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Grainger's Approach to Mobile
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Grainger, an $8.1 billion distributor and No. 3 on MDM’s list of the top 40 industrial distributors, has taken its e-commerce strategy to the next level.

(Read about Grainger’s ongoing refinements to its e-commerce platform.)

Grainger is announcing its mobile website (officially launched in November) at the 2012 Grainger Customer Show this week. The goal: to educate customers about how to use it. The mobile version incorporates many of the features of its grainger.com website, including different ways to search or browse the site (by brand name or category, for example), easy access to product accessories and a choice of shipping. The mobile website also integrates with Grainger’s order management system.

Taking a cue from many B-to-C websites, Grainger’s mobile site lets users create personal lists for items they order frequently. This feature lets users place orders, share with co-workers and keep a record of previous purchases for accounting later. Another feature: real-time product availability, which allows customers to find nearby branches that have the product they need. Or it will tell users whether a product is in stock, and when they would get it, including real-time shipping and pickup availability.

Grainger is encouraging customers to shop cross-platform. In a news release, Grainger said: “For some, that may mean starting to shop in the office on grainger.com, then working with a partner who wants to use the Grainger catalog like they have for decades, or being in the field alongside associates and using a mobile phone to find the right product and ordering it on the spot.”

This approach allows customers to buy what they want, how they want.

Grainger’s new mobile push is good timing. Forrester Research says that in the U.S. there will be nearly 100 million smartphones by the end of 2011. (MDM spoke with John Sonnhalter about the rise of mobile and why it should be important to distributors in a recent episode of Executive Briefing, which you can watch at www.mdm.com/executivebriefing.)

The distributor has clearly invested a lot in this effort, and MDM will continue to follow Grainger’s successes – and perhaps lessons learned – on its latest initiative. This is just another step in Grainger’s efforts to increase its stickiness with customers. (Read Grainger’s E-Commerce Evolution.)

Here’s the video Grainger created about its mobile website:

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