Woodward: I believe the transition to B2B e-Commerce has
lagged B2C because it is hard to do. Cost, systems limitations, pick-
ing the right technology partner, and creating product content
are all significant challenges for distributors. Another issue is the
“forced” business discipline it requires. Locking down customer-
specific pricing and automating shipping rules are big hurdles for
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Barfell: It’s still a people business.
While moving more business online
has seemed out of reach for the
small to medium-size distributor in
the past, the efficiencies gained by
partnering with a master distributor
make entry into e-Commerce much
more affordable. That being said,
the business still requires a face-to-face relationship with customers to
introduce new products that can save
time and money and solve problems
for the customer.
Industrial Distribution: Which
trends do you currently see driv-
ing the marketplace?
Bailey: There is always a lower price.
In the end, the distributor that is going to get the business — and keep
the business — is the one who can
provide the best service, regardless of
whether that superior service is delivered by technology, relationships,
expertise, or all of the above.
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Woodward: The big trend we see
at Alliance is the industry movement
away from a product-focused, re-
lationship-based selling to a trans-
action-centric model. In the past,
product knowledge and relation-
ships won business. Today, the focus
is on the transaction — how can you
make the ordering process as easy
as possible? The internet, vending
machines, call centers, and other
forms of multi-channel selling are all
examples of this transaction-centric
focus. Younger people are enter-
ing our industry and they want to
conduct business in a much different