Wholesale Distributor Retools for Growth with Next-Generation Ecommerce

Competing against the likes of Grainger and Fastenal, distributors with global economies of scale, is forcing mid-market whole sale distributors to adapt quickly.

Tacoma Screw Products, a family-owned company based in Tacoma, Wash., is aggressively
leveraging ecommerce to strengthen its competitive position, increase share of wallet among existing customers and attract new business. The company has recently gone live on the NetSuite SuiteCommerce platform in a wholesale retooling of its tacomascrew.com website.

Mid-market wholesale distributors like Tacoma Screw Products are under increasing pressure from larger competitors. They’re threatened with declining market share as manufacturers move into direct-to-consumer sales. B2B customers, meanwhile, increasingly expect a superior online purchasing experience.

Next-generation ecommerce is a key focus area for wholesale distributors to address these
challenges and drive revenue. In fact, ecommerce was ranked the #1 technology initiative to increase business efficiency and growth in a NetSuite survey of mid-market North American wholesale distributors earlier this year.

Fueling Growth with B2B Ecommerce

Implemented by NetSuite solution provider partner NXTurn, the SuiteCommerce platform is at the center of Tacoma Screw’s strategic plan to fuel growth beyond its core market of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. where it operates 15 brick-and-mortar stores. That growth will come by offering its 45,000 products­—fasteners, abrasives, lubricants, tools, paints, bearings, construction supplies and more—over the web.

“It’s providing the next level of customer service,” said Eric McGregor, Ecommerce and Operations Support Manager at Tacoma Screw. “With SuiteCommerce, our customers can browse and purchase online, have more visibility into products and orders and do business more quickly.”

The new ecommerce capabilities complement Tacoma Screw’s 50-person outside sales force and its seasoned call center staff to provide the best of both worlds—the personal, knowledgeable service for which Tacoma Screw is renowned and the ease and convenience of B2B ecommerce. That gives Tacoma Screw a competitive edge vs. larger rivals such as Fastenal and Grainger, McGregor said.

Besides delivering full self-service capabilities to customers, Tacoma Screw utilized NXTurn’s expertise and SuiteCommerce customizability to offer innovative features. For instance, the platform enables B2B customers to specify purchasing authority by individuals. If a lower-level employee without purchasing authority at his or her company orders a product, an automated workflow routes the pending transaction to an authorized buyer for approval.

In addition, a natural language search engine SuiteApp from NetSuite partner EasyAsk was
incorporated to improve search precision. Real-time inventory availability—for the website and each of Tacoma’s 15 stores—is displayed through integration with the company’s back-end ERP. In-store pickup has already proven popular among customers who want to order online and pick up merchandise a day or two later.

Besides SuiteCommerce, Tacoma Screw is also implementing NetSuite CRM to replace a problematic Salesforce.com system and is readying an iPhone app to give sales reps and managers new mobile visibility and sales tracking capabilities. Already, Tacoma Screw’s investment in ecommerce and NetSuite cloud technology is paying off—average time on site has doubled since SuiteCommerce went live, according to McGregor.

With B2B ecommerce experiencing strong growth across industries—set to reach $559 billion in the US by the end of 2013, according to an October 2012 Forrester report—Tacoma Screw is poised to take advantage and carry its rich tradition of superior customer service into the 21st century.

-Ranga Bodla - Director, Industry Marketing, Wholesale Distribution and Manufacturing

comments powered by Disqus