New online catalog has increased business by 500% in past year

Oct. 1, 2009
ORR & Orr president Hank Hines says he was just trying to update the online selling tool on his company's Web site to better serve his customers

ORR & Orr president Hank Hines says he was just trying to update the online selling tool on his company's Web site to better serve his customers. He had no idea he would generate an explosion in business.

Orr & Orr, a Bedford Park, Illinois-based wholesale distributor of hardware and accessories for the transportation industries, has experienced a 500% increase in business since launching a new online catalog in November 2008.

“We were fine before, but I wasn't getting the traffic I'm getting now,” he says. “It's really been unbelievable. We're thrilled.

“I think it's been due to the ease of the site. We're getting new people who had never even found us. We're all going through a difficult time in this economy, but because of the Web site and better visibility, I'm building up a new stable of customers, so that when it comes back, I'm going to be in great shape. Even though I'm not in bad shape now, I sell into a few industries that have struggled.”

He says about 70% of his business involves truck-body fabricators, emergency vehicles, trailers, and a limited amount of cab products, such as locks, hinges, and lights.

Those using the online catalog can find thousands of items such as brake controls, roof sealants, and towing products from multiple distributors. At, they can:

  • Search for products by stock number, category, or product name, and look for the very specific parts they need, from a 10-inch water hose to a fifth wheel hitch.

  • Compare up to five items at a time, according to multiple properties. For instance, prospects can compare vents in a category by dome color, weight, price, and other variables.

  • Send requests for information/quotes, or order products directly. The site also offers conveniences such as express ordering and an automated shipping calculator.

Customers who are buying in bulk can negotiate for volume discounts online.

“We're a wholesale distributor, so not only do I use it to get our name out there to our customers and potential customers, but I use it a lot as an online selling tool with existing customers,” he says. “Once they realize how easy it is, they come back to it. We have only list prices, or retail prices, so we protect our distributors price-wise, and can issue them a login to get to wholesale prices. It's worked out great.”

In July 2008, Orr & Orr signed a contract with ThomasNet to set up the new site. ThomasNet, which has more than a century of experience in the industrial market, offers proprietary Web-based technology to help businesses increase sales, expand into new markets, and improve efficiencies through its Navigator Platform — which includes online catalogs, CAD drawings, e-commerce capabilities, content, syndication tracking/analytics, and more.

“They set up something for us that is really clean and fast, which is what I wanted in a Web site,” Hines says. “We're dealing with buyers and people looking for information. They don't need their time to be consumed with flashy stuff. They want to go to a part and click on all the different types. It's worked for us.”

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.