MEMPHIS -- Orgill, Inc. just completed its first-ever e-Volution Online Buying Event, which brought nearly ten thousand retailers together with many of the industry's top vendors and service providers in a completely virtual environment.
The e-Volution Online Buying Event ran from Aug. 24 through Sept. 4 and was open to Orgill's entire retail customer base, enabling them to take advantage of promotional buying opportunities, shop for seasonal merchandise and browse through thousands of new products without ever having to leave their stores.
"Because this is the first time we have ever held an event like this, we weren't quite sure what to expect," says Boyden Moore, Orgill's president and CEO. "Now that it's over, I can say that we couldn't be more pleased with the results. While we knew this event could not replace the entire live Orgill Dealer Market experience, based on the results, it was clear that customers and vendors embraced the concept."
In fact, Orgill reports that buying activity during e-Volution far exceeded the results of any previous dealer market in the company's history including last fall's live event.
"We knew going into the virtual event that it would offer an opportunity for even more of our retail customers to attend because we removed the requirement of them having to physically travel to the show," says Greg Stine, Orgill's executive vice president of marketing and communications. "And that's exactly what happened. The Online Buying Event engaged a much higher percentage of our customers than we've ever seen at a Dealer Market."
Braden Mims from Dozier Hardware in Alabama says he thought the Online Buying Event was definitely a benefit for his operation and made his buying experience seamless.
"We do a lot of work in advance of the Markets so we typically have a lot of our orders prepared before the events," Mims says. "This honestly made the whole buying process a lot easier for us. This helped us keep everything much more organized and really upgraded our overall experience. We've wanted to see this kind of online, digital experience become a bigger part of the markets for a while, so this entire effort is much appreciated."
For vendors like Daniel Kautz of Milwaukee Tool, the Online Buying Event was also a positive experience.
"This year's Online Buying Event served as a terrific showcase for us just as the Fall show always does," Kautz says. "From a functionality standpoint, the platform allowed for very flexible schedule management and allowed our team to maximize time spent with dealers. The Online Buying Event was a wonderful investment of resources and one that we'll be happy to support in the future."
The decision to develop and hold the e-Volution Online Buying Event came in May when safety precautions surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak prompted Orgill to cancel its in-person Fall Dealer Market that had been scheduled for August 27-29 in Las Vegas.
"There were a number of factors that led us to this decision, including an abundance of caution as it related to the safety of our employees, customers and vendors as well as consideration for how a market would function in an atmosphere where strict social distancing would likely still be required," says Moore.
Recognizing how important it was for both customers and vendors to still be able to get together for a seasonal buying show, Orgill's team quickly went to work developing the framework for the e-Volution Online Buying Event.
"We went into overdrive," says Stine. "This was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort that involved teams from nearly every area of our business. We are extremely thankful for all their efforts and we think the results speak for themselves."
The additional time allotted during e-Volution and the ease of purchasing were two areas that Dan Kauffman of Ohio retailer AirWorks Ltd. appreciated about the new platform.
"Overall we had a good experience," he says. "We really enjoyed the two-week time frame compared to other shows. I would say everything was easy, pretty self-explanatory and the warehouse purchasing was super easy. We had a very good experience."
In addition to the ability to browse through and buy products from Orgill's wide array of vendor partners, attendees of the Online Buying Event could also take advantage of special promotional offers, pre-season booking programs and even schedule live meetings with vendors and service providers.
"I think it's safe to say that I probably had more remote vendor interaction in the last couple weeks than I've had in the last couple years," adds Mims. "This was really helpful in allowing us to reach out and connect with the vendors we needed to talk to."
To help facilitate these meetings, Orgill partnered with Zoom, the industry leader in online meeting technology.
"The partnership with Zoom and our ability to integrate their state-of-the-art technology into our e-Volution platform went a long way toward helping us facilitate more interaction between our customers and our vendors and team members," Moore says. "By now, everyone is familiar with how Zoom works and we think this helped build a more robust and interactive experience."
While meeting online might not replace a live market, the e-Volution platform, combined with the functionality of Zoom, enabled vendors and retailers to interact with ease throughout the event.
"The engagement with video was great," says Todd Stocks of M-D Building Products. "This allowed us to focus one on one with the retailer much like a physical show but actually be completely focused on the needs of that retailer with no distractions that might come at a physical event."
Brent Perry of Alf Curtis Home Improvements in Ontario said he was extremely pleased with how Orgill launched the Online Buying Event in the timeframe they did. "I think Orgill has done a great job for this first round and I think they have a great platform to build on and move forward with," Perry says. "I think we learned a lot here about how to work an online event like this and I think we will actually find ourselves maybe buying more at an event like this than we have in the past."
Based on this kind of positive feedback from both vendors and attendees, Moore agreed that this first e-Volution Online Buying Event will serve as a great launching pad and learning opportunity for the company.
"We are very pleased that, given the challenge of holding live events right now, we were able to offer a platform through e-Volution that helped both our vendors and our customers keep their businesses moving forward," Moore says. "We will undoubtedly learn a lot from this event and plan to use it to make our vendor and customer interactions even more productive as we move forward."
Orgill is scheduled to hold its Spring Dealer Market from February 25-27 in Orlando.
Orgill, the industry's fastest-growing hardlines distributor, was founded in 1847 and is headquartered in Collierville, Tennessee. Orgill serves more than 11,000 retail hardware stores, home centers, professional lumber dealers and farm stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, and in over 50 countries around the world.
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