New Report: eCommerce within the Construction and Industrial Markets, Part 2


December 4, 2017

The advent of Amazon Business has motivated many distributors to consider the implications of ecommerce, and make investments. To better understand the state of eCommerce within construction and industrial trades, Channel Marketing Group asked distributors for input on their own eCommerce initiatives, as well as how they see Amazon Business as a competitor. Part 1 presented highlights from the report’s overall ecommerce findings. Here in Part 2: Amazon’s influence on eCommerce.

“Amazon Business is regularly reported as a US$1 billion company,” say the study authors, “and we have heard comments that they have surpassed US$2 billion as well as that they are actively targeting the MRO market with a focus on industrial supplies.”

The authors identify at least six different threats to distributors posed by this new “channel”:

  • alternative order entry system for some customers and their distributors
  • standalone business… for a new industry entrant or an existing business
  • direct channel for manufacturers… under their brand or another name
  • means to do business in a broader geographic areas for an existing organization
  • means to offer different products via a marketplace arrangement
  • information resource

“The question becomes, ‘Is this a threat, a complement to the existing business, a new opportunity, or something to be aware of and combat if your business time frame is short-term?’”

Among the questions about Amazon Business that the authors asked distributors in the survey was this: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being high, how much of a threat to your business — defined as sales that will go from you to Amazon or another “non-distributor” in your industry — do you think eCommerce will be?”

On a weighted average basis, the threat level was perceived as “average.” The authors interpreted this as “credible but not core,” or as “credible but not much of ‘my’ business,” or “credible but I can adapt.“

Distributors were also asked, “Do you have customers who have told you that they have purchased from Amazon Business?” The response: 61% said they have customers who have purchased some material via Amazon Business.

Asked, “Why do your customers purchase from Amazon Business,” distributors most often responded replied ease and price. However, those were only two of eight reasons.

The study also looked forward, asking distributors what percentage of their business they see Amazon representing. Results varied.

With survey results in hand, the authors then made a series of key value-added observations, and shared e-commerce experiences of individual survey participants. Among the findings: “all consider eCommerce as a retention tool and hope to generate growth through account penetration. Very few also considered it a customer acquisition tool.”

Verbatim experiences of respondents were captured in an appendix. Here’s just one example from a proponent of cCommerce:  “There is always a strong ROI when a company invests in technology to both automate the order capture process from the customer and also integrate those orders into their ERP. Companies that fail to take this step will operate at lower overall profit levels and.”

This is just a sampling of Amazon-related findings in The Channel Marketing Group’s report, “The State of eCommerce Within the Construction & Industrial Markets.” Read more findings in Part 1

Find out more about the Channel Marketing Group report:

Channel Marketing Group develops market share and growth strategies for manufacturers and distributors and develops market research. CMG’s specialty is the electrical industry. President David Gordon authors an electrical industry blog, He can be reached at 919-488-8635 or

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