Hardware & Appliances
How Baker Distributing Company Created a Cool B2B Experience
B2B eCommerce is a breeze with Magento
Founded in 1945, Baker Distributing Company specializes in the sales and distribution of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment. They also provide equipment for refrigeration, food services, and parts and supplies for residential, commercial, and marine applications. A member of the Watsco family, they boast over 200 locations in 22 American states, and each Baker Distributing Sales Center is staffed by the most knowledgeable, customer service-oriented people in the industry.
Baker’s B2B buyers are professional HVAC/R Contractors in the residential and light commercial markets. They service the southern United States from the East to the West Coast. Baker had grown their successful online platform, bakerdist.com, on Magento Commerce 1, but wanted to reduce customer friction by further streamlining their unique purchasing model. They required a system that was robust, yet still allowed for customizations.
Their solution partner, Perficient, recommended Magento Commerce 2. “The ability to extend the Magento platform was at the heart of our decision to form the long-term partnership we enjoy with Magento,” said Mitchell Cowie, Director of Development, Baker Distributing Company.
Our partnership with Magento has allowed Baker Distributing Company to build a world class online extension of our 74-year-old business. We are excited by the continuing commitment to innovation at Magento that will allow us to push the boundaries of the digital B2B experience.Terry Taber
Director of eCommerce, Baker Distributing Company
A breath of fresh air
“For most B2B companies in the construction space, the digitization process began and ended with migrating their print catalog online,” explained Terry Taber, Director of eCommerce. “For Baker Distributing we look at digitization through the eyes of our customer. We realize our customer is visiting our site because they have a job to do. It’s our job to streamline their processes, give them time back to take on more work, exceed their own customers’ expectations, or spend more time with their families. That’s why we continue to innovate.”
Integration to their AS/400 based ERP was via a customized in-house API server, designed to deliver real-time pricing for Baker customers, alongside real-time inventory from their 200+ branch locations. Magento also plays nicely with their PIM to allow Baker to grow their online product base and allow for up-to-the-minute product updates.
Next they started to enhance their UX, by focusing on Material Design principles. They envisioned an appealing, structured, and consistent overall look to the entire site. This would “strike a balance between an aesthetically pleasing functional site and the needs of the B2B customer for a frictionless, efficient purchasing experience,” said Cowie.
They used a third-generation search engine to provide personalized experiences in both search results and the standard category pages. The engine bases its search results on a number of proprietary formulas but includes metrics such as regional and national product sales volumes, stocking status and availability, customer engagement, and customer segmentation. The result is the fast discovery of the right motor, at the proper price, available now at the customers’ preferred Baker store. Today, Baker’s new B2B website features a modified ERP-focused quoting process, while the customer search and product browse experience is powered by localized stocking and sales levels, and defined by customer segment.
The biggest benefit of Magento Commerce 2 is the new B2B module. Its features formed the basis of Baker’s requisition lists, quoting system, customer account structure, and authorization system. Meanwhile, their Baker StockPro program leverages their iOS/Android native mobile apps to empower warehouse stock replenishment, inventory management, and optimized purchasing while on the go. Customers can also track their purchase orders with Baker, other Watsco distributors, and third-party distributors. The result is a single source of truth for all stock and order information – and thanks to Magento, it’s all self-serve.
If a customer needs an invoice, they can find it online. If they need to check the balance on their account, its online. Meanwhile their internal ordering system helps Baker handle orders through emails, PDFs, or however the customer prefers. If a customer needs an outdoor air-conditioning unit fast, they can order it online and take advantage of express pickup. With a customized checkout, the cart also remembers user’s buyer profile, minimizing input for repeat purchases.
Baker is also leveraging the power of PWA for their catalog navigation, to deliver extremely fast navigation of product listing pages and search results. And if a customer needs a part Baker doesn’t stock, they can just create a quote for the customer to review and purchase online. “The ability to quote out jobs and negotiate pricing is paramount to our industry,” said Cowie. “We’ve integrated that process within our website, enabling customers to receive, review, and convert quotes online.” With a Purchase Approval Flow Messaging feature, buyers with a question can ask a technician, and Baker can review a track record of the decisions that support the decision-making process.
Early signs of success
After a discovery period and implementation, the new store launched in February of 2019. This was achieved while still improving the features and maintaining their successful Magento Commerce 1 platform. “Our digitization journey continues to be more than our need to show a product catalog online,” said Taber. “We realize that digital experiences can be much more, and bakerdist.com is just another critical component in the innovative way our customers do business with Baker.”
To achieve their goal of a seamless migration, Baker engaged with the Magento Expert Consulting Group (ECG). The ECG acted as a consultative partner and was key to helping to guide Baker’s in-house team, and Perficient’s development team, to pull off a perfect migration. “The end result was a successful migration to a higher performing site that has been structured as the foundation for future innovation, including PWAs,” added Cowie.
“As we built on top of the Magento framework we engaged with the Magento PWA team. This effort helped us to steer our UI decision-making and prepare the implementation for migration to future versions of Magento Commerce,” added Cowie. “While it is still early, many of our initial numbers are positive. Our site performance has drastically increased. Customer feedback has been positive, with a great receptiveness to our new, streamlined checkout flow. We are seeing many positive indicators related to sales and performance, we are excited about continuing to build on top of this strong foundation.”