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Systems Integration Gives Hammer Nutrition a Boost

Hammer Nutrition, a Whitefish, Mont.–based company, specializes in products designed to increase athletic performance in endurance athletes. Its all-natural products include energy gels, sports drinks, supplements and energy bars. Six years ago, the two-decade-old company struggled with its burgeoning online retail business. New orders came daily from across the nation, but their current transportation provider wasn’t giving the company the service it needed. Hammer Nutrition wanted a carrier that could help it create an efficient, automated way to process shipments and quickly and reliably deliver its orders.

A Dream of Excellence

Twenty-four years ago, Brian Frank participated in his first endurance cycling race, and he was hooked. "I was always active, always on the go riding bikes, skateboards, and swimming. When I started endurance cycling, I loved it. But I couldn't find the nutritional supplements I needed for the long rides," says Frank. So he decided to create the fuel his body needed to perform at its best.

A few years later, Frank and his father, Dr. Gerry Frank, co-founded E-Caps, an all-natural supplement line aimed at endurance athletes and sold through resellers. A core group of devoted customers spread the word. In 1995, Frank introduced Hammer Nutrition Endurance Fuels to continue helping serious athletes reach their optimal level of health. Then he launched an e-commerce website and moved his family and company from Northern California to Whitefish, where Hammer Nutrition flourished.

Endurance Race

The company continued to attract a niche community of elite athletes throughout the U.S. But as they grew, so did their challenges. "We struggled with ease-of- use issues for our websites. Making the online retail sites easy to navigate for our clients is an ongoing challenge since we have a large number of products and a lot of information about those products," says Frank. "We don't want our clients to have to spend a ton of time searching for what they want to learn about." A couple of years ago they totally redesigned the website to create an architecture that would better hold all the articles and product information they wanted to get to customers.

As the online retailer has grown, so has the demand on its ability to process orders efficiently. Hammer Nutrition routinely upgrades its customized Java- based order management environment to meet operational and customer demands. Back-end administration and transaction processing also created difficulties. Hammer Nutrition wanted to automate tasks such as address verification and shipping information as much as possible to make the fulfillment process more efficient and less prone to human error.

Fueling Hammer Nutrition

Hammer Nutrition addressed its system-integration challenges by consulting with FedEx to see if the company could meet its needs. "Operational efficiency and reliable, cost-effective outbound shipping are critical to the reputation of the Hammer Nutrition brand," says Frank. Hammer Nutrition worked closely with FedEx Account Executive Patricia Corrigan Ekness, FedEx Customer Technology Consultant Craig Harpe and FedEx Web Services to fully integrate shipping functionality into its software and streamline its handling of packages.

"The thing we value the most about FedEx is the excellent support we receive from Patricia and Craig. FedEx is top-notch in the way it supports our business — from the people to the shipments. FedEx gives us the on-time, damage-free, fast delivery our customers want," says Frank.

Hammer Nutrition sells its products through multiple channels. Its direct-to-consumer site alone averages 225 orders a day. Customers can choose from FedEx Ground,® FedEx Express® and FedEx Home Delivery® services from their shopping cart since Hammer Nutrition requires fast, convenient and cost-effective shipping options for its many consumable products. The company also offers Saturday delivery.

Hammer Nutrition offers free ground shipping to reward customers who place large orders over $100. The majority of its more than 100,000 customers prefer home delivery. And Hammer Nutrition chooses FedEx Home Delivery over its former carrier because orders get to customers faster to more residences with far fewer breakages. That means cost savings, satisfied customers and repeat shoppers.

In addition, Hammer Nutrition can send larger shipments to retail outlets and distributors via FedEx Ground. It uses FedEx® international services for inbound shipments from overseas. "We currently use a variety of FedEx Ground, FedEx Express and FedEx Freight® services for transport of raw materials and finished goods. Doing so allows us to leverage our tiered pricing structure and offers us accurate and timely shipment-status tracking," says Frank.

Hammer Nutrition continually works with the team members at FedEx to ensure that the technology and shipment pickups work flawlessly. Each time the company wants to expand to a different market, it consults with FedEx. "It's an ongoing relationship. It's not a bookmark in the past. We're always working together on some improvement or some new capability. FedEx gives us advice about shipping logistics that we consider a competitive advantage. If you're not using FedEx, you aren't getting the best out there," says Frank.

Tour de Monde

Now that its systems are working so smoothly, Hammer Nutrition is poised for global growth. It has already started selling its products for elite athletes to distributors in several other countries. And like an endurance athlete looking for the smartest way to go the distance, Hammer Nutrition aims for continued growth, but in a controlled way that will enhance its longevity. "I've reached my goal of supporting endurance athletes in a safe and all-natural way," says Frank. "But we're always striving to improve our customer service and products." Frank clearly has no plans to cross the finish line yet.

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