With an 800 lb. gorilla like Amazon, once they come into your playground, things will certainly have to change. Big online giants are not new to this market. We’re used to the Grainger, McMaster Carr and MSC’s of the world. The difference in my mind is that while price is important to them, they are selling more of a convenience. The Amazon model is a bit different and price points are more critical.
AmazonSupply has been up and running for about a year now. I wrote a post last summer and asked how they might be influencing your business. Back then it might have been too early to tell. (I sure would like your input now.) I assume many manufacturers are using them as another outlet for their products. The trends are indicating that the traditional distribution models are declining.
I recently read an article by Scott Benfield in Industrial Supply, Trials and Tribulations of Sales Growth in an AmazonSupply World that outlined the difference and suggested ways traditional distribution can effectively deal with them. According to Scott, it comes down to the way traditional distribution goes to market. He calls it the bundle approach (full service) as opposed to a transactional model with a much lower cost base.
He also recommends strategies moving forward for the “new normal.” In my mind, I’d hate to see the traditional distribution model go away. There’s lots of value in their expertise, but if they are not willing to change, then the future might be dim for some of them.
Manufacturers, what are your thoughts on the different distribution models and where is your sales staff spending their time and efforts? Better yet, what can Associations like ISA do to help their members?