Corinne Zudonyi

The pandemic has changed a lot when it comes to purchasing trends, but one thing certainly remains the same: Online retailers like Amazon continue to threaten jan/san distribution.

According to our "2021 End User Purchasing and Service Survey", 62 percent of end users allocate up to a quarter of their purchasing dollars to buy cleaning products online through outlets such as Amazon. Looking at general numbers, this doesn't seem all that off from 2019 purchasing trends, but examining the specifics reveals something quite different.

In 2019, the majority (36 percent) of end users only purchased between 1 and 5 percent of their cleaning products from e-tailers. Smaller amounts of customers purchased up to 10 percent or as much as 25 percent (16 and 11 percent of end users, respectively) of cleaning products from these sellers.

According to the 2021 survey, those numbers are starting to even out a bit, creating a trend distributors should be cautious of. Although the number of customers using e-tailers hasn't changed much, their spending appears to be trending away from traditional distribution.

This year, fewer in-house managers and building service contractors fall into the category of purchasing 1-5 percent of cleaning products from e-tailers. Meanwhile, more end users are buying 6-10 percent of products this way, and even more are using digital retailers for 11-25 percent of their cleaning products.

Economists compare these trends to those of the general population as supply chain issues continue and ordering online becomes more commonplace. In fact, the pandemic has forced changes for a few purchasing trends in the cleaning industry. Almost 56 percent of cleaning departments or building service contractors are planning orders earlier to avoid supply chain delays.

These end users are also re-addressing purchasing quantities, as well as keeping their options open when it comes to who they buy from. Almost 30 percent of end users are ordering more inventory of products on a less frequent basis to make sure they beat supply chain issues and guarantee they have the products necessary to get the work done.

These customers are also less loyal to purchasing partners and product brands than was the case pre-pandemic. Thirty-one percent of end users are willing to explore alternative sources for products — including other distributors, big-box stores or e-tailers — to offset supply chain issues. They are also apt to diversify product and equipment brands, choosing to purchase instead on price and/or availability.

Check out our cover story for more on what end users are looking for when purchasing and how distributors can fill in those "missing pieces."