Warehouse stocking distributor Orr & Orr Inc views its upgraded website as a major advantage for the small business.
Orr & Orr inventories more than 5,000 hardware and accessory stock-keeping units for specialty vehicles, including forklifts.
The ThomasNet unit of New York-based Thomas Publishing Co LLC offered to completely revamp the distributor's website.
"Now, I use it as a sales tool," says Hank Hines, president and owner of Orr & Orr, in Bedford Park. "Everything is on the website so I can get on the internet with a customer and go through the catalog for what someone wants."
Hines says website inquiries increased 500% "and stayed up there" after the revised format went live in April 2008. Website user sessions increased 81% and new online orders jumped 72% during the first five months.
Typically, about 1,000 people access the Orr & Orr website monthly with each viewer opening an average of 11 to 13 pages. "In March , we had 12,000 catalog pages viewed on the website," Hines says.
Orr & Orr continues to print catalogs because some customers prefer hard copy. But now the printing, typically 180 pages costing USD70,000 for 20,000 copies, occurs every two or three years instead of annually. To meet various customers' servicing needs, "you have to go to the highest and the lowest denominator", he says.
For internal materials handling needs, Orr & Orr operates a Clark TW 25 electric forklift with a lifting capacity of 2,500 pounds (1,125 kg) and a Genie GS-1530 self-propelled electric scissor lift with a working height of 21 feet (6.3 m) and capacity to lift 600 pounds (270 kg).
Orr & Orr was established in 1934, employs 12 people, occupies 20,000 square feet (1,800 sm) with 22-foot-(6.6-m)-high ceilings and had 2009 sales of USD2.5 million. "So far, 2010 looks great for probably USD3.4 million to USD3.5 million," Hines says. "We had our best March in two years, but I won't believe the economic trend has changed until we see improvement for four or five months in a row."
Broader sampling suggests improvement. In April, the results of a ThomasNet survey said 27% of 1,176 industrial professional respondents reported growth in their July-December 2009 business volumes, against 17% indicating growth in January to June 2009.
"The industrial marketplace is the backbone of the economy," says Linda Rigano, ThomasNet executive director of strategic services. "What are these companies doing right? The internet is the difference."
The ThomasNet industry market barometer survey said 36% of the firms were selling into new industries and 33% were introducing new products or services.
"With the internet, a company can leverage the playing field, have a better educated buyer and compete with the big boys," says Donna Cicale, ThomasNet director of marketing communications. "Their return on investment is greater."
Hines affirms the internet's value: "If you do not have a good viable website today, you are not going to be in business for long."