The latest turn of the century ushered in the age of ecommerce. Entrepreneurs rushed to offer every consumer good imaginable for sale on the web. Investors poured money into the virtual land rush. Consumers rejoiced at the opportunity to compare prices and make purchases from their desks. Existing businesses scrambled to accommodate the new consumer expectations, or didn’t and began a decline to irrelevance.
The industrial distribution landscape proved an especially tough market to transition. Changing the buying habits of businesses, as opposed to consumers, was trickier. Businesses had established purchasing procedures and purchasers had ingrained habits. In fact, even today, only 21% of the $1.9 trillion industrial distribution sales occur online, according to a 2015 Morningstar report.
Midland Metal, an industrial supplier of brass and stainless steel fittings and valves, recently pushed its customers online orders to over 50% of its total order volume, one year after launching a revamped ecommerce website and employing a combination of customer incentives and conveniences. Through their Account Manager platform, Midland has given their customers complete access to direct ordering, order history, complete net pricing, and inventory stock. “Our first step in launching online ordering was to create a platform that the customer could use to control every aspect of their relationship with us as their supplier,” stated Midland Metal’s Chief Technology Officer, Charlie Tischner.
Midland first launched online ordering in 2003, immediately offering a 5% discount on all online orders – a discount they continue to offer today. “The discount gives our customers an incentive to get on the site,” said Brett Powell, Midland Metal’s National Sales Manager. “The convenience Account Manager provides is the real sticky factor. The ability to check stock, review pricing, customize part numbers, print bin labels, track shipments, and expedite orders has really changed the way our customers do business with us. They spend very little time on the phone looking for answers because most of the information they need is provided online. ”
Midland Metal’s president, Vince Hodes, had even more to add, saying, “We’re able to offer the 5% discount because we save on processing and mistakes. But the real value of Account Manager to us and our customers is the smoothness of the transactions. Because they can check our inventory stock in real time, we have higher fill rates. We know they’re getting the part and quantity the want because they’re entering it into our system. We worked hard to make Account Manager a tool that would make both our customers and us more efficient and more successful.”
Midland Metal is intent on positioning themselves as a resource for small to mid-size industrial distributors. They see themselves as more than a supplier of fittings and valves, but as a supplier of management and sales tools as well. Midland’s Account Manager is the central hub of these tools and, they believe, the key to driving their high online ordering adoption rates.
Midland Metal Mfg. supplies brass fittings, ball valves, steel nipples, malleable iron fittings, red brass, bronze, stainless steel and forged steel fittings and nipples, as well as flanges, hydraulic and pneumatic fittings and accessories, pressure gauges, hose clamps, and much more. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, they also have stocking locations in California, Georgia, and Texas. Led by President Vince Hodes since 1999, Midland has been family owned and operated since 1980.