In a recent presentation to a group of
PHCP distributors, I covered the subject of AmazonSupply, the fact that it is
beta testing a site for contractors, and how the use of e-commerce and
e-solicitation supplanting traditional sales efforts, combined with
super-warehouses that are hyper-efficient, can significantly reduce the costs associated
I also covered recent research on the contractor sector that
found, of those that had smartphones or tablets, 58% used them to check price
and availability and increasingly picked up items from big-box suppliers after
their search as they lead in e-commerce technology.
My presentation, where I covered the
technology advances, their cost advantage, and how they provided a faster, more
accurate and less costly service, was met with a kind of strained expression
from some audience members. Later, I discovered from several sources, including
a few wholesalers, that a fair portion of those present did not have a
functioning e-commerce capability. They had websites, of course, and maybe a Flash
site, but not an interactive digital site with products, pricing, current
inventory, product descriptions and other links that customer(s) need.
A few of the
wholesalers, after the seminar, went out of their way to tell me why they
didn’t need a fully functioning e-commerce capability. The timing on their
disclosure(s) of technological nada was good as they accompanied dinner where, with
a few glasses of wine, my objections were numbed and I let the issue go.
A New World with New Expectations
Driving permits for teenagers are
falling after rising for several decades. Research on this phenomenon finds
that teenagers don’t care about driving as much as they used to. Why? Because they use social media to visit;
hence there’s a lessened need to crank up the jalopy and head down to the
burger joint, skating rink, mall or wherever local teenagers used to hang out.
The simple fact that
today’s youth use the Internet and social media to communicate should, for
wholesalers, be as bracing as the Scandinavian glacial lake dip after the
sauna. In short, today’s generation reviews products, communicates, gathers
information and makes buying decisions based on information gathered from the Web.
Recent research finds that for the B2B buying decision, “70% of the B2B buying
cycle is completed before the salesperson engages.”[i]
When I heard the
previous statistic, I didn’t believe it. But then I began to think about the
number of things I do on the Web and the number of things I buy for my
consultancy via e-commerce. For instance:
travel, which includes price and availability research and buying for hotel,
rental car and air travel arrangements are done on the Web.
office supplies are ordered via the Web.
of my supporting research is done via Web sources.
survey research is done via the Web.
my business attire is ordered on the Web.
my books and research reports are sold through e-commerce.
essence, my communication, research, knowledge products, travel and support
materials are transacted through some element of the Web or e-commerce and I’m
a late-stage baby boomer, a good generation removed from Gen Y that is
currently taking over distribution channels. Consequently, for a group of
wholesaler executives to tell me they don’t need a robust e-commerce capability
seems, in the words of Gen. Anthony McAuliffe[ii] - “Nuts!”
The Lighting Fixture that Leaks
The PHCP seminar, where I was
enlightened by several wholesalers that one does not need e-commerce, capped
off a torrid month of travel, which can happen in the feast-to-famine world of
consulting. I arrived home a day later, after several cancelled and delayed
flights, hungry, tired, strung-out and just before the midnight hour.
Knowing that sleep
would be hard fought, I took the hottest shower I could stand and proceeded to
the kitchen to raid the icebox. As I turned on the rather massive florescent
light, I noticed water dripping from the opaque lens. I left a phone message
with our plumber before dining on a sumptuous meal of cold chicken and olives.
firm we have used in Chicago for the past 16 years is a well-established
contracting firm doing work in light commercial, new residential construction,
remodeling and repair. It has a sizable fleet of repair vans and has not, in
all the years we’ve used the firm, had to come back once for work not done to
I was duly worried
about the master bath shower because the bathroom needs to be remodeled,
including the tile shower which needs replacing. The contractor ran a test and
isolated the leak to the gravity drain.
“You have two
options,” the contractor said. “I can try and fix the lead caulk around the
drain or we would need to pull the base and do more work. The shower base is
old and, if you go through all the work of pulling it, you might as well
replace it and the drain.”
“I’m cheap,” I
said. “If you pull the base you might as well go ahead and rebuild the whole shower
and since I don’t want to do that now, see if you can fix the caulk.”
proceeded to take a hammer and bang on the caulk around the drain. I quickly
learned the seal was malleable and after a minute or so of hammering, a
subsequent water test found the fix worked.
“Sometimes the lead
comes loose from around the drain due to shifting and you can beat it back to
fix the problem. If this happens again, you’ll probably have to have a more
extensive fix. Do you need anything
“Nope. I’m good,” I
Before leaving, the
plumber proceeded to pull a small tablet from a leg-pocket and key in
“Do you use that a
lot?” I asked.
“More and more
every day,” replied the contractor.
“Do you order
products on it?”
“I try to get as
much product as I can from the shop. Sometimes, I’m too far out to go back so I
check price and availability from a supplier’s site, place an order and go pick
“So I guess a
supplier would have to have a good e-commerce site that’s easy to use for you
to buy from them.”
“Do a lot of the
suppliers have that capability?”
The plumber shook
his head back and forth while engaged with his handheld. “It’s not as common as
you would think.”
“That’s hard for me
to believe in today’s time,” I replied.
The plumber stopped
keying in information on his handheld, looked up and smiled. “You’re lucky, you have a minimum charge. Oh,
and remember to let the Sheetrock dry for several days before you put the lens
back on the light fixture.”[i]Schaub, Kathleen. “The Point, The New B2B
Buyer Dialogue,” at: http://spearmarketing.com/blog/the-new-b2b-buyer-dialog-a-conversation-with-kathleen-schaub/,
[ii]Anthony McAuliffe was
the commanding brigadier general for the American forces at Bastogne (Battle of
the Bulge), who, when offered surrender by the Germans, simply replied, “Nuts!”