Industrial and scientific supplies marketplace AmazonSupply.com is often noted as a threat to more traditional wholesaler-distributors. “We hear it all the time, ‘We want to be like Amazon,’” says Linda Taddonio, chief e-commerce strategy officer at Insite Software, in Beyond Amazon: E-Commerce’s Impact on Wholesale Distribution Markets. “But that’s actually rather limiting. ... And we have the capability now to go far beyond what Amazon has to offer.”
AmazonSupply.com is focused on both unplanned purchases and convenience. Product breadth and fast shipping is Amazon’s niche. It would be very difficult for many small and mid-sized distributors to compete on the same level of transactional websites of Amazon and others, such as Grainger and McMaster Carr.
But that’s not the point. Distributors should view their websites as a tool that can make it easier to do business with them. While some e-commerce features have become expected – the ability to view invoices or track shipments, for example – customers in different markets have different needs, and if a distributor can tackle those needs using all available tools – online and off – they will come out ahead.
Jonathan Bein in The 2013 State of E-Commerce in Distribution had this to say about the opportunities: “Despite progress, it is still early. Distributors who tackle these challenges quickly and move up the experience curve will be well-positioned to meet their objectives of growing revenue with new and existing customers.”