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Experts agree that jan/san distributor’s strengths are Amazon’s weaknesses. They include established relationships, training and education, and service after the sale. To compete in the new marketplace, distributors must exploit these pluses. 

“Clients do not always understand the products or the services that are available from their distribution partner,” says Banks. “There is a lot of complexity to the offerings. That’s where distributors can shine.” 

For example, end users may order trash can liners off Amazon and get a smoking deal. The problem is, they didn’t know how to size and select the right liners, so what they ordered didn’t meet their need. Distributors representatives will work with end users to sift through the offerings and identify the right option for their operation. 

“We can make sure they have the right dispensers, paper that fits into these dispensers, and trash can liners that fit their trash cans,” says Banks. “We can help them understand the products. There is comfort in knowing a consultant is there to help. An e-commerce platform lacks this personal service.”  

Jan/san distributors can also set themselves apart through regular site visits and a strong customer service team available by phone. According to Davis, Amazon might offer more product variety, but talking to someone is impossible. He calls it a transactional-only experience. 

“It’s a fine option when you don’t need to talk to anyone. But when something takes some expertise, distributors are better positioned to help,” says Davis. “For instance, only a knowledgeable jan/san distributor can help a school decide the best way to put down floor finish or help select the right disinfectants or laundry detergents for a healthcare system.”  

In addition to helping with product selection, distributors should be promoting that they also aid in product utilization. For example, they can impart how to best use disinfectant — are end users cleaning with disinfectant or disinfecting?  

“These are not the same thing,” adds Davis. “We add context on how to use a product correctly and provide demonstrations. When clients are spending several thousand dollars on equipment or chemicals, it’s nice to see them at work, as opposed to ordering them online and then not knowing how to use them.” 

Because not every customer needs service after the sale, Davis suggests jan/san distributors develop an “ideal customer” profile and identify the market niches they serve. Doing this will make distributors more focused and better equipped to service their customers. 

Pick Your Channel 

Another way distributors can better service customers and compete with e-tailers is to improve their e-commerce offerings. Schneringer recommends distributors improve their platforms to allow customers to order products through the sales channel of their choice.  

“Right now, people still buy through distributors, but that doesn’t mean they will do it again tomorrow,” he explains. “You need to add in an e-commerce experience and make it possible for customers to interact with you on a variety of channels.”  

While it’s essential to assign distributor reps to visit specific sites, it’s equally important to establish electronic relationships. Some customers are fine doing business remotely or online and distributors need to form electronic relationships to meet their needs. 

WAXIE has invested in video conferencing tools and is developing content that will answer customer questions via an e-commerce platform. The video content will help customers research and learn more about products online.  

“People need the ability to search for products and ask questions about specific concerns online,” says Schneringer.  

He points out that platforms help consumers with questions like: “I have grout lines that look horrible. How do I fix them?” or “I have a spot on the carpet that keeps coming back. How do I remove it for good?”  

“We need to keep these end users coming back by recommending solutions that may work for specific problems,” Schneringer adds.  

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How Distributors Can Compete Against Amazon
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