How an HVACR supplier increased their speed to market and online sales with a modern ecommerce platform

Johnstone Supply, a Portland, OR-based HVACR resource and supplier for contractors of all sizes, prides itself on having the “largest selection of genuine OEM parts in the industry, with replacements for nearly every major brand”. Along with its broad product inventory, the company offers superior customer service, technical advice, and training seminars to contractors around the nation. 

Johnstone Supply’s business model is centered on selling equipment and parts to contractors from hundreds of suppliers. Resulting in an ecommerce catalog of more than 100,000 products and a million SKUs, some of them locally sourced.  Additionally, as a cooperative-owned organization, with over 420 stores that are independently owned by more than 100 member groups, the management of product information, pricing and inventory is quite complex.  


Such complexity places a lot of demand on their backend systems; in addition to ongoing challenges to analyze and leverage their product and customer data – Johnstone Supply realized it was time to reevaluate their existing commerce and customer experience technology stack. They concluded it was time to upgrade their commerce platform to allow for more flexibility with a best-of-breed approach.

Full-stack commerce solutions force brands to adopt a technology provider’s capabilities across the board and thus require the business to conform to the solution. Opposite of that are flexible API-based / headless commerce solutions which allow organizations to utilize best-of-breed capabilities that can be adapted to the business needs. Exactly what Johnstone was looking for!

In 2017, Johnstone refreshed their commerce platform and significantly improved performance and connectivity with the back-end system. Since then, the company has enjoyed growth of its online sales that represent 11% of overall sales. 

Since moving to a headless commerce solution, Johnstone Supply has 

  • Improved online customer experience through enhanced information across channels. 
  • Online and in-store channels have access to shared, accurate product content. 
  • Increased speed to market for new products and marketing programs, including content for the web, mobile, print flyers, and catalogs. 
  • Increased operating efficiency and ability to scale. 
  • Ability to handle increasing volumes of product data, including products sourced locally.

With today’s emerging technologies and ever-growing customer touchpoints, it is not enough to just upgrade a current monolithic commerce system. They aren’t flexible and don’t enable business agility needed to keep pace with today’s customers and markets. With an API-driven headless solution, organizations build what they want, when they want. Leaving them no longer limited by the capabilities of a monolithic platform, but rather building with customers’ expectations guiding the way. 

For more on “going headless” and the four most overlooked benefits of headless commerce, check out Four Things You May Not Know About API-First Commerce

Kristin Schepici :As the Editor of Get Elastic, Kristin is dedicated to bringing Get Elastic readers top of mind topics and cutting-edge trends in technology and all things commerce. If you're interested in submitting to Get Elastic, please email editor@elasticpath.com.