By Andy Patel, Marketing Manager, Hercules Sealing Products
The Journal is celebrating a 25-year milestone in 2019 and reflecting on how far the industry has come since the birth of the magazine. This new column is dedicated to showcasing the growth of fluid power technology. Each article features a product or industry analysis and how it has transformed from its early years. If you have a product or analysis to share with the Journal readers, please contact Candace Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From its humble beginnings, e-commerce has quickly taken the hydraulic repair market by a storm over the last decade. Its rise in many parts of the world, in addition to transforming the way traditional brick and mortar retail stores have functioned, has lead to a consumer purchasing shift. In no small part, e-commerce has made purchasing easier than ever for fluid power professionals. Yet, it is still reliant upon consumer’s technological capabilities and proficiencies.
Hercules Sealing Products, a leading distributor of after-market hydraulic repair equipment parts, has changed what an e-commerce platform looks like in its field. The organization has found success by not only improving its offerings, but also by placing a high priority on educating fluid power professionals on the cost and time savings that coincide with switching purchasing to an e-commerce platform.
Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, the company operates one of the largest inventories in the industry, stocking 47,000 products in a 52,000 sq.ft., state-of-the-art warehouse. With the world’s largest one-stop inventory, immediate access to pick and pack all products, and the latest computerized systems, Hercules has become known for their ability to flawlessly deliver nearly every order the next day.
For nearly a decade, Hercules has operated a web store that has grown to be the most feature-rich and technically advanced in the entire industry. The intuitive website provides customers with a vast offering of repair products at the click of a mouse.
Serving thousands of customers every day, the website has become a key asset to the company and adds significant value to the service. Throughout the last decade it has grown to include numerous features, but one in particular stands out: the many ways that customers can search for products.
Competitors’ websites usually have one way: type a keyword into a search box and hope for the best. The Hercules Sealing Products website allows customers to search by model, serial or part number, or application, and the main search field even provides automated suggestions based on your entry. The company’s products are the industry standard so most customers know the parts by name or number. If they begin typing it in, the system will usually autocomplete the information and bring up their part before they finish.
OEM and competitor part numbers are also integrated into the system. If a customer is seeking a Hercules after-market replacement for an OEM part, they can enter the OEM part number and the system will find the appropriate product to replace it.
In addition, the “seals-by-size” lookup allows a customer to measure a seal that they don’t have a part number for and use those measurements to find a matching seal from Hercules’ catalog. This feature is a favorite for machine shops because they can machine a custom part and see if Hercules has a seal for it in stock. Further, the custom seal configurator allows customers to design unique seals meeting custom specifications.
For customers who need to look up a large number of parts, the Hercules web store can read an Excel file exported directly from that company’s ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. The website will respond with a list containing prices and availability for each part. When parts aren’t available, the system will suggest parts that can be substituted for whatever is missing. The system is connected to the company’s purchasing data, so when a part is out of stock, it can even provide a restocking date.
Within the last year, Hercules Sealing Products once again enhanced their e-commerce offerings by launching a personalized control panel. The control panel allows users to see a multitude of analytical data sets. Some of which include the ability to see top searches, order history, top purchased products, and tracking information all from one convenient dashboard.
The launch of the control panel and continuous other industry first offerings are responsible for the rapid growth of Hercules’ e-commerce platform, which is now responsible for roughly one-third of the company’s total business. This figure only looks to rise as Hercules continues to place an emphasis on consumer education. Through hosting webinars, on-site training sessions, and free educational seminars, Hercules has helped revolutionize the perception of e-commerce in their industry. What was once looked at as an unnecessary piece of technology has now become an integral part of many organizations purchasing and inventory management.