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The innovations that are revolutionizing consumer life are beginning to impact business expectations. The ease with which consumers can order and receive items is causing a disruption in the distribution market. In particular, Amazon is having a profound influence on customers’ expectations in the B2B space, Greg Weyman, managing partner at Market Thrive, and Zach Williams, CEO of Venveo, said during their panel session “Drive New Revenue and Value Through Digital Channels” at the 2020 ProSales 100 Conference in Arlington, Texas.

The three most prominent words associated with Amazon are speed, selection, and value, said Weyman. As in the B2C space, B2B buyers are increasingly expecting speed, product selection, and high value in their purchasing decisions. The lack of information about shipping, poor inventory, and insufficient information are among the top issues cited by B2B buyers.

“We are starting to see the speed, selection, and value filters work their way [into B2B buyer expectations],” Weyman said. “The consumer space is now moving into the B2B world.”

Despite the desire on the consumer side to move toward easily accessible information and e-commerce streams for all products, many industries are just beginning to invest in these areas. Weyman said the adoption rate of e-commerce and sales online in the building materials product segment is below 10%.

“There is still an opportunity to be a first mover [into e-commerce and online sales]. You can have that first mover advantage,” Weyman said. “Every [product category] scales a little bit differently in terms of how quickly they mature. I don’t think we know how quickly things are going to go.”

As an example of the gap in online presence for dealers and the possible loss of business, Williams presented the example of the search term “interior doors” on Google. Search demand for the term has increased 75% since 2016, indicating that while many people may not be making their final purchases online, a vast majority are beginning their customer journey on the internet. However, when customers enter those search terms, the real estate on Google is dominated by businesses with e-commerce streams, including Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.

There are numerous examples of companies with a strong command of the industry losing market share rapidly—or even going out of business—after a new company entered the space with a digital focus. Using the classic example of Blockbuster and Netflix, Williams said companies like Blockbuster model business on the supply side, while companies like Netflix focus on creating demand. More often than not, the businesses that think simply supplying a product or service is sufficient will get beat, Williams said.

“The way we used to build business [in building materials] is we had the product and customers came to us,” Williams said. “Now people are changing the way they buy and we can’t just live on the fact that we supply the product, we have to create demand for our services and product.”

While making the case for considering online sales and e-commerce as a stream, Williams and Weyman dispelled the myth that products will sell online simply because they are offered there. E-commerce platforms such as Amazon has algorithms that allow some products to be more visible than others, and factors including price and availability are important. Additionally, reviews of products and companies are almost a form of “currency” online. Companies with a high volume of reviews are more likely to sell the same product than companies with a low number of reviews or with poor customer reviews.

Despite the opportunities that are presented by tapping into online sales and e-commerce, there are still many variables for dealers. While products such as tools and lumber may lend themselves easily to a same-day or next day delivery model with online sales, customized products and components that require assembly typically are more difficult to offer on these channels because they require longer lead times and are not yet able to offer same-day or next-day delivery.

“The companies that are trying to make things deliverable in a day are the ones that I think are going to win,” Williams said. “They may not be able to make it deliverable in a day but they may be able to decrease the amount of lead time. The idea is to create less friction for the customer.”