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Northern Tool leads home channel in e-commerce consumer survey

BY Kate Fazzini

Home channel retailers have room for online improvement, according to the results of a consumer survey from e-commerce research firm ForeSee Results.

The average customer satisfaction score for home channel companies, 71.3, was a few points below that of the top 100 e-commerce sites on the ForeSee list. Still, retailers in the channel are taking steps to keep up with the online times.

Ranking highest was northerntool.com , the e-commerce site for Minneapolis-based Northern Tool & Equipment, with a customer service score of 74 out of 100. Comparatively, highest ranking commerce sites netflix.com and qvc.com each scored 85 out of 100.

“We train our people who do our Internet service to answer questions,” said Northern Tool CEO Don Kotula. “If we keep getting a question repeatedly, we’ll put the answer right there so people can see it.”

For Northern Tool, online business has grown steadily at about 10 percent to 15 percent per year in the past few years. In 2006, the company made more than $100 million in Web sales, Kotula said.

He also said the Northern Tool Web site allows consumers to offer opinions on products they’ve purchased, as well as suggestions, such as alternate uses for a product that the user found effective. The Web site also offers “really relevant” suggestions on complementary products to a purchase, such as a safety device or a blade sharpener when a customer buys a chainsaw.

“We also look at categories and highlight for a (returning) customer, ‘here’s what’s new in your category,’” he said. Therefore, landscaping and gardening enthusiasts see new products in their realm, while ATV or hunting enthusiasts see products relevant to them.

“With new products, it’s really important that the product is interesting. If we have some new brown socks for example, and we had some kind of brown socks before, we’re not going to put that up there,” Kotula said.

In the customer service rankings, Northern Tool is followed by sears.com (72), lowes.com (70) and homedepot.com (69). Mass retailers fared slightly better, including target.com (76) and walmart.com (75), followed by specialty retailers williamssonoma.com (75) and crateandbarrel.com (73).

Other home channel companies not on the ForeSee list are taking steps, as well.

Dave Werden is senior Web develper for Rockler, a 35-location chain of independent hardware stores catering primarily to professional woodworkers. The company saw its online conversion rates go up 10 percent after adding a search feature that was more detailed and intuitive.

“Instead of looking for a long time, they can search directly for a [model number], or look over some different variables to find the right item quickly,” he said.

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True Value owner inducted into Washington D.C. ‘Hall of Fame’

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Howard Politzer, owner of Brookland True Value in Washington D.C., has received the Business Legacy Award from the Washington D.C. Hall of Fame Society, a group that recognizes members of the city’s business community.

The legacy award recognizes individuals and establishments that have contributed immensely to the growth and development of Washington, D.C. and changed the course of the District’s history. Hall of Fame Society executive board members voted unanimously to make Brookland True Value its first choice in the nbusinessi category, and Politzer was inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Politzer opened his first True Value in 1975 on Capitol Hill, and in 1981 he relocated the store six miles north to the city of Brookland.

Politzer has served as a member of the Brookland Chamber of Commerce, the Center for Community Development, the MayorIs Golden Washington Club, the Brookland Business and Professional Association and the Pennsylvania and Atlantic Seaboard Hardware Association.

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Acquisition of Rinker nears completion

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Rinker Materials, a top distributor of non-lumber building materials in the United States, with $4.5 billion in sales last year, will soon become part of Cemex, North America’s largest cement producer.

Cemex has purchased more than 90 percent of the shares of Rinker Group Ltd., Rinker’s Australian parent company, clearing the way for the cement supplier to acquire the rest of the company without consent.

Cemex, based in Monterrey, Mexico, placed an unsolicited $14 billion bid for all of Rinker’s shares earlier this year. In June it won majority control over Rinker’s board of directors and replaced them with its own appointees. The Rinker acquisition will further increase Cemex’s share of the U.S. concrete market. 

Headquartered in West Palm Beach, Fla., Rinker Materials sells cement, asphalt, pipe, tools, drywall, steel framing and other construction materials. It generates approximately 80 percent of its parent company’s revenues.

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