Feb. 8, 2010: A bid to make the online sale easier

Marshall Distributing is working with an e-commerce provider to convert more of its Web traffic into actual dealer sales.

The result of that new partnership will be unveiled this month in a pilot program and then is expected to be available nationally by the spring.

Joe Mooney, chief operating officer of Marshall Distributing, said the company traditionally has upward of 600 people monthly view some of its more popular products — GMAX helmets and Marshall bibs to name two. However, only some 10 percent or less of those consumers on the Marshall Web site will then actually use a dealer locator to possibly purchase the product from a dealer Web site.

“Marshall’s Web page is designed to be a moderately unsuccessful experience for the consumer in the b-to-c solution,” Mooney said. “It was built that way and done in that fashion because (company CEO) Roger Marshall has never, or will we ever, sell against a dealer.”

So the distributor worked with Web site and e-commerce provider 50 Below to set up an easy transition for the customer so they can first shop and then purchase the gear they’re viewing. The system 50 Below has devised essentially transfers the consumer from the Marshall Web site to the dealer site once the consumer goes to purchase the product.

Doran Nurmi, 50 Below’s product manager, said once the customer has selected one or more products, they will, like normal, go to a checkout system. However, rather than pressing a button that says “checkout,” they’ll select “checkout locally.”

At this point, the consumer is given the selection of choosing between one of five Marshall’s dealers. The dealers are differentiated by their proximity to the customer. No other features describing the dealer, like a rating, are currently planned for the initial release of the site. Marshall also will set the price of the ordered product, which will be at MSRP, so there will no difference in terms of price between the dealers initially shown to the customer.

The site allows the customer to either pick up the product at the dealership or have it shipped to them. The dealer will then receive the transaction and order it through Marshall Distributing.

Not only does this process allow the initial transaction to remain with the dealer — a key Marshall Distributing objective — but it also keeps the purchase local for the consumer, which they generally prefer, Nurmi said.

Of course, it also is geared to give Marshall and its dealers a better shot at capturing the online sale. Nurmi said the present scenario — a consumer finding Marshall’s Web site through a search engine — usually results in the customer having to find a dealer’s site and then look for the product again to purchase it, or the customer simply does a Google search and potentially ends up buying a competing product.

“I’m concerned those are all lost sales opportunities for our dealer network,” Mooney said.

The pilot program for the new site is expected to start Feb. 1 with more than 150 dealers. As quickly as 60 days later, 50 Below is expecting to have a site available to Marshall’s entire national dealer network.


Nurmi noted Marshall dealers who do not currently have a 50 Below Web site or any Web site can purchase the single-branded, full e-commerce Marshall site. 50 Below will be signing dealers up for the national launch at the Dealer Expo in Indianapolis.

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