eSupply.com: A Diamond in the Ruff18 Jul, 2001 By: Brent Winder imageSource
eSupply.com: A Diamond in the Ruff
A few months ago, after searching the web to find some good websites to profile for this magazine, I became very frustrated by the poor quality of most imaging supply sites out there. Too many of them looked like they were thrown together by my grandmother, who has never turned on a computer in her life! No offense Granny…Often, a poor web presence is worse than not having a presence on the web at all.
Through literally hours of searching several search engines, one site kept resurfacing that I really liked. Through further research and communication with this company via email, I have truly located a ‘Diamond in the Ruff’. OnlineSupply.com exemplifies everything needed for a great web presence for an already existing “Brick and Mortar” type of company. Take a look with me and you will see what makes this company so successful.
Meet Tom Kubiniec, owner and found of OnlineSupply.com. Born in New York, this enthusiastic entrepreneur came out to California to pursue a career as a guitarist in 1998, a far cry from where he would end up today. A bad case of tendonitis ended this idea, and forced him to take a job as a telemarketer for a printer and ribbon supply company. In 1988, he started up an imaging supply company with two other partners. This lasted seven years until 1995, at which time when he sold his interest in this company to start Greenline Data, the “Brick and Mortar” portion of his business today.
Surprised by the lackluster quality and poor navigation of most computer and imaging supply websites on the web, he decided to launch OnlineSupply.com in 1998. At first, it was a very simple site due to their lack of knowledge about web marketing. At this point, they had a goal in mind. Their goal was to give people a fast and economical experience for ordering imaging supplies over the web. Tom became frustrated with trying to convey his ideas to a web developer, so he began learning HTML. He hired people to handle most of his day-to-day tasks, so he can spend time developing the site. This portion of their business has grown astronomically and now comprises over 30% of their total sales and is the fastest growing area in their business. Further investigation of this company will show why this portion of their business is growing so fast.
Superior Navigation and Graphical Interface
Go to www.OnlineSupply.com when you get a chance. The first thing you will notice is that nothing jumps out at you to bite you on the nose. You will not see any scrolling or flashing text, no goofy clipart, no web counter and yes my friends, no music! Tom uses just the right amount of graphics and text to make it easy on the eyes. It just looks professional. Customers notice this when they come to the site. People are more likely to purchase a product over the web if the company they are purchasing from looks like it is a professional company. You get the feeling that this company knows what they are doing just from the first glance of the website.
One of Tom’s goals for this site is that a customer should be able to find any item they need within three clicks. Everything is easily accessible from the home page. Throughout the site, the top navigation stays the same to help you get to the important areas of the site. One portion I thought was really cool is the ‘My Supplies’ section. This section allows a customer to build a customized ‘shopping list’. This compiles a list of all the products they use. This makes reordering an easy task and keeps customers coming back repeatedly.
Excellent Customer Support
Something I noticed about this site is that their 800 number is posted at the top of every single page. This is a great idea! Head over to eBay or Amazon and try to find their 800 listed. You cannot find it anywhere! In fact, you cannot find a telephone number at all. Most websites are like that because they frankly do not want you to call them. Email support is becoming increasingly common, so it is refreshing to see a company that proudly displays the 800 number for their customers to call.
When a customer calls, the call is answered within three rings by a fully trained sales and service rep. This rep can answer questions, take orders, or help the customer to navigate the site so they can find what they need. To keep everything running smoothly, this requires twelve experienced sales reps and an apprentice program to train new reps; their goal is to add three to four new sales reps every year. Once an order is taken, the products are shipped from 37 different locations throughout the country. This allows fast, cost effective delivery.
Too often when you sign up for a mailing list at a website, you are bombarded with emails about products from Computers to Viagra (just to name a few of the emails I have received today!) however with OnlineSupply.com customers can subscribe to a sales notice list. Customers receive an email notice when one of the items they have selected goes on sale. Their customers typically receive 1-3 emails per quarter. These are focused on products they use, not on products they will not use (at least I hope I don’t need Viagra…I’m only 30 years old!). The savings can be fantastic and customers will not get sick of the constant barrage of email.
Detailed Focus on Different Areas of Business
In July of 2000, Greenline launched ‘The OnlineSupply Network’. This consists of a network of 15 different websites, each focusing on a different area of their supply business. The buyer for a large data center is very different than one for a small insurance office. This allows them to present information specifically to meet customer needs.
Attracting New Customers
It’s one thing to build a great website, but it’s another to get potential customers to come to your website. The quote from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ (a great movie…if you haven’t seen it, go rent it); you know the one where the guy builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield because he hears a voice saying, ‘If you build it, they will come’. If you build a website, people will not come unless you find a way to attract them to it. It is like opening a store in a remote region nobody knows about. Every once in a while, someone may stumble across your store, but realistically, nobody would come to your store unless you build a road to it and then put up some billboards and other forms of advertisement so people will know about it. A website can sit dormant if you don’t somehow let people know about it.
OnlineSupply.com attracts customers with paid advertising with Goto.com and google.com. This doesn’t require much money, but at least lets people know about the site. They try to focus on specific areas where they can affordably advertise. Every email I received from Tom had a small graphic that linked to their website. Out of curiosity, people are going to click on that all the time. Another way is to improve their placement in the search engines. This requires constant revisions in order to see improvement in this area, and it has proven effective for them. Their number of daily visitors has increased 300% in the past 4 months. This equals increased sales. The more people you can attract to your site, the better the chance is that they will purchase something from you.
Wrapping it up…
OnlineSupply.com is a great website and truly is a ‘Diamond in the Ruff’. Take a look at it when you get a chance. The mission of the company behind the website is what makes it tick though, ‘building a successful site is no easy task and is really a business in itself”. OnlineSupply.com has been successful at this because of the dedication of its owner and employees to bring great customer service and a great product with competitive pricing. They are constantly finding ways to bring potential customers to their site, as well as providing great service to keep existing customers. These qualities will help ensure that ‘The OnlineSupply Network’ will be around for a long time.