The Invisible Solution - Modern Distribution Management

Log In

The Invisible Solution

Distributors dont need to imitate Amazon Business, but they do need to think like them.

Over the past few years, we’ve been hearing more and more about Amazon Business from distributors and manufacturers. A jump of $1 billion to $10 billion in record time will tend to do that. Distributors now recognize that businesses are buying online, and they typically respond in one of two ways. The first is to bury their head in the sand and say, “Amazon Business isn’t a threat to our business.” The second is to say, “We need to build an experience.”

The catch is that Amazon Business isn’t building an experience. 

Instead, they are taking a customer-centric approach that is hyper-focused on solving their customers’ needs. Let’s look at one example. Amazon Business grasped that many (if not most) large companies and organizations purchase through online procurement systems, or what is commonly called e-procurement, as a way to manage internal spending. So they invested in creating integrations to over 50 of the leading procurement systems; that way, when businesses want to buy via a procurement system, it’s already connected and ready to go. Amazon Business didn’t create an Amazon experience – they created an invisible Amazon solution.

The takeaway? Distributors need to think like Amazon and figure out how to make their customers’ lives easier.

Amazon Business has been customer-centric from the start. Most distributors build their processes, and at the end — if they’re lucky — someone at the table will say, “Hey, I wonder what our customers think about this?” Thinking like Amazon Business means first listening to your customers, identifying their pain points, coming up with solutions and thenworking on processes. This is a relatively straightforward but brilliant approach that distributors can apply to their own e-commerce solutions.

Once distributors start thinking like Amazon Business, focusing on the customer and wrapping that focus into the company DNA, the technology becomes secondary. The buzzwords in e-commerce are “digital transformation,” but it’s ultimately about change management: “How do we go from where we are to where we need to be? How do we make not just a technical shift but a cultural shift?”

Legacy organizations need to rethink their legacy processes and retrain their legacy people to put the customer as the focal point of everything they do. That kind of thinking is what enabled Amazon Business to create solutions that worked for big business customers, who are a very different type of customer than an customer. 

If distributors can get past these hurdles (being business-focused rather than customer-focused, legacy thinking and change resistance) they are uniquely positioned to compete. Your customers are already buying online, or they want to. We are constantly interviewing distributors’ customers and, of the over 3,500 we’ve interviewed so far, over 65 percent say they want to buy online. Plus, your business has a depth of product knowledge and customer knowledge that can translate to a vastly better online experience for your customers than Amazon Business can achieve. In short: You know your products better than Amazon. You know your customers better. So think like Amazon and create an experience that works for your customers. Use your knowledge of your customers and your products to differentiate your company. Create a more streamlined, educational and easy experience. Focus on making your customers’ work, and lives, easier.

Justin King is President of B2X Partners and the author of Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors, which outlines a systematic approach for distributors looking to grow their online business.


Share this article

About the Author
Recommended Reading
Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Sign Up for the MDM Update Newsletter

The MDM update newsletter is your best source for news and trends in the wholesale distribution industry.

Get the MDM Update Newsletter

Wholesale distribution news and trends delivered right to your inbox.

Sign-up for our free newsletter and get:

  • Up-to-date news in a quick-to-read format
  • Free access to webcasts, podcasts and live events
  • Exclusive whitepapers, research and reports
  • And more!


articles left

Want more Premium content from MDM?

Subscribe today and get:

  • New issues twice each month
  • Unlimited access to, including 10+ years of archived data
  • Current trends analysis, market data and economic updates
  • Discounts on select store products and events

Subscribe to continue reading

MDM Premium Subscribers get:

  • Unlimited access to
  • 1 year digital subscription, with new issues twice a month
  • Trends analysis, market data and quarterly economic updates
  • Deals on select store products and events



You have one free article remaining

Subscribe to MDM Premium to get unlimited access. Your subscription includes:

  • Two new issues a month
  • Access to 10+ years of archived data on
  • Quarterly economic updates, trends analysis and market data
  • Store and event discounts

To continue reading, you must be an MDM Premium subscriber.

Join other distribution executives who use MDM Premium to optimize their business. Our insights and analysis help you enter the right new markets, turbocharge your sales and marketing efforts, identify business partners that help you scale, and stay ahead of your competitors.

Register for full access

By providing your email, you agree to receive announcements from us and our partners for our newsletter, events, surveys, and partner resources per MDM Terms & Conditions. You can withdraw consent at any time.

Learn More about Custom Reports

Request a Market Prospector Demo

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.