case study

Using customer insights to drive B2B ecommerce

Black Royal Brass and Hose logo

About the client

Royal Brass & Hose distributes high-quality mobile equipment products like hydraulic and pneumatic parts, hoses, fittings, fasteners, adapters, and more.

The challenge

Royal Brass & Hose (RBH) faced what many distributors do—growing demand for ecommerce, managing multiple data sources, outdated product catalogs, and breaking with traditional business practices. RBH enlisted Ntara to help transform their business into a self-service ecommerce model.

Our approach

Like any transformation, digital transformation takes a significant investment of time. We deployed a multi-phased approach to ensure their investment was a valuable one.
An illustration of stakeholder interviews and shared dialogue between two people.

primary research

A data-driven approach to digital

Before the transformation began, we needed to understand existing perceptions of RBH’s stakeholders and how they aligned with purchase patterns. We used our proprietary customer segmentation study to collect data about their customers’ needs, attitudes, and behaviors. The results of this study were clear: RBH’s customers not only wanted a self-service ecommerce experience—they said they’d spend more with RBH if they had it.

website pilot program

Small steps to create big impact

Due to the scope and level of change management needed for this project, we wanted to get something up quickly. This would not only validate our findings from the research; it would also determine the needs and use cases of RBH’s core customers. RBH identified key customers that were representative of their customer base and recommended their most popular SKUs to make available to customers online.

RBH pilot site developed with primary research to inform the final ecommerce site.

PRODUCT INFORMATION MANAGEMENT (PIM)

Creating one source of truth

With the groundwork laid, it was on to one of the more challenging tasks—data cleanup. Our team audited their data to pinpoint opportunities for optimization. Through the audit, we discovered several areas of concern: duplication, inconsistency, incomplete fields, and a lack of imagery and marketing copy. While RBH worked to clean up their data, we implemented a custom instance of the inRiver iPMC PIM system to centralize RBH’s data management, enrichment, and distribution.

ecommerce build

Simplifying B2B product purchases

Once the foundation was set, we used our learnings from the pilot program and insights from the research engagement to choose the ecommerce vendor that best fit RBH’s needs. We selected VirtoCommerce for the full website build for its scalability and B2B feature set.

 

To ensure the ecommerce launch was successful, we worked with RBH to roll out the new platform to a subset of dedicated customers. Today, RBH has over 2,000 unique customers who actively use the website to place and look up orders. This optimization also exponentially increased speed to market for brand new products.

“Finding the right partner is essential. We’ve seen excellent results from our new ecommerce website because Ntara took the time to understand our business and our customers. We’re experiencing wide adoption from more and more of our customers, and we’re continuing to improve their online ordering experience.”

Misti White

Ecommerce Manager at Royal Brass and Hose

Final result

On launch of the new ecommerce website, RBH saw sales consistently increase by 33% MOM. And, incredibly, the site launched just before the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed RBH to be more prepared for the new virtual business reality that shook many B2B businesses to the core. It also served as an incredible support for the sales team, allowing them to continue the relationships with their customers online, equipped with a digital catalog. It also empowered other internal teams by providing 24/7 access to Accounts Receivable information like purchase history, orders, and invoices.

 

With any significant change, there’s risk—so naturally RBH wondered if customers would adjust to this new purchasing channel. Quick answer: they did. RBH saw many of their customers purchase products through the website. The sales team also saw that the ecommerce platform was the preferred method for reorders and restocks. Today, we work with RBH to continually optimize the website to ensure it can flex to the evolving needs of their customers.

Results

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ecommerce growth YOY

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increase in order entry efficiency

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saved every time an item field is updated within one product category 

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