As Deputy Editor Nick Bragg explores in our cover story, building service contractors and in-house service providers are not doing a majority of their product purchasing online. However, there are strategies distributors can implement to help improve their e-commerce platform.

But for those customers who are utilizing the Web, we surveyed them to find out what products they most commonly purchase online. The biggest sellers were those used on a daily basis: general-purpose chemicals, vacuums, can liners, personal protective equipment and safety signs. In addition, end users are more likely to purchase towels, soaps and hand sanitizers online than they are the actual dispenser.

Aside from vacuums, end users are not likely to make a major purchase like an autoscrubber via the Web — but they will buy the floor pads and replacement parts for the machine.

Make these items easy to find and order on your websites, especially for reordering purposes. Most of the online purchases made by BSCs and ISPs are reorders and these products aren't technically complex and shouldn't require training or additional education from a salesperson.

To make the reordering process even simpler, offer a quick reorder form as part of the customizable user account. Instead of searching for each item, customers can save time by simply selecting this shopping list of the most commonly purchased items.

It's in a distributor's best interest to make ordering online as easy as possible; the jury is still out on whether customers will switch suppliers for a better e-commerce experience. When we posed that question in our survey the answer came back as no, but it wasn't an overwhelming majority. I don't know too many distributors that would be comfortable with the fact that 46 percent of BSCs and 41 percent of ISPs indicate they would make a switch based on e-capabilities.