The pain of gearing up for a big project only to find you’re missing a key piece of equipment to get the job done is something we’ve all experienced.

Preventing that pain lies at the heart of family-owned business Kennards Hire, and is anchored in the equipment rental firm’s purpose ‘to make the customer’s job easy’.

Kennards Hire has more than 190 branches across Australia and New Zealand, and the 75-year-old firm remains something of a trailblazer in pursuing its purpose.

When it launched its ecommerce site in 2016, Kennards Hire was among the first in the industry in Australasia offering the convenience of hiring equipment online. Online sales have grown year-on-year ever since.

But the pioneering nature of the website created some legacy issues. The out-of-the-box ecommerce platform on which it was built was heavily customised, which meant making ongoing changes to the website was complex, time consuming and costly.

With the platform itself approaching end of life, in 2021 Kennards Hire made the call to build a new website, and explore some fresh opportunities in the process.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve really matured our understanding of our customers' pain points, and how we can offer different channels to meet their needs,” says Manelle Merhi, Kennards Hire’s General Manager of Marketing & Customer Experience.

“Re-platforming our website presented the opportunity to ask ‘what else can we do online to ensure we’re providing a seamless experience for customers?’”

Better insights from blended teams

The company initially worked with another vendor to map out the new website’s user experience, but then made the call to work with Datacom to bring its digital storefront to life.

Kennards Hire’s ecommerce solution was delivered using Sitecore CMS, and it was one of the first websites in Australasia to implement Sitecore Experience Edge for XM.

“We felt Datacom was technically extremely strong,” says Manelle, “but they also began our engagement by immersing themselves in our business to understand what differentiates us and how they could help bring that to life online.”

Kennards Hire GM Marketing & Customer Experience Manelle Merhi
The new website has boosted Kennards Hire’s online conversion rate from 1.6% to 1.9% – a 20% increase that Kennards Hire GM Marketing & Customer Experience Manelle Merhi says is “phenomenal”.

Establishing a culture of trust and transparency between both parties at a leadership level set the tone for the project, says Manelle – and led to better business outcomes.

Working in blended teams helped Datacom staff learn more about Kennards Hire’s business, while the hire company’s team gained new technical knowledge. It also created greater visibility over important decisions, says Nathan Borg, Kennards Hire’s Head of Digital & Customer Experience.

“We’ve had challenges in the past when we’ve given projects to a vendor and they’ve taken complete ownership. The motivation is just to get it out the door,” he says.

“When you’re working in a blended team, you’re focused on getting the job done, but there’s also greater awareness that someone has to maintain that code for years to come. That helps us get the most from our investment over a longer period.”

Growing conversion rates

In the spirit of making life easier, Kennards Hire also tackled some thorny conversion challenges during the build.

For example, the business always likes to ensure its customers’ needs are met so, previously, if a branch-specific hire request couldn’t be met online, an enquiry was created to see if a nearby branch could fulfill the order.

These enquiries accounted for 48% of Kennards Hire’s total online orders, and at times created confusion for customers who thought they had a confirmed booking. They also had to be followed up by branch staff.

With Datacom’s assistance, Kennards Hire designed a better user interface to manage this process. This has resulted in more orders being automatically confirmed online, and enquiries dropping to 19% of total orders.

Kennards Hire’s former website was also aimed primarily at its core DIY and trade customers but Datacom has helped design new, bespoke landing pages to meet the needs of large construction and infrastructure clients. This has increased the number of enquiries and high-value leads in this key growth segment for the business.

Trusted partnership

The new website went live in November 2022 and Nathan says part of its smooth launch can be attributed to extensive customer testing, led by Datacom, undertaken in the build’s early stages.

“It was a small investment upfront, but it was fruitful because it gave us a lot of insights before we started building the whole thing. We had an informed understanding of where we were going to land so there were no surprises once we were live.”

The new website has boosted Kennards Hire’s online conversion rate from 1.6% to 1.9% – a 20% increase that Manelle says is “phenomenal”.

And she says Datacom’s knowledge of the Sitecore platform and Kennards Hire’s wider business have now laid the foundation for an ongoing relationship.

“We’re now starting the conversation about our long-term digital strategy, with Datacom as a partner to help us deliver that. You do business best with people you trust and we’ve found that with Datacom.”

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