U.S. Plastic’s Web Overhaul Boosts Sales

Little things can mean a lot. In the case of United States Plastic Corp. (USP), adding content and a few value-added services to its Websites has doubled the online sales of the Lima, OH-based company, which markets industrial and commercial plastic products.

In January 2001, USP began work on overhauling both its namesake Website and that of its Industrial Lab Safety catalog, which sells items such as spill containment drums and protective gloves. The sites were relaunched in September 2001.

In addition to the product copy that appears in the print catalogs, the Websites now have more in-depth descriptions as well, says marketing director Kevin Kempton. More important, addressing customer convenience, features such as customer order history, recently viewed products, and live chat were added with the help of Findlay, OH-based Web content development company Aardvark.

USP also added technology that allows customers to check on the shipping status of the orders. Other value-added enhancements include PDFs with manufacturing instructions for display at a customer’s business as mandated by OSHA. “These instructions, called MSDS sheets, can be downloaded from our site, making it easy for customers to properly label equipment with instructions, especially safety products such as eyewash centers,” Kempton explains.

USP would not specify the total cost to overhaul its Website, but Aardvark’s chief sales and marketing officer, Sean Burke, says that USP achieved a return on investment within one year. In addition, the site exceeded its yearly sales goals, meeting them in October 2002, two months ahead of schedule.

More-prosperous prospecting

Like its Web sales, USP’s customer acquisition rate has doubled since the sites were revamped. Part of its success resulted from the company’s decision to register keywords with various search engines. The best form of Web advertising has been paid b-to-b listings on Web directories such as Thomas Register, Kempton says. To pay for the online advertising, USP reduced last year’s catalog circulation of 3.5 million by a few hundred thousand and reallocated the money.

The Web has enabled USP to reach “new categories of customers that were hard to find with the catalogs,” Kempton says. “We have military and government workers that are hard to target due to the mail being filtered through the mailroom.”

Still, Kempton says, “the primary driver to the Web is the print catalog.” In fact, the catalog still accounts for 85% of USP’s sales. The company typically mails about 55% of its catalogs to prospects, and though Kempton would not reveal specific conversion rates, he says that they “run close to industry standards of about 1%-1.5%.”

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