Background and business issues
Acklands-Grainger is Canada’s largest distributor of industrial, safety and fastener products. It’s part of W.W. Grainger, North America’s top broad-line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products, with US$9.4 billion in revenue in 2013. Acklands-Grainger works exclusively in the B2B marketplace, serving 12 industries ranging from oil and gas to mining, forestry, utilities and transportation.
When its customers need products, they often need them right away. Acklands-Grainger prides itself on maintaining an extensive product catalogue to offer customers the convenience of a single-source solution, with the largest selection of in-stock and brand-name products from the world’s top manufacturers, and the largest exclusive private-label offering in the industry.
And therein lay the problem.
Acklands-Grainger has 172 service branches across Canada, with six distribution centers and more than 2,200 staff, but it relies on its online catalogue as the principal channel through which customers order products. This catalogue is massive, with more than 300,000 products and 3,100 pages, and is regularly accessed by about 1,000 B2B customers.
To manage its e-commerce channel, Acklands-Grainger relied on an install of Endeca Page Builder. But this legacy product wasn’t up to the challenge of managing such a massive catalogue in a complex B2B environment to provide an optimal customer experience.
Each customer was forced to scroll through page after page of product listings to find what they wanted, without the benefit of being able to create a user profile that would limit their search to only those products that were relevant to their business. The result was frustrated customers and a high volume of support calls.
The personalized solution
On a recommendation from Oracle, RealDecoy began working with Acklands-Grainger in 2012 in a consulting role to help the company evolve its e-commerce platform from Page Builder.
Acklands-Grainger was initially hesitant about working with an off-site third party. RealDecoy’s dedicated consultants put in the time to understand the current and future needs of the business, and identify where some immediate improvements could be made with the existing Page Builder platform, such with search turning to improve search relevancy. A relationship of trust and respect was born.
RealDecoy worked with the Acklands-Grainger team to develop, and execute, a strategy to migrate from Page Builder to Experience Manager with as little disruption to the day-to-day operation of the e-commerce site as possible. This included:
- Defining the optimal set of Experience Manager cartridges that would govern search, navigation and the creation of user profiles that would allow customers to enjoy a much more personalized and relevant shopping experience, as well as put the power in the hands of Acklands-Grainger’s business users to manage the catalogue and site content.
- Designing the search platform landscape and infrastructure, including roadmap development.
- Training Acklands-Grainger’s business users, including its marketing and SEO teams.
- Enablement support, or standby consulting. This is a bucket of one-on-one support hours where RealDecoy is available to help, as needed, with Acklands-Grainger’s internal projects.
It took only 12 weeks for the new platform to go live, despite enterprise constraints that included the cross-border nature of Acklands-Grainger’s business. RealDecoy was able to work with the in-house IT department and development team to create a scalable platform Acklands-Grainger can build upon, without any other third-party involvement.
While the new platform is still in its early days, the investment is already proving itself. For example, Acklands-Grainger’s business users have reported that marketing campaigns that once took two weeks to deploy (with testing and production preparation) now take as little as two days. Custom catalogues that once took weeks to create now take a day.
The true test, of course, will be with Acklands-Grainger’s customers, as they enjoy the benefits of customized and personalized search and navigation functionality that will allow them to find and order what they need, when they need it, without having to wade through reams of irrelevant search results and product listings.