Distributors may not want to hear this, but I’m a frequent Amazon user. With a supply that covers practically everything from A to Z, the website is always my first stop when shopping. But I’m realizing it may not be the best stop.

My kids and I play a lot of board games. We had been using Amazon as our supplier. But that changed when I discovered other, better vendors who deal exclusively in games. By having a specific focus, these sites can provide expertise that Amazon doesn’t have. The vendors send me newsletters about new products, offer links on their sites to reputable reviews and recommendations, and even have better pricing than Amazon. To top it off, I have received outstanding customer service whenever I have questions or want to change my order.  Plus, I can go to the website and see a picture of the representative I’m emailing or calling for a nice personal touch.

I bring up this example to prove that distributors can take on the mega e-tailer … and win. AmazonBusiness may offer low prices on towels, vacuums, chemicals and a host of other cleaning supplies, but they don’t have distributors’ best assets: experience and expertise. Customers want and need your help with training, new account startups, cleaning challenges and much more.

As ecommerce consultant Bob Lewis states in our article on AmazonBusiness starting on page 18, “People like to conduct business with people they know.” By providing a personal experience, customers will be more willing to stick with their local distributors than purchase from a faceless e-tailer. Emailing marketing newsletters is a great way to stay in touch, explain services and alert clients about new products. When performing sales visits, find out about current challenges. Be someone who solves problems rather than fills orders.

I admit that in my example, I favored another website rather than my local store, but the same principles apply. A distributor website can be better than Amazon for niche industries like jan/san. Design a site that is an extension of your company. Show off your expert sales reps and service technicians with a picture and short bio. Share your rich company history and community involvement. For products, provide in-depth information, instructional videos and user feedback. And don’t forget to make them simple to order.

AmazonBusiness may be the largest B2B ecommerce site, and therefore, a threat to B2B sales, but it’s just a warehouse with cheap prices and fast shipping. Personal distributors can still compete.