The onset of the novel coronavirus and its deadly COVID-19 disease was nearly a year away when Partsmaster.com relaunched in early 2019 as a more useful and customer-friendly ecommerce site for the sale of business and industrial products.
Handling unexpected customer rush
But the new ecommerce site—built to simplify the addition of new customer accounts, quicken online purchasing, and scale quickly on cloud infrastructure—has turned out to be just what Partsmaster, a division of manufacturer NCH Corp. that distributes maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products, needed to handle an unexpected rush of customer orders brought on by the virus pandemic.
“Having the ability to scale up is very important,” says Robert Debault, Partsmaster’s software architect, who overseas Partsmaster’s ecommerce technology and operations.
He notes that Partsmaster has been dealing with sudden increases in both its ecommerce and traditional offline channels through sales reps, and that its mix of ecommerce technology and cloud-based data-management infrastructure has kept things operating smoothly.
Digital technology and strategy help market disruption
Working with his team of digital commerce technology and services providers—including Episerver Inc. for its ecommerce and content management software, Salesforce.com Inc. for customer relationship management and marketing technology, and Brilliance Business Solutions as its web design agency and systems integrator—Partsmaster has built out a digital technology roadmap and strategy that has put it on track to handle market disruptions, Debault says.
Among its recent website improvements are the ability to more quickly onboard new customer accounts and to display more products on its site that are facing increased demand, such as the personal protective equipment (PPE) it provides to the food and beverage industry.
As the MRO products distribution division of manufacturer NCH Corp., Partsmaster distributes industrial MRO products across several industries. Partsmaster.com relies on a mix of technology from Episerver and Microsoft Corp. to scale up its ecommerce platform and maintain site performance and good online customer experience, Debault says.
“Like many companies in the B2B space, Partsmaster has thousands of products with different prices for different customers,” says Lori McDonald, CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions, which worked with Partsmaster to redesign its website and integrate it with its back-end Prelude ERP system.
Before the redesign, Partsmaster operated a relatively rudimentary online ordering site that was separate from its product content site—a type of set-up that is not uncommon among B2B companies. The newly designed platform combines ecommerce transactions and content management on a single site, providing for a much-improved online purchasing experience for customers, Debault says.
Keep sales and service agents in the game
In addition, he adds, the new platform is also designed to provide access to customer and product data that helps sales reps and customer service agents—a crucial aspect for Partsmaster, which still maintains its tradition of providing customers a high level of personal contact for sales and service.
A core part of the platform’s value, Debault says, is its Episerver DXP, or digital experience platform. DXP, which is based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud technology, includes cloud-based databases, data storage, web apps, content delivery network services, and the Episerver Search & Navigation enterprise site search system. (Episerver DXP was formerly known as DXC.)
That cloud-based technology makes all of those components scalable to handle sudden changes in website activity, such as during the virus pandemic as well as more typical market fluctuations, Debault says. “We have had to scale up several times since we launched this ecommerce platform, and knowing that we can scale up so effortlessly has allowed us to focus on providing great content and not patching infrastructure.”
(A longer version of this article appears in a special report from Digital Commerce 360 on how B2B and retail companies are addressing ecommerce strategies amid the coronavirus pandemic.)
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