Over the past 50 years, Gemaire has grown into a leading HVAC distributor with 90 locations spread across 10 states. But the company’s adoption of technology tools during the past two years has propelled it to new heights.
Gemaire knew immediately that the integration of a mobile application and e-commerce platform would transform its operation, and the company’s decision was almost immediately endorsed by others in the B2B industry.
“[This business] has been done the same way for a very, very long time,” says Jamie Eatmon, product manager. “There’s no question that the addition of technology to the company’s overall strategy was a difference-maker.”
The company’s technology transition was lauded when Gemaire.com was named the 2015 eBay Enterprise Best B2B User Experience Award winner. The company received the award at the annual eBay Imagine Commerce Conference in Las Vegas. Gemaire.com is the company’s online commerce platform. It received the award for extraordinary efforts to elevate the customer experience and drive commerce excellence.
The platform was launched in 2014 and quickly became the primary ordering method and product information resource for Gemaire’s clients, says Steve Sunshine, e-commerce director. Indeed, the platform changed the way the company does business by expediting the ordering process and improving customer service. HVAC contractors nationwide can instantly access more than 20,000 products, check inventory and place orders from smart phones, tablets, laptops and computers, he says.
Despite a half-century of success, Gemaire quickly turned to the latest technology tools as a means of setting the company apart in an extremely competitive industry, Sunshine notes.
“[Technology] is unheard of in this industry,” he says.
The technology transition started with mobile devices and continued last year with the implementation of the e-commerce platform. Both solutions have made significant differences for Gemaire and its customers.
“It’s a total culture shift for our company internally as well as our clients externally,” Sunshine says.
Gemaire is a subsidiary of Watsco Inc., a leading HVAC and refrigeration equipment distributor. Watsco’s commitment to technology was a driving force behind Gemaire’s decision to do the same, Sunshine says. “It’s definitely a collaborative effort,” he says.
But customers also played a key role in the company’s rapid technology adoption strategy. “They are demanding this,” Sunshine says. And that came as no surprise to Gemaire. The mobile application, for example, significantly altered the way contractors do business with the distributor. “We’ve given the contractors the technology solutions right on the job,” he says.
The result has been the ability to remotely process and track orders, check prices and inventory, and review invoices and credit, he says. “We’re trying to develop a new and efficient company,” Sunshine says.
Gemaire also has implemented technology at each of its 90 branch locations and wants to create an express system that would allow contractors to pick up orders without having to check in at the front desk, Sunshine says. “It would be similar to express pickup at a car rental location,” he notes.
Although Gemaire’s technology adoption was an immediate success, a significant amount of work was conducted before the launch took place. “We performed one year of due diligence, choosing partners the appropriate platform,” Sunshine says. Additionally, a significant amount of time was invested in training , he says.
The Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based company started with two locations and steadily expanded throughout the Southeast, Southwest and southern California. “There’s been some acquisition opportunities,” Eatmon says.
The distributor does the vast majority of its business with HVAC contractors. “Ninety percent of our business is the add-on and replacement business,” Eatmon says. “That’s our business, and we do it better than most.” The company also is involved in some projects with new homebuilders.
Sunshine describes the company’s technology initiatives as a work in progress. “We know that technology evolves quickly,” he says. So far, however, he believes Gemaire has taken the appropriate steps to become a market leader in the coming years.
“The industry recognizes the leadership position we were in,” Sunshine says. “We expect to win the award next year as well.”