Currently online commerce accounts for 40 percent of MSC Industrial Supply’s sales, according to Steve Baruch, MSC’s vice president of e-commerce. But distributors should pay attention to the overall shopping experience, not just the online element, he said during a panel discussion at the 2013 Industrial Supply Association Product Show & Conference in San Diego.
MSC customers use a combination of catalogs, reps and the MSC website when they buy, Baruch says, and how much they use each channel is interesting. As strange as this may sound, “it’s 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent,” he says. Many customers make use of two or three channels in a single transaction.
Customers may use the print catalog to look up a product before placing the order online. Or they may have a greater level of comfort placing the order over the phone, especially with large orders, Baruch says. Other customers may initiate a purchase online and conclude it over the phone. About 20 percent of MSC's website shoppers will conclude their purchases over the phone, he says.
Because of the increasing overlap between commerce channels, Baruch says it’s important that the information customers receive along each channel is consistent, a growing challenge for distributors. It is distributors’ responsibility, he says, to keep online product information up-to-date and to ensure that customer service reps are prepared to answer the increasingly detailed questions customers are asking over the phone after they’ve collected basic product information via the website.