Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

David Gordon

November 9, 2017

By David Gordon

For the past few years electrical distributors have been actively investing in (with the hope of eventually deploying) commerce-enabled websites. This has necessitated that distributors become acquainted with, focus on, invest in and develop product content (data) to power their systems.

And they’ve had to learn the difference between product content that is sufficient / usable for their ERP system (transactional and supply-chain oriented) and product content that is suitable for customers (commerce enabled).

All content originates, to some degree, from manufacturers as they define the attributes and features of their products that they design, and that are installed / used by customers. Sometimes their “product content” is used on their website; sometimes their website’s copy has been enhanced by their marketing department.

For distributors and e-distributors / retailers, there are a few data sources:

And here is where the challenge is!

In the survey we’ve recently conducted regarding ecommerce  and supported by numerous interviews, when respondents were asked “Which two of these would be most helpful in increasing your eCommerce sales,” the #2 answer was “Better product content.”

During the interviews, and in prior conversations with clients and other distributors, when asked about the “quality” of product quality (and sometimes unsolicited when asked about when their website would go live), regularly distributors comment that “the content is bad,” with many reverting to dedicating internal personnel to enhance or create content, enhancing IDEA provided content, or changing content providers (from one of the above to another of the above).

At the same time they all recognize that this is an advantage for Amazon Business and Grainger. Additionally, they question how distributors in other industries readily have access to sufficient eCommerce data (even small distributors). A distributor who also is involved in True Value recently commented:

This whole eCommerce thing we have been reading about… (which is really just an insurance policy for future possible purchasing behaviours) on the distribution side of business wrestling with it is silly. On the retail side, with the same vendors, we had this figured out years ago. The retail electronic content is better, cheaper and more available for the same products. What’s crazy is the vendors cooperated on the retail side years ago to make it happen (Lowes/HD, Ace, True Value;) on the ED side we are grinding through the process and reinventing the wheel. The question should be asked, if they have done it for retail, why so slow and dragging the feet on the ED side of the business? Some of it is self-inflicted. Both IDEA and Trade Service are run by people that have never run a distributor before and spend time telling us what we need rather than asking the vendors for what we want. Add to this is the inability of the industry to speak to manufactures clearly with one voice… Guess it speaks to how fragmented the industry still can be.

But the terms “good” and “bad” are relative, judgmental, terms. The base content all comes from manufacturers. Rarely, if ever, has customer input been solicited. Amazon Business and Grainger, whom are viewed as the gold standards” still get their base content from manufacturers and then invest monies to enhance but the question is

… what defines “good” content? “Bad” content?

And yes, I agree there should be consistency for basic terms (e.g., how many ways to spell “black”), as well as standardization in formatting (e.g., font size, italics, bold, etc.).

… or is the content currently available in the marketplace “sufficient” for customer searching and ordering so that websites can go live quicker and then the content incrementally improved over time?

Perhaps those of you who evaluate content or have referred to content as “good” or “bad” can share some of your criterion… even if anonymously?

And remember, manufacturers are asking the same question, as they

  • have funded IDEA
  • have added people to aggregate, “enhance” and provide their information to provide to IDEA, Trade Service and direct to distributors
  • hear / see that others are “enhancing” / “changing” their data
  • are questioning why some of their services / groups / distributors are asking them to further fund “product content development”

And speaking of product content, are you truly speaking your customers’ language? Years ago Trade Slang compiled a list of product slang that contractors and installers use. Recently Elliott Electric resurrected and added to the list as a service to its customers, salespeople and maybe its website. Check it out: http://www.electricalslang.com/

Some thoughts

  • Should “perfect” product content today be the reason why your commerce-enabled website hasn’t been launched?
  • If content is why your site hasn’t been launched, are you providing others, including Amazon Business, with first mover advantage by them offering an eCommerce ordering option for your customers?
  • With the industry investing “millions and millions” into IDEA and the IDW, why isn’t it at least sufficient to power a first generation website?
  • With product content for eCommerce being a “moving target” (it can always be improved), and there will always be new products, product updates, product deletions, additional content attributes / information (think about 3D imaging or possibly virtual reality or ???), won’t there always be a need for product?
  • How much can distributors afford to spend on product data for their ERP system and then for their website?
  • Is product content a differentiator when, in a high percentage of customer requests, customers know what they need?

