Sometimes Good Isn't Great

The B2B eCommerce landscape is changing rapidly and to this end, it’s key to identify best practices and how they are playing out in the real world. Insite Software customer Great Northern had an existing ecommerce site, which by all rights was phenomenally successful - but the company wasn’t content to rest on its laurels. Leveraging the "Voice of the Customer" and analytics, they recently launched a new site that offers enhanced usability and engagement to address the needs of its market, which has been rewarded with an increase in online orders by 30%.  Industrial Distribution had the chance to speak with Matt Ruggle, the marketing and ecommerce manager at Great Norther Corporation, about the new site and how it is making a difference in their ecommerce strategy.

ID: With a successful ecommerce site already in operation, what prompted you to revamp the site in the first place?

Matt Ruggle: We really thought the original website was ahead of its time, from a design and usability standpoint. It was effective for about six years, which seems like forever in website time. With what we learned, speaking directly to our customers and using site analytics, we felt that the improvements would really help our users have a better experience on the site. There were also some SEO and site architecture improvements we wanted to implement.

ID: Since the launch of the new site, you have seen an increase of 30% in online orders. What feature do you most attribute that improvement to?

Ruggle: Actually it was a 30% increase in online conversions. We have two types of primary conversions for online purchases and leads that are taken over the phone or by email. We increased our conversion rate for both types, and we primarily attribute that to a better user experience, including more educational material on the site that helps our clients who don't have an extensive understanding of the exciting world of custom shipping boxes.

ID: What other features have been beneficial in boosting the numbers? Why do you feel they make such a big difference compared to the old site?

Ruggle: Small things such as allowing the user to calculate their shipping costs instantly on the first page (instead of waiting until they get into the shopping cart) increased transparency for buyers. As with most current-day B2B buyers, our customers are very busy, and the more clear we can be about our product offering and service level, the easier it is for them to make an informed buying decision. Another seemingly small change was image placement, specifically our call-to-action buttons. We learned via on-screen click tracking and A/B testing how people used the old site, and tried to incorporate that information into improving our image placement, in turn improving our conversion rates.

ID: What led you to choose Insite for your ecommerce platform?

Ruggle: Since we have worked with Insite Software for over six years on multiple projects, we knew the company’s expertise and technical ability are high. We also knew we could rely on them to complete projects on time and within budget. From a technical standpoint, they were able to develop our custom box configurator that mirrors many business rules within our ERP system. They tied that into their InsiteCommerce tool to give us content flexibility that we require. Strategically, we look to Insite as a partner, not just a vendor, for their vision within the B2B ecommerce space.

ID: After discovering that 85 percent of orders were from first-time buyers, Great Northern introduced new educational content designed to help educate and inform to assist with purchasing decisions on the site itself – what kinds of educational content did you create? How successful do you think the content has been in creating repeat customers?

Ruggle: Our "Help Center" ( provides information for a wide spectrum of users, from those who have never purchased a shipping box before to an experienced buyer with printing expertise. We also improved our "Box Examples" ( section allows site users to visualize how their custom printed boxes could look. Our new blog is also an expansion of box ideas and resources, again in an attempt to educate our customers and prospects.

We have seen a great response to this educational material - our "Box Examples" page is the second-most popular page on our site and helps our users communicate their needs more clearly. Our customer service team has reported that since the new site has launched, our first-time callers have been much more prepared to discuss their custom box needs because of what they have already learned on the website, which we view as a great step.