How Kennards and Magento Re-Tooled Australia’s Equipment Hire Business

Kennards Hire needed to bring its 70-year-old business into the future.

Over 68 years ago, long before the Internet even existed, Walter Kennard was the proud owner of a small Australian machinery business, W. Kennard & Company. Kennard sold machinery to customers from his shop in the small town of Bathurst, 124 miles west of Sydney. That was until one customer asked a question that would change Kennard’s business forever. He asked if he could borrow a concrete mixer, instead of buying one.

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“I won’t lend it to you,” Kennard said, “but I'll hire it to you.” 

Fast forward to 2016, and Kennards Hire is one of the biggest players in the equipment hire market in Australia and New Zealand, with 162 branches and 1,100 employees. But the company knew it needed to transform the business away from the slow, old-fashioned process of equipment rental. Because in the Internet age, who wants to fill out a paper form?

Kennards searched the global equipment hire market to see who was leading the way in eCommerce. But they quickly realized they’d have to invent what they needed—become a trailblazer. They needed a platform that was flexible enough to integrate hundreds of physical stores, yet robust enough to support a bold new digital vision. Kennards’ dream was a ‘click and collect’ online tool hire site that would unite a customer with a concrete mixer at the press of a button. For the second time in its history, Kennards revolutionized the way they did business.

Kennard’s is now an eCommerce company. Who would have thought that?

Theo Triantafillides

Chief Commercial Officer, Kennard’s Hire

Magento integrated hundreds of physical stores with a robust commerce platform.

On the old Kennard’s website, customers couldn’t hire tools. Instead, Kennards imagined a commerce platform that could allow its customers to select their region, pick a demolition saw or industrial vacuum cleaner, order online and pick up at a local store (or have it delivered to their construction site). The website also needed to function for a variety of business customer types as well as ordinary folk working on DIY projects. From a technology standpoint, the biggest challenge was integrating Kennards’ hundreds of stores and location-specific product inventory to make the platform a truly omnichannel experience. 

Kennards chose Magento Enterprise Solution partner eWave to realize their vision. “This was new ground for them,” explains Nick Hull, Manager of Strategic Accounts and Partnerships at eWave Commerce. “Kennards are a family-run business that goes back three generations. They believe in trust, honesty—when they choose a company to do business with, they want to work with them for twenty years.” But most importantly, Kennards’ vision required a certain flexibility that no other commerce platform could provide. “When Kennards asked what platform they should consider, the answer was simple, it was Magento,” adds Nick. Bringing a historic brand into the digital age was just the kind of challenge Magento loves.

The flexibility and openness of the Magento platform was essential to the project because Kennards wanted to develop a number of integrations to proprietary systems to create a unique customer experience. Kennards commercial customers don’t make purchases, they enter a contractual hire agreement. So on the website, orders are replaced with contract periods. This was a serious customization. Using Magento Commerce, the platform allowed all customers to easily pay invoices and reorder the equipment they need regularly while also seamlessly integrating contract pricing terms.  

Magento powered Kennards Hire to create Australia’s first ‘live hire’ site.

After a four-month beta period, the new Kennard’s website launched in June 2016. It was the first ‘live hire’ site available to the Australian and New Zealand market, and industry-changing in its scope. Today, customers can select a ride-on lawnmower or forklift from any device, from any work site location. The equipment is then ready for pickup at a local branch, or even delivered onsite—with no paper forms to fill in. In fact, all the boring stuff is now a breeze, with online payments, invoices, credit notes, and statements. 

The first thing a customer does is enter their post code. This allows Kennards to showcase available product inventory per store location in real time.

“The fundamentals of our business are customer service and a full-range of equipment. That’s what makes Kennards what it is today,” says Bill Whitehouse, Chief Operating Officer of Kennards Hire. “Now we’re able to capture all that and deliver it into a website environment. The same fundamentals of business apply, but we’re now delivering it through a different platform – which is fantastic.”

The results speak for themselves: Kennard’s customers made 150 hires in the first 30 days. Those are numbers that would make Walter Kennard proud.

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