A white paper titled, The Electrical Wholesaling E-Commerce Audit, which features a study of more than 200 electrical distribution companies in the United States, finds that while 94 percent of the distributors had websites, more than half did not feature e-commerce functionality and only a small fraction offered what was termed a “fully functional” e-commerce site.

 Among other things, a “fully functional” e-commerce site offers secure ordering, detailed specifications about products, content, and information relative to the product — all placed on a platform that is easy to navigate and encourages sales.

 “There is a clear and urgent case for electrical distributors and wholesalers to accelerate their efforts to meet their customers’ e-commerce expectations,” according to the report. “With the broader B2B sector embracing e-commerce... it’s imperative that wholesalers and distributors respond quickly to retain their share of the business.”

 While the study, released earlier this year, focused on electrical distributors and wholesalers, according to Bob DeStefano, a frequent presenter at distributor focused trade shows, it is reflective of what is happening overall in the distribution industry.

 “Some distributors have chosen to ignore e-commerce... [or] sit on the sidelines and see what happens,” says DeStefano.  But, with AmazonSupply and Staples actively shopping for B2B customers, this is a poor decision.

 According to Michael Wilson, marketing director for AFFLINK, a leading sales and marketing organization for the Jansan and related industries, there are several reasons why distributors have been slow to embrace e-commerce.

 “Many distributors underestimate the work involved to make an e-commerce site or select the wrong platform,” he says. “And, those that do have an e-commerce site often do not have an effective marketing strategy in place, so the site proves ineffective.”

 To address this challenge, AFFLINK as well as some other organizations, now offer “shop fronts” with full functional e-commerce that distributors can use quickly.  

 “Distributors must adapt to stay relevant,” says Wilson. “In a fast-changing world, they must have an effective e-commerce platform in order to do business and stay in business.”