McMaster-Carr: Removing the Roadblocks

McMaster-Carr: Removing the Roadblocks

McMaster-Carr: Removing the RoadblocksThe McMaster-Carr website makes no bones about what you can do there: you can browse, you can shop. They’ve stripped away any distraction: there’s very little branding (just a logo, and no “About Us” information to be seen), no marketing banners, no promotion of services, resources, or informational materials.

Here’s what you can do once you land on the homepage:

  • In the main area: drill down from a product category (browse)
  • In the navigation: search for products, contact McMaster-Carr and place a quick order, see order history and log in to your account (browse and self-service)
  • At the bottom of the page: access “help” information, apply for a job, and manage the settings of your McMaster-Carr page (self service)

The McMaster-Carr catalog is big (over 555,000 products) and the site is fast. This site expertly gets their users to drill down from a huge product assortment to specific products.  They’ve done this first by getting rid of the options/removing the roadblocks. And, there’s a reward: navigating through the sites is clear and fast. For the user, they’re not concerned about clicking, because they’re getting where they want to go and the pathway is straightforward, specific and moving at a good pace, in the right direction.

See what happens when we go into Screws > Tapping Screws from the homepage (2 clicks):

The left bar is a fast, super-detailed filtering tool. As the user clicks through the items, the products on the left update to reflect those details.

McMaster-Carr isn’t worried about showing too much detail because the point of the detail is to help users make faster decisions. Where useful, technical drawings help give visual cues – here a quick scan shows the different tip types. Spacing between the different variables within the filter makes a longer list seem less overwhelming and difficult. Again the goal – like the homepage – is to get the user drilling down and to the product they want as quickly and easily as possible. There’s more information and more detail available, but that blue hyperlink color is all about getting the user to moving forward – clicking and getting to a buyable product as quickly as possible.

After making some filtering selections (3 clicks), we get down to this page:

Again – McMaster-Carr is expert at reducing options to remove roadblocks to purchase. From this page there are three key actions to be taken:

  • Click on the product number in blue to add a quantity and “ADD TO ORDER” (purchase)
  • Click on the “Product Detail” gets them to a product detail page that has further details and technical specs (research)
  • Reconfigure the filter on the left navigation (keep browsing)

In our customer adoption framework, we talk about the 3 key questions distributors’ customers are typically asking when they visit your site. This box answers 2 of them.

  • Do you have it? (A: yes – “In stock”)
  • What’s my price? (A: $13.48 per package)
  • When can I get it?

Once the user goes to the checkout, they find the answer to the 3rd question. The product product Ships Today, and the preferred Shipping method can be selected.

Three Takeaways

  1. Six quick clicks got us to a specific product. Having gone through the process we now have an expectation and understanding that the next search will be fast, easy and rewarding. We trust that the next search will be as smooth, which encourages and rewards more shopping and browsing. This is crucial for getting critical customer adoption.
  2. McMaster-Carr’s approach is not the right fit for every business – or every customer. Their eCommerce success, however, is undeniable. It is an excellent exercise in asking the questions: what can we remove that distracts the customer from their purchase pathway andwhat can we add to make it as easy as possible to find the product/s they are looking for?
  3. What is your next step? We’ve created the The DigitalBranch Framework to answer this key question: How can we get customers to use and adopt our new site? The customer adoption framework is a B2B eCommerce strategy framework and a key part of the DigitalBranch. If you have been working without a framework to define and design your customer experience, deciding what changes to make can become a grab-bag of preferences, opinions and theories. Instead, a customer acquisition-focused framework provides the steps, stages and levers for you to understand and execute against to drive real results out of your DigitalBranch.
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