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Shell Canada relaunches online purchasing program

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By Nadine Youssef

Challenge: For the last few years, petroleum company Shell Canada had offered an online purchasing program called e-Store, where customers could order fuels and lubricants. Within the program, customers could order products, obtain price quotes, view order and account history, track orders and read product data sheets and material safety data sheets. Though many of Shell's customers knew the purchasing program existed, most continued to place their orders via telephone. The inefficiencies associated with the telephone ordering system and the problems created by time zone differences made Shell want to better promote its online program.

"The e-Store has been around for a few years," said Keith Dundas, senior strategist at Rare Method, the interactive marketing firm Shell Canada enlisted to refresh its e-commerce site. "The software was being downloaded, but it wasn't being used because it was still easier to call in the order."

Solution: To help figure out why customers weren't using e-Store, the marketing firm conducted surveys of customers and initiated a user interface study. In August 2003, Rare Method began to recreate Shell's e-Store. It rebranded the product as e-Stream and launched a marketing campaign to introduce customers to the new brand.

"We didn't change the software itself," Dundas said. "We repositioned [e-Stream] because people didn't know what it was," he said. "The marketing effort was to impose a behavioral shift on the customer who would usually order by phone. We wanted to make it a more efficient process for both Shell and its customers."

Another change: an informational video and e-Stream product demo on Shell Canada’s Web site. Rare Method also created a CD-ROM providing an overview of e-Stream and enumerating its benefits. The video, demo and CD-ROM are available in both English and French.

To drive more traffic to the Web site from customers using the telephone for ordering, the agency produced a series of on-hold messages. Calling customers would hear a 15-to-20 second promo about e-Stream.

"We positioned the product in a way that was meaningful in its title and appealing in its graphics," Dundas said. "The goal is to make [the customers] think about changing."

Results: e-Stream was relaunched in the spring of 2004. According to Dundas, Shell has just started to get feedback. As part of that analysis, Rare Method plans to be reviewing the transaction records in order to redefine the sales and marketing processes.

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