Canadian Electrical Wholesaler


February 22, 2018

By Caroline Ernst

Building a simple customer experience that satisfies your customers’ expectations is a starting point (or evolution) in your digital journey. You might be asking yourself, “How do I know what my customer wants?” The data are available from their behaviour online, and many of your customers will tell you what they want. Putting the pieces together can appear complex, but it can be simplified if you segment the optimization of your customers’ experience into three buckets: design, usability and search.

Design, usability, and search pertain to how you can serve your customer. In order for your website to create value in the eyes of the customers, you have to optimize your website so that it is accessible to the greatest number of your ideal customers. Value increases with the number of customer touchpoints that the customers use. For example, digital customers expect more than the ability to purchase online; they expect the ability to compare similar products, review historical purchases, view delivery schedules, and receive advice from other customers.


Begin with an understanding of why visitors are coming to your site. What is their intent? Identify their problem or need and the steps to a solution. Align your design with customer intent. Create an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution where with enough frequency your solutions form a habit. The 6 basic intents of visitors coming to your site are to

  1. Buy now. Distributors are shifting from gated sites starting at the home page to offering an ungated approach where products and pricing (MSRP) are shown. This allows distributors to cultivate a customer experience for unregistered users. For registered users, many distributors make it easy with saved cart, saved lists, saved past purchases, special pricing and more.
  2. Search. Distributors must tune the search results to deliver on the customer expectations.
  3. Self-service. Buyers seek convenience for printing an invoice, requesting a quote, viewing their past purchases, or quickly re-buying. According to Forrester, B2B buyers prefer 3 to 1 the do-it-yourself options for researching products, prior to purchase, compared with talking with a sales representative.
  4. Learn. There are many examples of distributors and manufacturers providing previously gated information to increase transparency and earn customer trust. Sharing information also ensures that consumers have the support and exper¬tise they need. Finally, if a distributor cultivates a learning community, it will bring buyers together, which helps to build the brand. Examples include a blog, how-to videos, or even sharing company events on social media.
  5. Find a location. Not only allow your visitors to know where your locations are, make it easy for them with a click-to-call phone number, click to map directions, and local store and holiday hours. Ideally, this would also be in your site map for SEO purposes.
  6. Contact your company. Encourage customers to be interactive and ask questions on the spot. Employ live chat, add your telephone number to the page header, and respond to email questions within 1 business day.


Usability is the degree to which a website is easy to use and the customer is satisfied with the experience. When asked to name the key attributes buyers look for in a B2B distributor, 35% of buyers in a recent survey cited offering particular brands and products, 28% cited pricing details and technical data, and 27% said fast customer service (Source: Forrester Consulting).

Buyers are willing to repurchase from a supplier if that supplier offers transparency, personalization, service, and competitive prices. Above all, your buyers want to easily find and know the price they’re going to pay for something.

A usability analysis should examine personalization, mobile view ability, and site performance. How well is the journey an integrated, personalized experience? Are you using a responsive design, which adapts the layout of an eCommerce site to the size of a shopper’s screen, including smartphones, tablets and PCs? What is the page load time on your site (desktop and mobile)? Are your images optimized for quick download?


The third focus in customer experience optimization is your site search. Customers visiting your site must be able to locate products of interest easily through navigation or search. Your search should deliver relevant products quickly. Major considerations when evaluating your site search are relevancy, discoverability/findability, and efficiency of the search.

A search audit should answer the following questions:

  • Efficiency. Does your site search offer fast, visual, dynamic auto complete results? Does your site search experience expand queries to include synonyms and acronyms? Misspelled words? Your online businesses can drastically reduce failed searches with type-ahead autofill, data-driven spelling correction, and “Did you mean?” prompts.
  • Discoverability. Can your visitors easily narrow the search based on the facets in the left navigation? Does your search show similar products based on their selected refinements?
  • Relevancy. Can you adjust — boost or bury — the search ranking based on key factors like in-stock availability, branch location or price? Does the search experience extend to your entire site: store locations, blog, about us?

Delivering relevant search results encourages exploration and discovery and leads to increased conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

Again, a consistent design and usable experience are essential for clearly communicating with customers to give them the confidence to buy, whether they are online or in your branch with a smartphone in hand. Having a customer experience strategy will inform your design, usability and search and put your company in a better position to make a smart investment and design decision that delight customers and serve the business.

Caroline Ernst is Vice President, eCommerce Solutions, for AD. Follow Caroline (@CarolineSarah) on Twitter to stay up to date on AD eCommerce Solutions.

This article was published with permission from AD. With more than 3,800 branches from 600 plus independently-owned members, AD is North America’s largest marketing/buying group for construction and industrial supplies;

Photo source: Pexels


OlsonBy Katrina Olson

A recent CEW article by David Gordon caught my eye. The headline was, Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Inhibiting Growth?

