Building materials supplier TW Perry knows it made the right improvements to the dealer's website, The numbers say it all.

"We're averaging about 40 [registered] users a month. Before, it was probably eight to 10 a month," says Gary Bowman, vice president of information technology and training for Gaithersburg, Md.-based TW Perry. "The traffic increase has been really large. Right now, we're logging 4,000 visits a month. ... It was about 400 a month on our old site."

The company attributes much of this popularity to three major site updates made in late June 2009: adding an online catalog, starting a contractor referral page, and cleaning up the look of the site.

The catalog's success surprised even its leading advocates.

"We're easily at over $25,000 in sales just off the website, which way exceeds anything we expected," Bowman remarks. "We never thought customers would actually place orders on it. The benefit, we thought, was that customers could get prices 24/7." Instead, not only did more people order than predicted, but about 80% of those orders are from customers who didn't have existing accounts.

The catalog's system also allows TW Perry to respond quickly to these sales. After someone places an order, the site, which integrates into the Spruce ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, generates a file for a sales staffer that contains the customer's contact information. An employee then will call the client to work out delivery details. If the transaction happens during business hours, a user may get a call within the hour.

"A number of customers have mentioned how fast the response has been on our end, especially compared to other online sites," says Mike Riegel, director of training for TW Perry. "It's been pleasant to hear that type of response from the customer."

The contractor referral page also has enjoyed success. Housed in the homeowner section of the site, the page listed 31 contractors as of October.

Kevin Benson, owner of Damascus, Md.-based P.K. Benson Remodeling Co., says a "significant" number of leads have come his way from TW Perry's site.

"When we first signed up on it, a few calls came in. But in the last couple weeks, it's been taking off like crazy," he says.

TW Perry makes sure to screen the contractors it includes to help ensure that homeowners have a good experience.

The referenced contractors need to have an account with TW Perry that is at least two years old, with a minimum purchase requirement. This helps the lumberyard know they are stable businesses, Bowman says. If several homeowners complain about a contractor, the listing can be removed.

However, these pages may not have made as much impact if TW Perry hadn't given its site a sharper image.

Last year,, an offshoot of TW Perry's main site, won an Excellence Award for best website. It focuses on green building and has a colorful, clean appearance. The company decided it needed to bring the original site up to the same visual level as the green addition.

"The old site was cumbersome," Bowman explains. "It was filled with a lot of fields of text and was difficult to read. So, we changed the look and feel of it."

The company broke up word-heavy pages with more pictures, larger headlines, and bullet points.

By focusing on crucial image and content problems, TW Perry was able to greatly improve the response to its website. But the company knows that success can't come from the site alone. It shows this through its quick sales follow-throughs and contractor relations.

"All along, we never wanted the site to displace personal service," Bowman states. "Anything we can do to foster communications and make it easier for our customer to interact with our people, we wanted to do that."