So, what’s “good”? What’s “bad”? Can someone define or share examples?

David Gordon is President of Channel Marketing Group. Channel Marketing Group develops market share and growth strategies for manufacturers and distributors and develops market research. CMG’s specialty is the electrical industry. He also authors an electrical industry blog, www.electricaltrends.com. He can be reached at 919-488-8635 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

OlsonBy Katrina Olson

A recent CEW article by David Gordon caught my eye. The headline was, Are Your Sales and Marketing Teams Inhibiting Growth?

As a marketing consultant, writer, and trainer, I recognized the challenges and barriers that David was writing about. We agree on many issues (and their causes) facing electrical distributors and marketers. But I also hear from marketing people all the time that the C-Suite is hindering their efforts which, in turn, hinders the company’s growth.  

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Study


A confirmation: the winds of change are now howling.

Several years ago, in a workshop at Electro-Federation Canada’s annual conference, a roundtable session described and debated the numerous disruptive technologies that are forcing us to think differently.

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Looking BackIn the 1930s to 1940s, CEDA’s Western Canada membership was very stable with old line independent companies like Horsman, Ashdowns, Brettell, Marshall Wells, Electrical Supplies Ltd., etc.

Small electrical distributors just were not acceptable for membership as they did not carry the main-line manufacturers’ goods, publish a wiring device catalogue, or employ four to five salesmen as CEDA requested.

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Changing Scene

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Peers & Profiles

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Laura Dempsey

Owen Hurst

Laura Dempsey has been working as an outside sales representative for E.B. Horsman & Son for over 15 years, and is a member of the BCEA U40 network of young professionals. She lives in Langley, BC and is proud of her position and work with E.B. Horsman, particularly as she is the second Dempsey generation to work for the company.

Laura’s mother Shelly has worked at E.B. Horsman for over 25 years, and instilled in Laura a determination to succeed. Laura followed in her mother’s footsteps after witnessing how much her mother enjoyed her work and the people she works with at E.B. Horsman.

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Laura Dempsey

Line Goyette

I've known John Sencich since CEW began publishing. He agreed from the outset to be part of the newsletter’s Editorial Board. His contribution was regular and sustained. Always present to answer my technical questions, and refer me to the right person for additional information as needed. Always available despite his role as senior leader of an influential company.

Over the past five years, many industry insiders have cited John Sencich when I asked them to name someone who had made a difference in their lives or had inspired them as a leader.

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Looking Back

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DIgitalDigitalization is set to take a strong hold of all business models, transforming how companies access, monitor, engage with and service customers. Today’s customers are not passive consumers; they rely on real-time digital access to information to make purchasing decisions. Businesses must consider how to apply digital technologies and digitized data to connect with customers to help reshape their paths to purchase. This digital lens provides improvements to business functions, operations and overall processes by creating stronger insight and knowledge so businesses can take action.

The path towards digitalization has put the electrical supply channel at an important crossroad: the entire electrical value chain (suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, customers) will need to strongly consider how to move from a traditional model that has served the market well for decades, towards a new model that is connected, smart and highly efficient. But how does the industry evolve from a traditional model to an integrated ecosystem?

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EFC 2018 Scholarship Program

This year Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) will award $156,250 across 62 scholarships supported by manufacturers, distributors and associations.

The annual EFC Scholarship Program reflects an industry that understands its responsibility to attract future talent. In the face of technological, demographic, and socio-economic evolution, the employment landscape is in constant transformation resulting in substantial challenges for companies as they work to define and redefine their recruitment practices. Furthermore, as competition for the brightest and the best of the next generation of business leaders intensifies, it’s more important than ever to engage young people. 

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