Tractor Supply revamps e-commerce platform

Tractor Supply Co. (NASDAQ:TSCO) has revamped its e-commerce website by using a cloud-based platform and integrating the online operation with its physical stores.

         Rob Mills

The retailer, which carries a wide variety of merchandise for home, farm and lifestyle for rural customers, partnered with IBM (NYSE:IBM) to migrate its e-commerce functions to the IBM Cloud last month. The redesigned site provides improved viewing from all devices, easier integration with social media sites, and a simplified checkout process.

Tractor Supply had two main objectives, Rob Mills, senior VP and CIO, told Total Retail this week. "First, we're always looking at ways to deepen our relationships with our customers through user interaction, the usability of the website, expansion of products, capabilities, etc.," he said. "So the first objective was to redesign the website navigation and simplify the customer experience. This goes from product selection—adding to cart—all the way to checkout."

The second objective was to improve the agility, speed and scalability of the website. That was "one of the reasons we partnered with IBM. Essentially we wanted to create a platform that was able to support the future capabilities that would expand the core and mobile businesses," he said.

In addition to its e-commerce operation, Tractor Supply has 1,438 stores in 49 states, with plans to increase the locations to as many as 2,500. The chain found its stores had a broader appeal than it once believed, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and will now put stores closer together in the northeastern U.S.

The key to the infrastructure overhaul was the migration of the website, which was built on IBM Commerce, from a software-as-a-service platform delivered through two distinct partners, to IBM Cloud. With the new infrastructure-as-a-service architecture, Tractor Supply gained improved system performance and the ability to scale quickly based on market demands, and greater operational visibility, IBM said in a statement.

"IBM Cloud is more agile and has management capabilities that let us respond quickly to market and individual customer needs, the direct result of which is a better customer experience," Mills said.

The retailer is integrating online sales with its physical stores, Total Retail reported. "We've moved to responsive design, and part of that strategy was to really offer a seamless and consistent customer experience across all different devices," Mills said.

"So a customer in a Tractor Supply store can be on their mobile device looking at product information, watching how-to videos, pricing information, and even neighboring store inventory availability. We wanted to give these customers a consistent experience on how they're navigating and finding product information."

In the website redesign, the retailer wanted to improve navigation and simplify the checkout process. "In addition to that experience, we've also added new capabilities to our website on analytics to drive more personalization around content—the products that you're actually viewing are based on previous purchases or how you're navigating the site; expanded assortment; more product information; and integration with our store locator information," Mills said. That is, local store events and product availability.

Despite high hopes, it's too early to report comprehensive results. "We're about 30 days into our launch, and so far it's been a very successful launch—we're still identifying and trending with our metrics," Mills said. "Some of the core metrics that we're looking at are the conversion rate, how customers are engaging with us on our website, how long they're spending on product pages, the information that they're looking at, increasing our basket size, and influencing more traffic into our stores."

For more:
-See this Total Retail article
-See this IBM press release
-See this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article

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