Boxes in a trolley on a laptop keyboard. Ideas about online shopping, online shopping is a form of electronic commerce that allows consumers to directly buy goods from a seller over the internet

Contributed by Essendant.

Today’s evolving janitorial/sanitation (jan/san) resale and distribution industry has shifted the way resellers interact with customers and approach new business. The market is being increasingly consolidated, making it critical for resellers to find new ways to compete in their channel. Additionally, the entrance of consumer retail behemoths has elevated buyer expectations for B2C experiences, putting pressure on resellers to invest in e-commerce capabilities and optimize their offline channel.

To take a closer look at how the industry is changing and how resellers can adapt accordingly, Essendant surveyed 114 jan/san resellers (manager level and above) about their pain points, investments, and plans for digital marketing and commerce strategies.

The New Jan/San Competitive Landscape is Redefining Business Models
Market consolidation due to mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies, coupled with the entrance of major retailers, has created a new competitive jan/san market today. In fact, the 2018 The Future of Janitorial and Sanitation Distribution Report found that resellers are competing against new players, with 58 percent of resellers noting large retailers (e.g., Walmart) are now their biggest competitors, followed by Amazon Business at 46 percent.

Overall, resellers note they are losing customers to larger competitors that are able to provide lower prices (54 percent) and wider product selection (38 percent). To compete with this, resellers can consider expanding into vertical markets and focusing on offering a personalized experience only an industry expert could offer.

“This is an exciting time for jan/san distributors who are exploring ways to embrace digital enhancements to their customer experience,” said Michael Hauck, vice president of marketing and digital at Essendant. “Even distributors who are just starting this journey seem well positioned to revolutionize the buyer journey in new and exciting ways – moves that will differentiate and insulate them from pure e-commerce players like Amazon. The path they can ill afford is to simply do nothing.”

The Jan/San Customer Experience Requires a Balance of Traditional and Digital Tactics
While it’s important to maintain the human element in the jan/san sales process, it’s equally critical for resellers to build a digital brand and storefront to keep up with the major retailers and increasing buyer expectations.

The study found the overall jan/san resale and distribution industry has embarked on the digital transformation, but resellers aren’t using e-commerce to its full potential. Three in five resellers (59 percent) say their online presence is ‘excellent,’ yet another 73 percent report less than half their revenue comes from e-commerce.

While there’s still room to improve e-commerce strategies, the future is bright for a more digital jan/san industry. Resellers report top business priorities include boosting brand awareness (37 percent) and investing in digital for the customer experience and supply chains (29 percent).

“Jan/san resellers and distributors need to recognize that the buyer journey and customer expectations are evolving. Business buyers today expect more intuitive, self-service ordering options to supplement the personal relationships they have with their dealers,” said Hauck. “By integrating digital into the marketing mix and buyer experience, resellers and distributors can meet consumers where they are and provide them with information to make more informed choices. This key value proposition allows jan/san resellers to not only compete today, but win tomorrow.”