Is Amazon a threat to the Independent Distributor?
What does it mean for the average independent distributor that Amazon Business has entered the arena to contend with the likes of Grainger, Ferguson and Johnstone? Should distributors be worried they will be washed away in the Amazon tidal wave that seems to be spreading across the world?
For those who see the signs of the time and prepare; there is nothing to worry about. For those who think they can keep doing business the way they always have, I quote the words of Benjamin Franklin’s quotes “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
It’s not Amazon’s fault. Customers have changed and Amazon is concerned about what customers want and how they want to get it. The company sees that the current market is really no different than other generations in that they want information to make decisions, quality products at a good price, and an easy relationship with excellent service. Nothing new in what they want; thanks to technology, how they get it has changed drastically.
An online presence combined with timely delivery has opened the door for companies like Amazon to readily meet customer expectations, much like McDonald’s did through the hamburger; nothing remarkable, but price friendly, easy to buy, repeatable and consistent. This is the new standard: shopping whether at the office or on the job site, during business hours or after doors have closed, tracking shipments in real time, product information available for immediate access, tools and support accessible in multiple ways. The Amazon offering is a standard that satisfies customers in all of these areas. They may not be the best at one thing, but good enough in all to win customers’ business.
When it concerns, plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning parts, the reality is a part is a part. Then what really is going to separate one part-provider from another?
Of those companies that have weathered the ups and downs, what we have heard over and over from their customers is “our distributor knows their products; they do their job well.” This knowledge is a distinct advantage over online giants who don’t have the depth of knowledge to solve unique problems or find specialized products.
For the independent distributor that see E-Commerce is not a matter of convenience, but one of bringing expected offerings up to par with goliath competitors (i.e. Amazon, Grainger, Platt etc.) this is great news. Why?
All other factors being equal, distributors have the unique advantage of offering rich and expert interactions. The reality is the customers need and want their distributors to make their lives easier; the question is will you prepare or be washed away?