Hardware & Building Traders (HBT) is a buying group created for independent timber, hardware, garden and building supplies retailers. With over 650 members HBT focus on supporting and collaborating with them to keep the independent market going strong in Australia. HBT are focused on building membership and creating relationships with suppliers to drive better deals for members.
As a buying group HBT could see the timber, hardware, garden and building supplies industries were starting to change. It was a change that was taking hold in other industries as well and if they didn’t alert members, and help them move with the changes everyone would fall behind. We’re talking about eCommerce. Online stores, online catalogues, online shopping research, it was creeping in and retailers weren’t sure what to make of it.
As HBT’s focus is to help independent retailers it seemed a natural progression to lead the way into an eCommerce platform. Some members had started to think about “going online” but for other’s it was a scary place and they lacked the know how to make it happen. With a geographically and demographically diverse membership base with tens of thousands of products this was going to be a challenge. HBT don’t store or manage any product data for their members so the process had to be a partnership with someone who could help and understand the diverse needs of each independent retailer as well.
Our members know things are changing but they lack the skills to do it and keep up. – Aimee Innes Manager Member Services.
This is where the Vesta and HBT partnership began. The industry had been burnt with product data platforms in the past so it was a big step to take it on with a fresh approach. One of the key reasons HBT felt Vesta was the right product for them was the upfront, clear pricing that meant they could be confident the cost to Suppliers was fair. Vesta was a stable but innovative platform that had everything they needed to create a path to eCommerce for members.
Getting down to it
HBT and Vesta collaborated on a catalogue style showcase of products that would give members real time, up to date and complete product information across the network. The purpose of Product Directory was to bring all Supplier information into one place so members could not only access information they already knew about but also educate and expose members to an even wider range of products than they knew existed.
Vesta assisted with the onboarding of Suppliers through various channels including direct phone calls, live chat and email assistance. This service allowed HBT to continue to focus on their core business while also letting members know about the imminent launch of Product Directory. The Vesta team were available to work directly with Suppliers who wanted to know more about how it all worked and how they could use the Vesta platform to leverage their own efficiencies as well.
Using Vesta was a great choice for HBT who, as a small business, don’t have the manpower to try and obtain product data from every Supplier. It also meant Suppliers and members didn’t have to try and build in house systems but could rather use their resource on creating efficiencies and revenue gains from the data instead of collecting it. Sharing and storing product data through Vesta means there is consistent information and the information sharing process is easy for Retailers and Suppliers. It made the transition to the online world that much easier by centralizing product data.
Another challenge for HBT Suppliers was having multiple systems to maintain for product data. Traditionally larger Retailers build their own systems and therefore Suppliers are expected to maintain their data in every system. HBT saw using Vesta as a way to combat this frustration as Suppliers only have to upload and maintain data in one source but can share with HBT members and other Retailers that are using the Vesta portal. It meant HBT could help Suppliers contribute to something greater and use less resource to maintain data.
The final product, HBT Product Directory was launched in June 2017 and had immense interest at the annual HBT conference. The Vesta and VTH team set up demo stations where members could check out how Product Directory works and ask any questions. This conference, and the buzz created in the Vesta room was a highlight for both HBT and the Vesta team. The conference was the first time members had seen Product Directory and it was very clear by the reactions and enthusiasm that we were on the right track.
Loved seeing members pick up Product Directory, have a play with it and have that “ah ha” moment – Aimee Innes HBT Manager Member Services.
One of the interesting things to come out of the project for HBT was the realization of how big the problem was. It was clear once we embarked on creating and launching Product Directory that members just weren’t aware of the shift in the market towards online, and they weren’t equipped for it. That’s where Product Directory was such a good step because it introduces them to online, and because the Vesta platform is so easy to use they’ll be able to realize the value quickly.
How’s it all going now
Members now have access to a huge number of products in one easy to find place and they don’t have to dig around paper catalogues, USB files or phoning various Suppliers to see if something is available. Searching and accessing products has been transformed for members with the most relevant product information right in front of them on a screen. Retailers are now aware of the wide range of products offered by their preferred Suppliers, and others in the network.
Word is getting about how great Product Directory is and Suppliers who were slower to get on board are realizing what they are missing out on and are getting their products loaded. The more Suppliers that share their product information, the richer Product Directory becomes and the value for the whole network grows exponentially. Some Suppliers have really embraced having their product data online and are taking it a step further in moving their entire product database to Vesta.
With significant growth in HBT Group membership the platform is expected to grow rapidly over the next 12 months. HBT envisage Product Directory to take hold and lead the industry into the online world. With big changes coming in the eCommerce space for Australia having Product Directory implemented and imbedded already means it can only improve. Members will be logging in more frequently, doing more business through the platform and improving their own efficiencies as time goes on.
Vesta and HBT will continue to work to improve the platform as membership grows and needs change to build an industry leading tool for members.
The bigger picture
Working with Vesta to develop their own Product Directory has opened the door for more partnerships and innovative solutions for HBT. Now that HBT Product Directory is in action, one other partner that has connected with HBT members is VTH. VTH has been able to connect with HBT members with through creating online stores that pull product data straight from Vesta Central. For HBT members this means they know any product range or supplier they find in Product Directory can quickly and easily be taken online by working with VTH. Without having to source product data from each supplier, this low hassle solution has meant more time and resource can be spent on developing the online store and complementary technology such as in store touch screen kiosks that allow customers to search full product ranges on the spot.