Every year when it’s time to start my Christmas shopping, the first place I check is Amazon.com. Why? Because the site is easy to use, has a great selection of products, prices are lower than competitors, there’s plenty of customer reviews and feedback to read, and often I can get free shipping. Unfortunately, all these great features might be coming back to hurt jan/san distributors.

Last month the online retail giant launched AmazonSupply, a new website offering supplies for commercial and industrial facilities. Among the listings are jan/san products, including plenty of options for soaps, mop buckets, paper, hand dryers, waste receptacles and pretty much every other cleaning product outside of equipment.

Even though industrial distributors may be at most risk with the launch of AmazonSupply, jan/san distributors shouldn’t take this new competitor lightly. Online ordering doesn’t get any easier than Amazon sites; distributors need to step up their game to prevent customers from trying out this new competition. If your customers want to buy products via the Web, it’s past time to start building an e-commerce platform or improving one already in place.

But having online shopping is just part of the solution. Just as Amazon builds on what they do well, distributors should also emphasize what they’re best at: customer service. Training, product demos, next day delivery (AmazonSupply boasts free two-day delivery), and other value-added services are all benefits end users can get from their distributor and not from a faceless computer-based ordering system.