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Build.com builds up a credit program for business customers

May 22, 2015 11:40 AM

The founders of Build.com designed and built the e-commerce site 15 years ago to serve “medium to high-end, affluent” consumers who purchase household tools, look for project advice and shop for the more than 1 million home improvement supplies the site offers today.

But now Build.com executives are striving to cater more to the growing number of architects, interior designers and custom builders that Build.com executives noticed were starting to order from the site about seven years ago, says Russ Wheeler, executive vice president. Based on the recent growth rates of its number of professional customers, Build expects them to grow to 50% of its customer base within the next 12 to 24 months, he notes.

To focus extend Build’s reach with these business  customers, the web-only merchant recently announced an agreement with credit management company BlueTarp Financial to offer professionals credit for their often high-ticket, high-volume purchases.

The aim is to attract new B2B customers and increase spending by existing buyers, Wheeler says. He says he views these pro customers as the future of Build.com’s business.

Through BlueTarp, Build.com customers are eligible for commercial credit lines ranging from $1,000 to $1 million. The credit management company will approve Build.com clients for credit, extend payment terms to each applicant on an individual basis, and oversee billing and collections.

Build.com also lets its client companies’ procurement departments log in and create a branded company profile section, where procurement managers can set up an approval process that regulates the amount of credit offered to individual employees.

That will help Build’s business customers better manage their often large orders, Wheeler says.

Because Build.com offers more than 1 million products from some 432 vendors, the e-commerce site can provide everything a contractor or designer needs for a full-room or house project, he says. And, Wheeler claims the company’s 200-person team of sales reps is trained to provide advice on such projects. “There is nobody better at selling supplies for whole rooms or whole houses than us,” Wheeler says. “Our competitors are really good at selling products, but we’re really good at selling projects.” He says business customers are a big part of why Build.com is increasing sales at a double-digit annual rate.

Founded as a college class project in 2000—originally as FaucetDirect.com—Build.com reported $525 million in revenue in 2014, up 16.7% from $450 million in 2013, as noted in the 2015 2015 Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies on their annual web sales. Build.com is No. 76 in the Top 500. More than 1 million customers shopped the site last year.

Build.com and BlueTarp took about one year to develop their financial services program, which is just one way Build.com segments its business between pro and consumer customers.

The e-commerce site organizes its 200-person customer service team into reps who answer consumer questions and those who answer inquiries from, and offer advice to, business clients. The e-retailer’s customer service reps field from 3,000 to 5,000 calls per day.

The majority of Build.com’s pro customers call in and place orders through these reps, Wheeler says, because many of their special projects require account managers to help them issue project specifications, understand their product volume needs, or find out if they are eligible for bulk pricing. The reps then place the customers’ orders through the e-commerce site. Business clients typically place their own orders online for standard items, such as lights or shower heads, Wheeler says.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly business magazine Internet Retailer. Follow Nona Tepper, associate editor for B2B e-commerce, on Twitter @ntepper90.

 

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