Understanding Customer Buying Behavior

More product turns and less dead stock. These keys to distribution are as cliche as “buy low, sell high” is to the stock market. But distributors need to know which products customers will buy — and buy frequently.
To shed some light, Sanitary Maintenance tapped into surveys from its sister publications, Facility Cleaning Decisions and Contracting Profits, on the purchasing habits of in-house facility managers and building service contractors, respectively. What we found may be just what distributors need to streamline their warehouses.

Turns out, the majority of cleaning facility managers in schools, healthcare facilities and hospitality facilities purchase products from distributors. The most commonly purchased items are also the most used: cleaners and disinfectants, hand soap and sanitizers, hand tools such as brooms and squeegees, and paper towels and tissue.

However, some niche products were also among the most purchased, including laundry products, pest control products, ice melt and janitorial carts.

But, cleaning managers rely on their distributors for more than just products. According to the survey, three-quarters of managers trust that their distributors will keep them up to date on the industry, and the majority expect product training and after-hours emergency service.

When it comes to building service contractors, 64 percent of them purchase products from distributors. And, not surprising, products that top shopping lists include cleaners and degreasers, floor care chemicals, brooms and brushes, carpet care chemicals, can liners, mops and buckets, and floor pads and brushes.

However, big-ticket items such as floor and carpet equipment are also highly purchased from this customer base, much more so than in-house departments.

Although distributors still consider giant e-tailers like Amazon Business a threat, BSCs only purchase 5 percent of their products from this channel. In fact, online ordering is not a popular option among BSCs. For 21 percent of contractors, online orders only account for 1 to 5 percent of product purchases. Building a robust e-commerce option should be a priority for jan/san distributors, but they can relax knowing they have some time to perfect their websites.