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E-Commerce Solutions, New Products Are Highlights of Do it Best Fall Market

If there is one word that sums up the weekend at the Do it Best 2023 Fall Market, it’s “new.” The co-op officially launched its e-commerce platform, nearly 100 new vendors featuring thousands of new products lined the market aisles of the Indiana Convention Center, and likely included in the attendees were some of the 800 new members the co-op has added over the last three years. 

“On the market floor, members can explore the New Item Gallery, which has over 1,000 items that are new to the warehouse,” says Do it Best director of communications Allison Meyer. “At this market, we are again seeing strong attendance, both from existing members and prospective members. In addition to offering members a place to explore new products at great prices, we’re excited to highlight our award-winning store design.”

Creating a Path for Customers

At the Market Kickoff event on Friday, several members of the Do it Best leadership team took the stage to introduce those operational investments. One highlight of the event was a presentation from Do it Best vice president of e-commerce Allison Flatjord.

Flatjord celebrated the launch of Phase 1 of the co-op’s new e-commerce strategy, a comprehensive, customizable platform powered by Adobe. It allows Do it Best members to personalize their online presence to match their existing brand and meet their customers’ needs. 

“From the consumer perspective, this platform allows for ease of shopping with a new updated design, and it allows consumers to see what Do it Best members have to offer,” Flatjord says. “Around 80% of sales are digitally influenced. Customers want to be able to see the product assortment, the inventory on hand and pricing before they get to the store, and this platform makes that possible.”

To support retailers in populating the platform, Do it Best content specialists have used AI to identify and curate content for 1.6 million SKUs that are already available for retailers to add to their e-commerce site. According to Flatjord, that’s an industry record for product content, and it includes product names and descriptions, as well as images and video. In some cases, Do it Best content specialists used generative AI through the Adobe platform to add backgrounds to product photos to show them in-use. 

“We’re using AI in this case to power customer experiences,” she says. “At the same time, we’re focusing on providing quality content, so all content is proofed by a member of our content team.”

Do it Best also has content specialists on hand for retailers who want to add their local assortments to the e-commerce platform. Any items suggested or provided by a retailer will then be available for all Do it Best members to access. 

As an extension of this e-commerce platform, starting next month, retailers will be able to develop customized microsites. When a consumer goes to doitbest.com, they will be geolocated to the closest member store and that store’s on-hand inventory will be available to browse and purchase. The next stage kicks off next month with the launch of same-day pickup.

A critical component that’s necessary for same-day pickup to be successful is accurate inventory-on-hand. Do it Best has solutions for retailers to ensure their inventory is accurate before the feature launches, including in-house teams that can help with best practices and a service that helps update in-store inventory and train staff for the launch of same-day pickup.

In conjunction with e-commerce, the Do it Best marketing team is developing complementary digital solutions, according to Do it Best vice president of marketing Rich Lynch. 

As another feature of the e-commerce platform, consumers will now be able to log in and earn and redeem loyalty points through Best Rewards online. They will also be able to access account and purchase history. Members will continue to have access to customer data through the platform. 

“We’ve been evaluating how to unleash the power of Best Rewards and how to give consumers a seamless experience,” Lynch says. “When the e-commerce team drives people and sales to the store, my team says, ‘We got them. Now what?’”

The marketing team has been focused on store development to align the modernized e-commerce experience with the in-store experience, starting from when a customer lands on a website, to the digital marketing they see, and finally when they arrive at the store. 

“If a member has an existing brand and marketing strategy that’s working, we encourage them to continue that. But if not, we’ve developed a plan that can help,” says Lynch.

The co-op introduced its “Trusted products. Neighborhood knowhow.” tagline that highlights an independent retailer’s focus on product mix and knowledge. 

“There is power in that local identity,” Lynch says. “Our focus is to take some of the work off members’ shoulders and help them drive sales.”

Another component of this strategy is the co-op’s store design program. Meyer says there are a record number of ongoing store projects. 

