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Smaller Distributor Profits from New E-Commerce Platform

The use of e-commerce is becoming increasingly important among distributors and is now an important part of strategic plans for the growth of large and smaller distributors alike. Last week in a call with financial analysts, MSC Industrial Direct Co., one of the largest distributors in the country, said the web was a key driving point for their company, which is famous for its huge catalog filed with thousands of products.

But e-commerce isn’t just for big distributors. Reid Supply Co., an industrial distributor based in Muskegon, MI, has one of the most advanced web sites in distribution. Privately-owned Reid doesn’t share its financial information, but said its sales have increased “significantly” since it redesigned its Web site last July, expanded its products and made it easy for customers to navigate the site and place orders.

“We’ve been promoting our site in a number of ways,” says Greg Palmer, director of marketing for Reid during an interview. The company uses Facebook, Twitter and various other new media to drive customers to their site. And it has worked. In addition, the company sends e-mail blasts, provides print advertising and uses advanced search engine optimization techniques.  

Sales growth from the Reid site has come in a variety of ways as it attracts new customers and increases its product offerings so buyers are able to add more items to their shopping carts rather than just the “traditional” ones. Typically both new and established customers find through the site that Reid has many more products than they realized. And Reid is constantly adding to their number of lines as it recently added   items such as safety, footwear and personal protection clothing to its offerings as well as packaging and shipping supplies.

Palmer said one of the keys to a successful home page is ensuring that a company   constantly evaluates its site. Before Reid launched its revamped site, for example, Reid had focus groups and meetings with customers. Reid listened and built the site around their suggestions. The site is designed to be user-friendly and more effective to bring the customer directly to the products they want.

“We evaluate our site on a daily basis and tweak it to make for a better customer experience,” Palmer says.

MDM recently spoke to Grainger about its e-commerce past and future. Read the full article, Grainger's E-Commerce Evolution.

Jack Keough is a contributing editor to Modern Distribution Management and the owner of Keough Business Communications. He can be reached at or by phone at 508-734-0029. Keough is the former editor of Industrial Distribution Magazine.

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