In this issue Aoife Kinsella speaks to John Byrne from McMahons Builders Providers, on how their website and other online resources have helped their 11 stores to serve the building industry and the DIY enthusiast.
Tell me about how you got started with McMahons and what are your main goals with your online strategy?
The company has always embraced innovations and experimented with the latest trends and developments, so I was brought in to develop digital capabilities and social media communications.
Our current website acts as a hub of information for visitors. Outside of the eCommerce function, we currently have over 8,000 products listed and there are touchpoints that are very popular with our customers such as Request a Quote, Create a Credit Account and Store Locations.
My main focus with the website is the Online Customer Experience of the McMahons brand. People aren’t generally interested in websites, they have ‘wants and needs’ that they are trying to satisfy. This is why I am constantly aiming to improve how our brand appears on Google search results by regularly updating our Google My Business page and linking our product feed to the Google Shopping platform.
Then there is the influence of social media on everyone’s lives. This presents opportunities for marketers to reach people with products that they have indicated they have an interest in. We use our social profiles to present products but also to communicate the activities and sponsorships we are involved in.
We have found people subscribe for our mailing list (the most under-rated sales channel!) most actively through social media.
How did your online functionality help you in recent months?
Our strategy in recent years has been to leverage our in-branch experts to develop our merchandising, customer service and product advice at all customer touchpoints. This year with the Covid restrictions our retail customers moved online in significant numbers to place their orders and we reacted in supporting our central warehouse by operating ‘dark stores’ in Limerick, Cork and Portarlington. This meant we were able to service all our online orders with no downtime or reduced product lines.
Can you tell me about any of your future plans?
We are currently in the process of re-engineering the IT infrastructure to ensure the integrity of business operations and these improvements in IT foundations will allow for more applications to be successfully built into our website and outgoing communications.
We are currently trialling some booking systems on the website that allow us to conduct personal consultations with our customers on an appointment basis. There has been good interest with our latest trial for a Bathroom Consultation. This allows a customer bring plans for their bathroom renovation or house build and discuss directly with our in-branch experts.
We have the ability to quote prices and order from suppliers during the consultation, we see this as a competitive advantage. To date, the people who have attended a consultation have discovered our wide range of products and services allowing us to cross and up-sell.
We are also investigating an AI application that helps website visitors with an improved ‘related products’ offering to optimise their on-site search. If successful this will reduce the bounce rate, improve ‘pages per user’ and drive more footfall into branches.
What advice would you have for any similar hardware retailers/builders’ merchants looking to get started on their own online journey?
If you’re getting started my advice would be to first concentrate on your locality. Secondly design into your website, and other online channels, as many ways as possible for a customer to contact you. Once they contact you, see if you can build your mailing list.