“We’ve had 135 retail performance projects in the last 12 months, and there are more projects in the pipeline than ever before. Demand is great,” she says. “All of the members who have completed these projects have seen new customers and are welcoming a different kind of shopper who is spending more time and more money in the renovated stores.”

Flatjord says the goal of both of these solutions—e-commerce and marketing working together—is to allow members to meet the needs of modern consumers while also honoring their own stories. 

“This platform is very robust and innovative while also being personalizable,” she says. “Members can show more of their brand. And we’re continuing to reassess needs as new exciting technologies are coming in.” 

Rebate Records

In his address at the Shareholders’ Meeting Sunday afternoon, Do it Best president and CEO Dan Starr had attendees reflect on the prior year, including noting that in 2022, the co-op saw rising costs that impacted net profit. 

“Standing in front of you, I made the promise to return to a stronger, more profitable year in 2023. That’s exactly what happened,” Starr says. 

Starr announced that the co-op beat its projected net profit goal by 2%, and closed its fiscal year at the end of June with nearly $4.8 billion in top-line sales, down 14% from the previous year, which the co-op attributes to softening consumer demand and a steep decline in lumber pricing year over year. Despite those challenges, Starr announced that the co-op would distribute its second-highest rebate to members at $152 million.

“The growth we have seen is absolutely intentional and the result of years of planning,” Starr says. “In addition to our investments in infrastructure, we continue to invest in the growth of our members.”

On the Market Floor

The energy was high on the floor as retailers took advantage of the Sneak Peek on Friday evening and met with new and existing vendors throughout the weekend. 

At the Merchandising Preview Saturday morning, members saw the deals that were available at the market and made their plans. According to vice president of merchandising Jason Stofleth, the market floor featured “loads of deals” for retailers to take advantage of. 

“Vendors at this market brought excellent promotions, and our featured areas of the market floor are also tuned into industry trends,” Meyer says. 

In the Power Preview on Friday, retailers explored outdoor living and grilling vendors, in addition to seeing a spotlight on battery-powered outdoor power equipment. Outdoor living, grilling and outdoor power equipment was also the focus of Category Solutions inside on the market floor, where retailers explored and could purchase full planograms of the products to fulfill their lawn and garden and outdoor living category needs. 

Retailers could see the ideas come to life in Solutions in Action, a 13,000-square-foot model store, which at this market featured special guests—baby chicks greeted attendees in the center of the space.

These opportunities weren’t lost on attendees, as many retailers said these areas of the market floor are a priority for them. 

“When I come to markets, I attend the Sneak Peek, and I’m really coming for new ideas,” says Jeremy Peterson, owner of two Family Hardware stores in southwest Florida. “I always hit New Items to take pictures, and I look at Category Solutions to buy those deals at the market.”

Peterson says this market provided him a new opportunity he hadn’t previously considered. 

“I went out to the Power Preview to see what was there, and I left considering bringing in outdoor firepits,” he says. “We already have high-end pizza ovens and handcrafted smokers as part of our outdoor living and grilling department.”

Peterson also says the market is an opportunity for him to network and get new ideas from his peers. 

Charlie and Casey Oye bought Oye Hardware from Charlie’s dad last spring and use the market as a place to continue learning about the industry.

“Paint and plumbing are big categories for us, so we are sure to focus on those areas during the market,” Casey says. 

For some retailers, “new” means outside-the-box, which is the case for Geoff Saunders, store manager of Cascade Home Center.

“We are always looking to surprise our customers. We like to keep a quirky product selection, and so the market is a good way to find those new and upcoming products,” he says. “As I walk the aisles on the market floor, it also helps remind me of products my customers may have mentioned they wanted to see us carry in the store.”

See You in Houston

The 2024 Do it Best Spring Market is headed to Houston March 23-25, and Meyer says there is a lot to look forward to at that event, building on the energy from this market. 

“We’re anticipating the Solutions in Action setup on the market floor will be the largest it’s ever been,” she says.

Registration for the spring market opens soon.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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