone orders in 2012 accounted for 44% of all orders and 16% of branch networks.

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Grainger’s websites, which altogether provide access to more than 4 million products, include its flagship Grainger.com and its off-price Zoro.com site for customers that don’t need the full services of Grainger.com. Grainger adds that its North American customer service centers handle more than 73,000 daily customer interactions for customers in the United States and Canada via ecommerce sites, phone, email and live chat.

The company’s KeepStock inventory management programs operate as a digital channel with options for buyers (or their sales reps) to place orders via mobile devices or to purchase products through internet-connected vending machines placed at customer locations.

Grainger notes that about 21% of the products it sells are its own private labels, including such trademarked MRO brands as Dayton, Speedaire, Air Handler, Tough Guy, Westward, Condor and Lumapro.

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