This is the third part of a three-part article about business-to-consumer distribution software.

In addition to ensuring software fits their functionality needs, janitorial and sanitary supply distributors will need to address the online customer’s shopping experience.

“Our industry customer experience with traditional jan/san is very institutional,” says Chris Martini, director of marketing and special projects at Central Sanitary Supply. “The customer wants the same experience they have when they are at home.”

One major facet of the consumer experience is access to product information. Traditionally, the janitorial and sanitary supply industry did not widely disseminate information both internally and externally.

“Not that we have been keeping it from people, but we did not have a way to share it with the world,” says Martini. “So I think it’s critically important for us as a distributor to evolve our software and our infrastructure.”

Another element that consumers expect — and that software and infrastructure can provide — is robust searchability on a website where they are shopping.

“There are of things today that people just expect and they expect that when they type in ‘blue pen,’ they get blue pens,” says Carson. “You can’t have just an OK website. Now people expect your website to operate like Amazon or e-Bay so I think it is more important than it has ever been.”

Distributor websites will need to include safety data sheets, product information sheets and various product images. They must ensure their website software and infrastructure can handle the additional content.

“The actual (amount of) product information is getting so huge for distributors that without some investment in technology … it’s going to be unbearable for us to keep up on it,” says Carson.

Distributors attempting to get into the consumer market should also pay attention to the cultural impact that the shift may have on their organizations. At Central Sanitary Supply, employees have been training during the last several months on the new technology. The company has also designated several point people to help facilitate the changes and help acclimate other employees.

“It’s an evolution … but I am very happy where we are at,” says Martini. “It’s a daunting task. It’s definitely a cultural change, but this is how business is done these days.”

Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wisconsin. He is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.

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Distributors Can Find Both Business-To-Consumer And Business-To-Business Sales