Orgill Inc. successfully concluded its Spring Online Buying Event, where it saw strong participation and set sales records, while rolling out a series of enhancements that made the two-week virtual event more intuitive and user-friendly for both exhibitors and retailers.
“We are pleased with customers’ response to our second Online Buying Event, which was highly attended and drove record sales. We learned a lot from our first event last fall and our team and vendors incorporated some great improvements into this event designed to make ‘working the show’ as easy and efficient as possible,” says Boyden Moore, Orgill president and CEO.
Preliminary results for the show, which took place February 8-19, indicate that more than 9,200 retailers attended the Spring Online Buying Event, and sales during the buying window topped those posted during the fall show and set another new record for Orgill markets. In all, nearly 1,000 vendors participated in the event offering retailers special buys, unveiling new products and helping retailers prepare for the upcoming selling season.
“I think that the success of this event is a reflection of not only the strength of the industry right now, but also that retailers are more and more comfortable doing business in this new online environment,” Moore says. “Last year, we made the announcement that we were shifting our approach to dealer markets and that online events would become an integral part of our plans for shows going forward, even when we can gather in person. The results of this event clearly suggest that this is the right path.”
Although Orgill’s first Online Buying Event last August was a resounding success in terms of sales and attendance, the distributor worked closely with both retailers and vendors to determine ways to incrementally improve the user experience, according to Greg Stine, Orgill’s executive vice president of marketing and communications.
“After the first show, we knew we got a lot of things right, but we also wanted to learn from that first event and find ways that we could continue to evolve and be responsive to the needs of our customers and vendors,” Stine says. “We think that evolution was apparent in some of the features in the Spring Online Buying Event that were a direct result of participant feedback.”
Some of the enhancements made to the Spring Online Buying Event included features such as more streamlined communication options for attendees to interact with vendors, adding functionality that allowed retailers with multiple stores to process orders more easily and enhanced drop-ship purchase capabilities.
Another new feature added for attendees at the Spring Online Buying Event was the ability to run an EDGE Buying Report. The EDGE Report allows users to easily compare their purchase history alongside all the programs and specials available during the Online Buying Event to help them more easily take advantage of the special buying opportunities most relevant to their businesses.
“I definitely think they made some big improvements over the first online event,” says Dan West, brand manager at Parkrose Hardware, which has five locations based in Oregon. “The ability for us to order for multiple stores was a lot easier this time, and that’s a big deal for us. I also think the overall interaction with vendors was a lot easier because everyone was just more familiar with the way the system works.”
Misty Stenger of Lumber Direct in Greencastle, Pa., also felt that it was easier for her and her team to accomplish what they needed at the Spring Online Buying Event. “I am really pleased with what Orgill has done. I certainly miss going to the live shows, but there are also things you can do during the Online Buying Event that you couldn’t at a regular show. There is a certain convenience to sitting in your office and being right next to your POS terminal, or being able to run down to your sales floor to look at things while you are browsing the show,” Stenger says. “There were five of us working the show and it seemed to be a lot easier for us than at the first Online Buying Event. Part of that is because we are more familiar with how it works, but we also appreciate the enhancements Orgill made.”
These kinds of user-focused enhancements are all part of Orgill’s commitment to listen to feedback from vendors and retailers and use these insights to make their services more efficient and useful.
“We want to hear feedback, both good and bad, because it allows us to learn and grow,” says Marc Hamer, Orgill’s executive vice president and chief information and technology officer. “The success of these events, and honestly everything we do at Orgill, is built around us being responsive to our customers’ needs and finding ways we can harness assets like technology to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
As with most buying events, attendees were not only looking for ease of use but were also in the market for promotional buys, new products and special deals, and there was no shortage of these during the Spring Online Buying Event.
“The vendors we work with know what our customers expect from either a live event or an online one,” says Jeff Curler, Orgill’s senior vice president of purchasing. “They all know that our customers expect to be able to take advantage of these events to stock up on products, discover new merchandise and access industry-leading deals,” he says.
For Darrell Baker, vice president of branch operations at Koopman Lumber in Massachusetts, the Online Buying Event delivered on all fronts. “I think Orgill has done an amazing job migrating the event to the online platform,” Baker says. “There are tons of great resources and the easy access to vendor reps through Zoom or email is a plus. The warehouse programs are excellent and easy to access, and the Door Buster booking program continues to be a great resource for planning our promotional year.”
Outside of delivering on streamlined ordering, communications and special buying opportunities, another example of harnessing technology to meet customer needs was also evident in Orgill’s launch of its Distance Learning Series, which was held January 11-25. This three-week event led up to the Online Buying Event as a way to deliver customers a range of learning-focused content in a virtual environment.
The Distance Learning Series offered retailers the opportunity to select from a wide range of live webinars from Orgill and industry experts. During the two-week window, Orgill offered more than 30 seminar sessions, all of which are now available as video replays to customers on Orgill.com.
“We know that our customers see a great deal of value in the seminars and learning sessions that normally take place during the live Dealer Markets,” says Jordan Hughes, Orgill’s marketing and advertising manager. “We didn’t want them to miss out on this kind of experience in between our live shows, so we launched our first Distance Learning Series,” he adds. “Based on the interest we got, and the amount of registrations we saw for the online sessions, it was clear that this was an enhancement our customers were looking for.”
In total, Orgill had more than 3,000 registrations for the Distance Learning Series sessions. While the first round of Distance Learning Sessions took place in January, Orgill plans to offer these sessions each month, according to Hughes. “We will be offering this Distance Learning Series during the last full week of each month moving forward and featuring a variety of valuable content for our customers,” he says. “This is a great example of how we can offer even greater access to information and content by utilizing the technology solutions we have available to us.”
While Hughes says that live seminars and learning sessions will continue to play a big part in future live Dealer Markets, the Distance Learning Series will offer access to enhanced content on an ongoing basis. “Technology allows us to offer access to this kind of information and content on a more regular basis than just during our live Dealer Markets, so we see this as a great opportunity to share information with our customers,” he says.
Orgill’s next Dealer Market is scheduled to take place in Chicago on August 26-28. For more information, visit www.Orgill.com.