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It’s no secret that the rise of the internet heavily disrupted nearly all industries. As consumers gained immediate access to brand and product information, business sale cycles were thrown off. Suddenly, earning customers wasn’t just about putting your number in the Yellow Pages or driving to a new city and taking potential customers out for drinks.
Inbound marketing is now a no-brainer for successful businesses with online storefronts, and outbound marketing is falling more and more by the wayside. If you’re unfamiliar, inbound marketing is the process of producing valuable information and content in an effort to increase your search engine rankings and therefore increasing traffic to your site as well as brand discoverability. This is an important shift in how selling has long been accomplished. Few salesmen travel door to door anymore. Few even do so much as leave their home office. Now, customers call upon businesses –– and they often do this when presented with helpful, educational content that earns their trust.
Sure, sales people do still call out and talk to potential customers, but inbound marketing is an undeniable business need in today’s world. And, nearly all industries are taking full advantage. This why the number of blog posts produced each day is so high (2 million) and why the SEO game has gotten so competitive. Writers aren’t cheap, and good writers can be difficult to find. Plus, you need more than a writer to make an inbound strategy effective. You need the whole company to sign on to the effort.
Lagging behind a bit on this, however, are businesses in the B2B space. Estimates predict that online B2B selling will top $1.3 trillion by 2020. It isn’t that these businesses are going to necessarily boom. It’s instead that they have yet to fully implement modern success strategies the B2C world has long known produce incrementally high ROI. These include launching online storefronts, optimizing for SEO and putting a smart inbound strategy in place.
For many of these B2B businesses, some of the technology may need to catch up. There are indeed nuances to B2B selling that do not exist for the B2C industries. Yet, those nuances are not reason enough to forgo launching an online storefront today.
Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) knows this well. The team launched their online store in 1996, and immediately saw the business benefit. We caught up with Gary Brownlee, Vice President at T.A.S.C.O. to talk about their online selling success as a B2B brand, what they’ve learned over the last two decades online and what they are planning for the future.
Read the full interview below.
To start, when did T.A.S.C.O. first open and why did you decide to launch an online store?
Texas America Safety Company (T.A.S.C.O.) started business almost 20 years ago selling occupational safety supplies through the oil patch in West Texas. For many years, we visited as many customers as possible with our delivery van and sold our products directly from the vehicle.
Around 1996 we opened up our first website and soon thereafter discovered the benefits of selling online. No more spending hours driving the countryside to visit a few customers. Now, the customers could shop our products 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Adding our products online and effectively marketing our website was able to dramatically increase our sales. We now have a thriving business thanks to the internet.
What’s changed insofar as online customer behavior over the last two decades?
Our main website was designed using older HTML, and for 16 years had performed exceptionally well on the search engines. The code was written free hand using the best tools of the time. Over the last few years, however, the search engine algorithms and customer expectations have changed.
Customers and search engines now want a more integrated website design that is be mobile friendly and more responsive to customer wants and needs. We noticed our online clicks and sales had started to slip a little at a time. Over the last year, it became obvious that no amount of modification to the old design was going to help recover our search engine relevance.
And that’s when you and your team decided to move over to a SaaS ecommerce solution?
It was a difficult decision to move from our old tried and trusted platform, but after quite a bit of research we choose Bigcommerce to host our new ecommerce site. I was able to visit their facility and meet some of the people that would help us with our account. Both the Bigcommerce ecommerce platform and their staff was top notch and very helpful with the change over.
When we did have a question, we were able to quickly answer them with a simple chat or email ticket. In addition, the interface was easy to use, and the batch import/export features greatly sped up the migration. The wide range of templates helped us to construct a site that perfectly fit our needs. We still maintained the look and feel from our old site, but with all of the all of the tools and benefits of a modern ecommerce platform. Finally, we were ready to make the switch. We recently re-launched our flagship website and right away starting seeing positive results.
Were there any moments of frustration or fear in the process of switching platforms?
Moving the site was very worrisome. However, with help from Bigcommerce, the new site launched without a hitch. We were able to seamlessly transfer to the new ecommerce site without any loss of sales or down time. In addition, our existing customers have sent all positive messages concerning the change-over and are happy with the new site. We also noticed the shopping cart was much better now, and we were able to recover many more orders with the shopping cart abandonment feature. The analytics are showing a measurable improvement.
That’s great! It sounds like you’ve gotten your search engine ranking back where you want it. Is there anything else you’re doing to help close sales?
It would seem customers now prefer to have specialized goods and not just a one size fits all approach. Since there are so many online resellers, price has become much more competitive as well. Each company needs to find what they do best and try to capitalize on their strengths.
For us, we have introduced several new types of products that are not highly marketed online. We have started our own line of hydro dipped custom made hard hats. Also, we’re adding several new colors and designs of safety vests that we think will be a hit. We also have been offering more customization services with much lower minimum quantities: hard hat custom logos and screen printing on vests, for example.
What are you looking to do to the site to even further optimize it this year?
Over the next month, we plan on improving the site one product at a time with better images, videos, better text and usage tips. Doing this for our 4000+ plus products will take some time if it’s done right. We are trying to incorporate information and tips in prominent areas of the site and not just cramming the page full of hundreds of products. In addition, we are trying to focus the pages around a central theme and keyword in the hopes of offering the customer a usable, informative and attractive shopping place.
We want to offer service and information in addition to our products. Then, once a purchase is made, we want to make sure the customer receives shipping information and delivery status in a simple and non-obtrusive form. It’s not just about the online shopping experience for us. We also want to supply trust and comfort with the fulfillment aspects of the transaction.
In addition, we are looking to improve our product selection to stay on top of modern trends. In some instances we are hoping to open new markets in our safety arena.
Do you have any advice for B2B companies about to launch online?
My advise is to be patient and consistent. Be sure to concentrate on offering the end user the best shopping experience, and then deliver the products or services promptly. In addition, make sure the businesses back end systems are as prioritized as the sales marketing. Don’t just concentrate on selling, and then have little time, energy, and/or inventory to actually deliver the goods.
Visit the Tasco-Safety.com site here to see everything Brownlee mentioned in action. Do you have any questions or advice for the T.A.S.C.O. team? Leave them in the comments below.
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