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Developing a new e-commerce website can be a lot like upgrading a distribution center. The process involves much more than simply giving it a new look. It requires careful planning, problem-solving, optimization and follow through. The end goal is creating an all-in-one solution that provides customers with exactly what they’re looking for when they need it.
Downers Grove, Ill.-based HVAC/R master distributor Neuco knows a thing or two about upgrading a DC. They’ve gone through several major expansions throughout their 110 year existence. And in 2013, they implemented a state-of the art conveyor belt and scanner system. And now with the recent launch of their new ordering website at www.neuco.com, Neuco is also quite familiar with the website redesign process.
Plan of action
The strategic planning for the latest version of Neuco’s website began more than two years ago.
“Everything starts with the customer,” says Brian Neustadt, vice president – national accounts. “We all knew it was time to give our website a new look, but we also had years’ worth of feedback and data to take into consideration. From the moment we started planning for the new site, the team has been focused on creating the best web ordering experience for our customers.”
The team Neustadt refers to is Neuco’s website team, composed of a dozen full-time employees from the IT (information technology), sales and marketing departments.
“We have the resources right here in this building,” says Gregg Skala, Neuco’s IT director. “Our employees are experts in their fields, from our designers to our programmers. And the salesmen are the ones working with our customers every day. They let us know what they’re hearing.”
Too many companies feel that a website redesign should be a radical departure from what has gone before. In truth, that should be the exception and not the rule.
Neustadt elaborates, “Our customers would tell me how their counter salesmen use our website every day, and some would even say ‘don’t change it!’ because they loved it so much the way it was. A big goal was to make the site better without disrupting anything.”
Weekly team meetings led to design mockups and code, which led to a beta site and testing. And then more testing. Throughout the two-year development process, the website went through several iterations.
“We’re in a position where our team can sit down together in one room, bring up ideas and see what works and what doesn’t work,” explains Skala. “We looked at user data and saw how our customers used the website, how they search for parts, what pages they spend the most time on, things like that. All that data played into the new site.”
The team also focused on updating the appearance of the website. Popular e-commerce websites such as Amazon.com and CDW.com served as inspiration.
Marketing Manager Brian Zwolinski notes, “The look of the site was very important to us. We wanted to use more visual content to tell our story and help our customers. Wholesalers who might not be familiar with Neuco can now find out more about who we are and why we can be a great fit for them.”
The new site has a 360-degree virtual tour of Neuco’s distribution center, so that customers, and prospects, can take a look inside Neuco’s operations. There are plans to incorporate more product images and video content in the near future.
“We’d try things out, and if they didn’t work, we’d change them,” says Skala. “Our inside sales team tested the site to its limits and let us know what bugs they were seeing. It was very much a collaborative process.”
The result is a clean, polished user experience with a clear emphasis on organization and detailed product information.
The launch and the future
Neuco.com officially launched in October 2016 to rave reviews.
Some key features of Neuco.com include placing orders, viewing order status, tracking shipments 24-7, and searching product catalog by part number, keywords or equipment model numbers. Neuco customers have immediate access to pricing, real-time inventory status, high-quality photos and detailed product descriptions. The site also has responsive design for optimal user experience on mobile devices.
“To date, we’ve had over 8,000 customers register for web accounts on Neuco.com. More and more sign up every day. And we’re seeing the traffic continue to increase each week. We get almost two million page views per month,” says Skala.
Beyond the launch, the company finds itself looking toward the future.
“The website is constantly being updated,” says Zwolinski. “Our salesmen are always adding new product information and cross references, and we get lots of feedback from customers who are using the site. If there’s something that isn’t working for them, we fix it.”
Today, companies are expected to operate seamlessly across all channels — in person, on the phone, via email and through e-commerce. With access to enormous amounts of information, customers are increasingly in control and expectations are higher than ever. They expect order accuracy, responsiveness and a compelling experience. Neuco knows this, and it's dedicated to creating the ultimate web experience for wholesale distributors.
Neustadt closes, “The relationship Neuco has with wholesale distributors is a true partnership, one that’s built on trust. Our website is yet another way of building and maintaining that trust.”
Wholesaler distributors with Neuco.com accounts have access to more than 170,000 HVAC/R parts from over 250 manufacturers. To register for a Neuco web account, visit www.neuco.com/register.