By investing in and embracing an e-commerce strategy nearly 20 years ago, this Columbus, Ohio-based distributor brings in more than half of its sales from its website, with both web and local business growing about 20% each year for the last several years in a row.
Ohio Power Tool has a long history of robust sales growth, achieved through a continual focus on improving its e-commerce capabilities, online presence and search engine optimization. In fact, the family-run business with 35 employees based out of Columbus, Ohio, “has been at the forefront of digital development and e-commerce for almost the entirety of their business operations,” says Jennifer Murphy, president of NetPlus Alliance, an industrial supply buying group.
With its commitment to digital advancements, MDM chose Ohio Power Tool as a 2019 Digital Innovator Award winner. These awards honor 10 businesses that have leveraged technology to advance their operational excellence.
Founded in 1983, Ohio Power Tool provides tools, supplies, repair service and rentals. It’s a factory-authorized service center for most major brands of air, electric and hydraulic equipment.
President Jay Amstutz took over from his parents, Jim and Suzanne Amstutz. Suzanne built the company’s first website in 2000, when the internet was very new. After working in marketing and e-commerce for larger companies, Jay revamped the distributor’s social media, blog and website, which helped to grow revenue. He joined the company full time in 2008.
Now, more than half of sales come through the website. “That has been pretty steady for the last five, six, seven years,” Jay says. “In the last two or three years, both the web and local business have been growing pretty steadily, growing about 20% each year.”
Part of the company’s strategy is to make everything effortless for the customer, whether the sale is online or at the store. Ohio Power Tool moved to a new location in downtown Columbus in 2013, with the larger space allowing them to stock a wider variety of products. The prices are the same in the store and online.
“We think of it all as one thing. If you are in Ohio, you can order online and pick up in store. Just working to show stock and availability helps the local customers and our own sales team,” Jay says. “We are going to continue to invest and make it easier and easier to order online.”
Jay regularly writes product reviews and other news for the company’s blog. He also studies the content and features that other online sellers provide on their websites to engage customers.
In any industry, it’s hard for smaller businesses to compete against the massive, global retailers that sell almost everything online and deliver within a couple of days. “It’s trying to keep up with the Amazons and humungous online retailers, trying to keep up with features that they offer. We always feel like we are pretty far behind where we want to be and where some people are. We constantly keep working to keep putting the latest features in the practice. That’s what we strive for,” Jay says.
He wants to help customers find items faster. “The big thing we’re working on now is product attributes to make things searchable,” he says. “We still feel like people get to the site and can’t find what they are looking for, based on categories. People just [label] things differently in different parts of the country. We’ve been working to put attributes on every single product to help people narrow their searches down,” and see what items are available.
The company produced a variety of videos with sales representatives discussing promotions and demonstrating specific tools. Other videos available on the website feature a store tour and a live Q&A session. The company has a few more video releases scheduled for the future. “Videos are going to be a big focus for us,” Jay notes.
Jay and other writers contribute updates two or three times a week to the Ohio Power Tool blog. The company also posts regularly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “Everyone seems to be on social media,” Jay says. “We are starting to get better at it.”
Ohio Power Tool has been collecting product reviews from customers and plans to publish those on the website. “It’s one thing to see all the specs and another thing to have other professionals give their feedback,” Jay says.
The blog, videos, product reviews and increased website traffic help to improve the company’s search engine optimization, a crucial step to reaching more customers online. “We always trying to do the best SEO we can, just to stay above board and look at what people are searching for and trying to organize our site that way, based on what we’re seeing people searching for,” Jay says.
The effort has been worth it. The company’s investment in technology upgrades has paid off with increased revenue.
In the next year or two, Ohio Power Tool plans to add more specs, owner’s manuals and other product information to the online catalog. It also hopes to adopt new technology to schedule deliveries for certain customers. “We’re always looking for a better way to do things,” Jay says.
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