As a marketing consultant, writer, and trainer, I recognized the challenges and barriers that David was writing about. We agree on many issues (and their causes) facing electrical distributors and marketers. But I also hear from marketing people all the time that the C-Suite is hindering their efforts which, in turn, hinders the company’s growth.  

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A confirmation: the winds of change are now howling.

Several years ago, in a workshop at Electro-Federation Canada’s annual conference, a roundtable session described and debated the numerous disruptive technologies that are forcing us to think differently.

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Looking BackIn the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent companies like Horsman, Ashdowns, Brettell, Marshall Wells, Electrical Supplies Ltd., etc.

Small electrical distributors just were not acceptable for membership as they did not carry the main-line manufacturers’ goods, publish a wiring device catalogue, or employ four to five salesmen as CEDA requested.

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Changing Scene

  • Prev
Effective January 1, 2019, Ramy Yousif assumes the position of Rexel Atlantic’s General Manager.
This past summer, from July 1 to September 15, AD Rewards ran the Redeem for a Dream promotion.
Electro-Federation Canada’s Marketing Awards program recognizes member organizations that ...
On October 29-31, 2018, the AD Electrical North American Meeting drew over 1,000 attendees. This ...
AD, the contractor and industrial products wholesale buying/marketing group, reports a 10% increase ...
Standard’s Mississauga Sales office has moved to a new location and is now fully operational. In ...
This practical guide to product selection and installation for cable tray systems was designed for ...
Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC), a not-for-profit organization and Canada’s largest ...
Heather and Elaine Gerrie, co-presidents of Gerrie Electric, are this year’s winners of the ...
Tony’s energy and commitment to Westburne has enabled him to grow in a new leadership role in our ...

Peers & Profiles

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On a regular basis, our publications profile members of our industry through their responses to a ...
First and foremost, sitting down with Susan Uthayakumar feels more like sitting down and conversing ...
Sales of electrical supplies from full-line electrical distributors capture the geographic ...
Laura Dempsey has been working as an outside sales representative for E.B. Horsman & Son for ...
Michael Gentile, President and CEO of Philips Lighting Canada, has had a long and distinguished ...

Laura Dempsey

Owen Hurst

Laura Dempsey has been working as an outside sales representative for E.B. Horsman & Son for over 15 years, and is a member of the BCEA U40 network of young professionals. She lives in Langley, BC and is proud of her position and work with E.B. Horsman, particularly as she is the second Dempsey generation to work for the company.

Laura’s mother Shelly has worked at E.B. Horsman for over 25 years, and instilled in Laura a determination to succeed. Laura followed in her mother’s footsteps after witnessing how much her mother enjoyed her work and the people she works with at E.B. Horsman.

Read more: Laura Dempsey

Laura Dempsey

Line Goyette

I've known John Sencich since CEW began publishing. He agreed from the outset to be part of the newsletter’s Editorial Board. His contribution was regular and sustained. Always present to answer my technical questions, and refer me to the right person for additional information as needed. Always available despite his role as senior leader of an influential company.

Over the past five years, many industry insiders have cited John Sencich when I asked them to name someone who had made a difference in their lives or had inspired them as a leader.

Read more: John Sencich

Looking Back

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The best memory I keep from CEDA is the way that they accepted me when I came into the business. ...
In the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent ...
Prior to the late 1950s there was little if any involvement in CEDA by the so-called “national ...
  As 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we take a look back at an aspect of ...

DIgitalDigitalization is set to take a strong hold of all business models, transforming how companies access, monitor, engage with and service customers. Today’s customers are not passive consumers; they rely on real-time digital access to information to make purchasing decisions. Businesses must consider how to apply digital technologies and digitized data to connect with customers to help reshape their paths to purchase. This digital lens provides improvements to business functions, operations and overall processes by creating stronger insight and knowledge so businesses can take action.

The path towards digitalization has put the electrical supply channel at an important crossroad: the entire electrical value chain (suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, customers) will need to strongly consider how to move from a traditional model that has served the market well for decades, towards a new model that is connected, smart and highly efficient. But how does the industry evolve from a traditional model to an integrated ecosystem?

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EFC 2018 Scholarship Program

This year Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) will award $156,250 across 62 scholarships supported by manufacturers, distributors and associations.

The annual EFC Scholarship Program reflects an industry that understands its responsibility to attract future talent. In the face of technological, demographic, and socio-economic evolution, the employment landscape is in constant transformation resulting in substantial challenges for companies as they work to define and redefine their recruitment practices. Furthermore, as competition for the brightest and the best of the next generation of business leaders intensifies, it’s more important than ever to engage young people. 



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