At the beginning of 1996, there were about 170,000 commercial domains – companies – registered with InterNIC, the internet domain registration authority at that time. By the end of July that year, there were more than 420,000 commercial domains registered – close to a 150-percent increase in six months.
MDM launched our mdm.com site that year also, and I noted in a column that the use of the internet is a learning process for everyone. Here we are 20 years later, and the same holds true.
Distributors were not disintermediated by the internet in the late 1990s, as some industry pundits predicted. No large national distributor has dominated across sectors. Nor has Amazon taken over in its 10 years of activity in industrial markets.
At the same time, every size distributor has felt the impact to market share as Amazon, other digital sellers and large nationals across broader product categories leverage digital channels aggressively to commoditize industrial and commercial product markets. A look at this year’s MDM Market Leaders list, published in June, shows a competitive landscape that increasingly is polarizing within vertical sectors between big and small, but also converging product sectors quickly at the top end.
Effectively, nuclear digital warfare has broken out across product channels as distributors look to expand their target markets and product portfolios. Staples, The Home Depot and others are targeting industrial markets for growth, albeit in different ways. But it’s getting crowded at the top wherever you look.
Within product sectors, distributors with stronger local-market presence continue to be successful if they find ways to adapt to their markets and customers. Our Market Mover profiles in the last issue offer strong case studies for what that looks like.
In spite of periodic waves of consolidation, markets are effectively more crowded. And that crowding is coming from competitors you haven’t traditionally defined yourself by. That’s why we evaluate how to evolve our annual Market Leaders listing to capture as closely as possible the shifting channel dynamics.
The internet continues to be a learning curve 20 years later because only recently have alternate threats escalated to disrupt strong customer relationships based on service, solutions and expertise. If you aren’t thinking constantly about how to leverage evolving digital tools to keep your customer closer and differentiate your value, you are leaving your front door open.