Since AmazonSupply launched in 2012, many distributors have kept an eye on how the online business-to-consumer juggernaut would tackle the business-to-business market. While it continues to be front of mind for companies, such as UK-based Wolseley, the impact hasn't been significant for many of them.
"So far, we haven't seen any material penetration of AmazonSupply coming into our business," Wolseley Chief Executive Ian Meakins said in a call to discuss the distributor's fiscal year 2014 results.
Nearly 10 percent of Wolseley's business in the U.S. comes through its B2B e-commerce platform, Meakins said. Solid growth from e-commerce is being seen in Canada and the UK, as well, albeit from a very low base.
But the success of the platform is not just in sales, according to Meakins. Sales provide marginal improvement, but there are big benefits from the use of self-service options on the e-commerce platform, such as checking past orders or account status.
Self-service events in the U.S. exceed 7 million in fiscal 2014, reducing labor costs. And there's still a lot of opportunity to grow that number, Meakins said.
Wolseley invested around £3 million (US$4.9 million) in the e-commerce platform last fiscal year, with plans to double that investment going forward.
"(It's) absolutely essential for us to have the leading B2B e-commerce offerings in our business," he said.
The company is also focused on growing its B2B platform in the U.S., where it is currently No. 3 behind Home Depot and Lowe's. "We are gaining share in that overall category," Meakins said. "But Home Depot and Lowe's are as well. The bigger players are gaining share from the smaller B2C e-commerce players."