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Grainger Cleans Up With Great Customer Experience

This is the last region in our Retail Madness competition: the Kitchen Sink, where we find the misfits (actually, just leaders in verticals that don’t happen to have a lot of company in the top 64 web retailers). These include sporting equipment and apparel, industrial equipment, hardware, and more.

This was the best-scoring region, with a mean score of 66. It also has the broadest range, from 51 to 98.

Grainger’s Customer Experience Dominates

Grainger follows patterns we’ve seen in the tournament thus far. Like Walmart, they use a mobile “m.dot” website, resisting the trend toward responsive web design. They also have very fast pages, with one of the fastest average times to fully display on desktop, and well-rounded, fast mobile performance.

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Like some other top sites, Grainger cuts down the payload of JavaScript and images substantially for mobile users. But in both desktop and mobile browsing scenarios, Grainger maintains a high proportion of images and JavaScript — things that users can interact with and appreciate. This means the pages are built to serve the user, not carrying a lot of weight in CSS or other miscellania that drags performance with no easily discernable benefit to the user experience.

Two things stood out about Grainger in particular.

One is that, on mobile, there’s a linear path of increasing complexity as you go deeper into the site. Many mobile eCommerce experiences feature roughly similar weight and complexity across page types, while others feature expansive category pages with relatively simple home and product detail pages. Conversely, Grainger’s home page is among the lightest in the field, and there’s a clear line toward more images, more JS, and more overall richness as the user progresses. It’s the result of a streamlined, menu-focused user interface. We wonder if this is by design — if it’s something they’ve tested and planned for in terms of the performance budget (the pages do get slower as they get more complex). For desktop pages, complexity is roughly even wherever you are on the site.

The other point of note is simply the fact that Grainger is primarily a B2B business. It’s one of only a few non-B2C companies in our tournament. Grainger’s killer customer experience underscores both the burgeoning B2B eCommerce market — predicted by Forrester to hit 1 trillion in the U.S. before 2020 — and the simultaneous trend toward “B2C-like” experiences by business-focused retailers.

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Check back later this week for the overall winner!

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