Wolseley is the world's largest heating and plumbing distributor to the professional market and has approximately 47,000 employees across 25 countries. It has 52,000 suppliers, 28 distribution centres and 2,754 retail branches.

The challenge for Wolseley UK’s e-business team is to encourage more of its customers to procure using Wolseley’s new e-commerce technology platform and benefit from a range of Wolseley e-business Services.

At present Wolseley plc reports that only 14% of its national sales is through its e-commerce channel. 69% of its customers still buy through its branch network, with 9% of its sales coming from central account management and 8% through showrooms. Wolseley's goal is to be one of the strongest players through in the e-commerce channel. To that end, it has embarked on a series of projects to transform its business to cater for the demands a modern customer may have.

Both Wolseley's business-to-business, and business-to-consumer e-commerce programs have experienced significant growth in the past year, especially in the U.S as customers are starting to realise that the old way of buying and paying for things isn’t necessarily the best way, as technology provides more efficient means to operate.

Business Problem and Objectives

In April 2016, Wolseley UK’s Chief Technology Officer, Jeremy Maxwell approached Black Pepper to see if we could help its customers to understand the benefits of buying through Wolseley's new digital e-commerce platform.

It seeks to offer its SME customer base a seamless procurement experience by enabling key customers to integrate with their technology back-end, with a goal to make the organisation the easiest to do business with.

By working closely with George Brickwood, Wolseley UK’s head of e-business sales, Black Pepper conducted a series of consultancy workshops with Wolseley teams to understand the most effective means of converting key customers who had not quite made the mental leap in understanding the significant savings that could be achieved when procuring through Wolseley’s e-business services e-commerce platform.

Black Pepper was commissioned to build Wolseley UK a web application to address this business problem. In the first phase it would be utilised by Wolseley UK’s B2B account management team as a powerful new business tool on their iPads. The second phase would be allowing customers to go online and use the application themselves. The solution would enable account managers to ask key customers a series of revealing questions which would help them to ‘self-realise’ the time, monetary savings and reduction in hassle that could achieved by integrating with Wolseley’s platform.

During the discovery phase, George expressed that their key business problem was that customers just wanted to transact in the way that they had done for decades, more out of habit than any other reason. They were used to going in branch, talking to a branch advisor who they had developed an ongoing relationship with. Similarly customers were used to chasing through orders by telephone. George explained to Black Pepper that if we could just get customers to realise how much they could save in time, money and hassle they would see that Wolseley’s e-business services could make them far more effective, saving them a fortune in costs, make them much more efficient and therefore more profitable.

Black Pepper were given the go ahead to build the e-business application in May of 2016. One of the primary reasons Black Pepper won this engagement was because of its User Experience (UX) expertise. Black Pepper’s UX practice worked closely with George and his team to develop a final application that was polished, reliable, on brand and highly engaging. In a few months Black Pepper had built the application ready for user acceptance testing and feedback through George’s team of account managers.


The finished industrial grade web application meant that Wolseley UK could promote online procurement by enabling customers to arrive at the logical conclusion that to switch to Wolseley’s e-business services would help them eliminate unnecessary costs and make them more profitable. Wolseley UK already has plans to build upon the initial application organically, introducing more features as its use increases.

For Wolseley UK’s sale team, they now have a tool which will help them bridge the divide when trying to help a customer understand the value of using Wolseley’s e-commerce platform and integrating with a range of Wolseley’s e-business services. Technology is helping them to provide the highest level of service as well as reduce their customers costs which breeds loyalty and increased business.

By developing these new technology partnerships with its key customers, Wolseley would benefit from happier customers, as well as a bigger share of the market and lower operating costs increasing Wolseley’s competitivity.

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