Can you give some background on your role at TIMCO and your experience?
I’m responsible for the overall marketing function at TIMCO which ranges from driving our marketing strategy and how this supports the overall business plan, to coordinating print, packaging and POS with our in-house graphics team along with trade events, internal communications and our digital activities. I’ve previously worked at B&M, Morrisons and Asda where I undertook a number of management roles across Marketing, PR and Internal Communications.
What are the specific challenges and needs of your customers?
Our customers are mostly independent builders merchants. We have about 4,500 currently and it’s safe to say most of them are experts in all things to do with construction but not necessarily marketing and digital! As a result we see our key departments such as marketing, IT and purchasing as an extension to their businesses. We provide our expertise and knowledge to support them, to help them grow their businesses which ultimately helps them to sell more of our products too. It’s also safe to say that the building trade has traditionally been slow to adapt, however the disruption of the last 18 months has necessitated urgent change just to survive. So we’ve focused specifically on supporting the shift to online. B2B end users now have an expectation that their consumer experience and their delivery expectations should be as good as Amazon in every industry including ours! We’ve had to respond accordingly, for example; our customers can place an order up until 5pm for next day and direct to site deliveries.
How has user experience in the new website helped?
Online has grown exponentially over the last twelve months with COVID-19 accelerating the shift to online ordering significantly. Fortunately we’d already relaunched our website in 2019 with the current version, designed and developed by bd2. The site has been specifically designed for a B2B audience and is continuously developed with recent enhancements such as out of stock alternatives, related products and volume discounts dramatically benefiting the experience. These have added to features like quick shop, my saved lists and account management all of which have driven adoption and we’ve seen web orders reach over 50% of all orders placed, which is a key target for us.
We receive lots of positive feedback about the website but our aim is simple: to have the best B2B website in the industry.
So it’s more efficient than the previous solution?
Prior to 2019, we had a Magento platform with an atypical hierarchical catalogue structure which was very ‘clunky’ and ponderous to use. Basically, there were too many clicks back and forth, especially when creating a large order which most of our customers do, so they found it very frustrating. In partnership with bd2, we made the decision to create a bespoke platform which is more agile, flexible and the user experience bd2 developed is much quicker and way more user friendly than the previous platform.
What other features and functionality have bd2 developed for you?
TIMCO and bd2 have a pipeline of activity which sees continual improvements to the functionality of the site, the user journey and experience. One of the bigger recent enhancements was the development of a new discounting engine to provide quantity breakpoints and multiple order discounts. It was a complex piece of work but the importance to our users is huge and it’s driven up order values significantly. It was the biggest project of 2021 so far but I’d have to say bd2 handled it really well, both the development work and the implementation which was very smooth. Other features include ‘lists’ which is a very useful tool for repeat orders as users can create, save, retrieve and edit lists rather than keying-in from scratch. We’ve improved deliveries with premium and plain cover/drop shipping to the end user. We’ve added stock watch, ‘back in stock’ alerts and alternatives/related products when items are out of stock. There is a very comprehensive user accounts section which allows users to access open orders, past orders, invoices and their accounts. The current priority is enhancing site performance, which is largely driven by the increased traffic, we’re looking to future proof the website as well as improving loading times.
These features effectively allow customers to self-service, what benefits does this have?
Primarily it’s made the sale process much more efficient, but we’ve also seen benefits in customer support and fulfilment. Previously customers would call us with stock, price and account enquiries but all this data is now available online which has led to massive savings in man hours. The site is integrated with our Sage X3 ERP so web orders are migrated directly to the warehouse for fulfilment and orders are entered by customers, not over the phone or by transcribing faxes, so they’re much more accurate.
The site integrates with your Sage X3 ERP, Goldvision CRM and PIM server, what benefits does this bring?
It means that everything’s automated basically. So the site shows live stock data, it provides access to live customer accounts and enables customer specific pricing - which is key for us. The PIM houses all our product data which is shared across all systems so you only need to update once, which is incredibly efficient.
What impact has the site had on sales and telesales?
This automation allows our internal sales team to focus more on providing product advice, sharing their knowledge and creating quotes to both existing and prospective customers, rather than just dealing with stock or price enquiries. And it allows our external sales team to focus on building customer relationships, to provide support with merchandising and product launches. We call it the ‘TIMCO ‘Hug’ which is all about providing expert knowledge and industry leading support which is really helping to grow our customer base.
What impact has the site had on the business?
The main impact has been on our online sales growth. The old Magento site was handling less than 10% of our overall sales, it’s now over 50%. Moving more customers to online ordering has been a key strategic focus for the business. As well as the increase in sales we’ve seen significant cost savings through the efficiencies of self-service. We’ve saved huge numbers of man hours - an unquantifiable but significant benefit. It’s evident that the pandemic has increased the ‘take up’ to online. This transition was happening but the pace has certainly quickened! The website is now an integral part of our all-round offering and a real point of difference to our competitors. Hitting the 50% target was a big achievement but we’re looking to continue to this growth over the next 12 months and beyond.
How does bd2 support TIMCO?
From a marketing perspective, we only work with one external ‘partner’ – which is bd2. And partner is the correct term; we work collaboratively with bd2 to agree continuous developments within a rolling and prioritised activity plan. We look to bd2 as the experts in their field and there’s a constant dialogue between our marketing, design and IT teams and theirs. This is two-way; as well as dealing with our requests they give pro-active advice, ideas and suggestions. As mentioned, site performance and the move to load balancing is a big project at the moment, so there’s been lots of discussion with the solution led by bd2. But they also float ideas such as a new marketing resources area for our customers with a tool to edit and customise collateral. They are always responsive - at the end of the day it’s a pretty complex solution, so there are inevitably occasional issues - but they’re quick to address anything and Jon, our dedicated Project Manager, always keeps us informed. I’ve found bd2 take a very flexible approach; we have a monthly ‘Flexsmart’ package which covers support and continuous development which gives us a pot of time to use as we want. We have complete visibility and control.
How would you describe the working relationships?
We speak pretty much on a daily basis with ongoing project management integral to the success of this relationship as well as the website, bd2 has built up a great understanding of our business and what we need. They are responsive with services and advice. The cross-function working between company’s teams, technical and marketing also helps.
What plans are in the pipeline to enhance the platform?
Site performance is our current priority and bd2 is managing a big hosting upgrade for us with a move to load balanced servers, to support our traffic and usage growth. Related products, stock watch enhancements and further user experience developments will all be delivered this year. Personally, I’m excited by the new marketing hub section we’re scoping to support our customers by providing access to our marketing materials. This will bring efficiencies, as we currently print and post a lot of collateral, but will also give them the ability to create co-branded marketing assets.
Would you recommend bd2?
bd2 have provided an unrivalled level of support and have been integral to the recent growth of the TIMCO website. Their expertise and knowledge has provided great insight as well as results; helping to make TIMCO the number one B2B website in its industry.