“We want to be the Amazon of fire equipment.”
Banner Fire has been equipping first responders and firefighters with the tools they need to protect their communities for nearly four decades. Their 39,000 square foot facility houses everything an emergency responder needs to get the job done safely, from parts and service to testing and inspections.
Banner Fire wanted to update their website to provide a more satisfying customer experience and reduce manual labor for the team. With their large inventory and newly expanded product offerings, they needed an e-commerce solution that would provide a better all-around user experience.
A Better Process was Needed
Banner Fire houses approximately 8,000 products in their warehouse on any given day. Their e-commerce functionality didn’t work well with their Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP) and required their team to do a lot of manual work to keep the stock updated. Team members worked daily with the ERP to pull any information that had changed (prices, descriptions, titles, SKU numbers, manufacturer updates, etc.), and manually enter changes into the e-commerce system. This took a lot of valuable man-hours that could be better served elsewhere and left room for human error.
Seeking an Exceptional Experience
User experience matters. A well-designed site with easy access to products and information is paramount when a new potential customer pays a visit. If a visitor can’t find what they’re looking for, they will go elsewhere, and someone else will get that sale. Banner Fire hadn’t updated their site in nearly half a decade, and it showed. They were ready for a design refresh that complimented their brand, and services with strong UX and scalability for future growth.
Understanding the Fire Industry
Before we can build a proper strategy and begin developing, we have to understand the industry. To fully understand our customer’s business, we must first immerse ourselves in their business, and the larger industry they serve.
Through independent research about their industry, their competitors, and their customers’ challenges, along with (numerous) conversations with Banner Fire, we learned how decision-makers in the fire industry shop for equipment. We worked to understand their journey and shopping habits so we could help Banner Fire be their guide.
Automating Processes for Accurate Lead Times
A critical aspect of this project was to provide a solution that removes the manual updates required by their ERP to give the Banner Fire team the time to focus their time and energy on what they do best–helping emergency responders protect their communities.
Working directly with their ERP provider, we set up a system that would check for updates every night, then push those changes to the e-commerce portion of the site. Now, any time a price, product description, SKU, or other product information changes, the site automatically shows the most up-to-date information for more accurate lead times. This is crucial in today’s market where current supply chains make the timely delivery of products a challenge. It’s especially important in the fire industry, where customers have to wait upwards of a year for supplies they need to protect their communities. Accurate lead times on the site help customers make informed decisions and set expectations for when products will arrive.
Untangling Product Variations
When our team was learning about the equipment Banner Fire sells, we noticed that many of the products had slight variations (sizes, colors, etc).
Creating separate products for each variation would muddy up the customer experience, creating an overwhelming number of products, and making it more difficult to find items need quickly. With this in mind, we developed a solution that allows the site to have multiple variations on the same product.
Updating the Look and Feel
Automated processes? Check. An easier, more navigable user experience? Check. From a back-end perspective, Banner Fire’s site saw an elevated presence that not only streamlined processes but presented information in a way that makes sense. But first impressions count, and we wanted to ensure their site’s look and feel complimented the functionality.
We wanted to relate to Banner’s target market, firefighters, so we chose imagery that depicted them as the heroes they are, using bold colors and design elements where they made sense.
Typographically, we chose a font that had some character, deliberately avoiding typefaces that felt too simplistic or corporate. Beyond the web, Banner Fire is undergoing a larger rebranding process, which we have kept in mind as we developed their new site, keeping new elements, and messaging in mind.
Smooth Customer Transition
Customer service is very important to the Banner Fire team, so before making the site live, our teams worked together to figure out how to make the transition to the new site seamless for current customers. An email was sent after the launch asking them to visit the site and reset their password.
We also added a message on the login page. Customer information was transferred to the new site including name, address, billing information, tax-exempt status, and previous order history.
Creating or updating a single product can take as long as 10 minutes–create a product, add a description, add a price. With more than 8,000 products, that’s essentially over 1,300 hours of manual entry from the Banner Fire team. By creating an automated inventory process, Banner Fire’s website has provided approximately $200k in cost savings, with that number growing exponentially as new products are added and updated.
Since the launch of the site, we’ve seen more meaningful user engagement. Pages per Session has increased by 4.08% and the Bounce Rate has declined by 10.53%. That’s a fancy way of saying that users are staying longer and viewing more pages on the site during their visits.