By Susan Bloom
With 400,000 registered buyers, over $1 billion in sales in its first year, and a current base of 45,000 sellers, no one could conclude that the April 2015 launch of Amazon Business—the B2B marketplace on Amazon.com—has been anything less than game-changing.
Following the National Association of Wholesale Distributors (NAW) Executive Summit in Washington, D.C. in early February—an event which featured a presentation by Amazon Business Director and General Manager Rob Green (see coverage here)—tED magazine reached out to Petra Schindler-Carter, General Manager of Amazon Business Marketplace, for more insights into the e-commerce giant’s approach to business sellers and specifically electrical distributors. Responsible for all of the go-to-market and product management efforts for third-party sellers on Amazon Business, Schindler-Carter shared her thoughts on the relationship between Amazon Business and the electrical distribution industry and how these two entities might not only peacefully coexist, but potentially mutually benefit in today’s competitive e-commerce arena.
Despite Amazon Business’s demonstrated world-class and cutting-edge capabilities, many distributors (understandably) perceive Amazon Business as a threat. In your opinion, is Amazon Business a ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ to the electrical distribution industry? Why?
Schindler-Carter: We’re a customer-obsessed company in that we always start with the customer and work backward from their requirements when delivering new innovation. We’ve brought the same customer focus to Amazon Business, innovating and inventing on behalf of business buyers. We’re encouraged that hundreds of thousands of business customers are using Amazon Business for the same broad selection, sharp pricing, and fast, convenient delivery in the workplace that they’ve come to expect as Amazon customers. Within the electrical products space, leveraging the marketplace to delight buyers of electrical components is where the opportunity lies for distributors and resellers. We’re also innovating on behalf of business sellers with business pricing and quantity discounts, ensuring that Amazon Business sellers can deliver great selection and value. Currently, more than 45,000 business sellers are now using Amazon Business to reach customers.
tED magazine: What key services and capabilities, both now and in the future, does/can Amazon Business offer that you think could deliver specific or unique benefits to the electrical distribution industry?
Schindler-Carter: Amazon Business customers enjoy the same trusted Amazon experience for the workplace that they enjoy as consumers. Specifically for the electrical distribution industry, we’ve focused on everything from robust analytics, downloadable data sheets, and detailed product pages to ensure that sellers can offer pricing and quantity discounts to business buyers, and we even offer negotiated pricing to specific customers. There are tremendous opportunities for future innovation in B2B e-commerce and we’re still at ‘Day One,’ so we’ll keep listening to our customers and sellers to understand where we need to focus next.
tED magazine: What is the profile of the electrical distributor that you believe could most benefit from Amazon Business’s products/services (e.g., small or large, independent, etc.)?
Schindler-Carter: Successful sellers come in all shapes and sizes, from local or regional specialty distributors to multinational, Fortune 500 enterprises that span industries. Successful sellers are ones who take time to understand their customers and deliver a great experience for them based on their efforts to learn about the dynamics of the marketplace, optimize their product content, and list their full catalog to expand their reach.
tED magazine: How do you think that Amazon Business and electrical distributors can forge a positive, productive, and long-lasting relationship going forward?
Schindler-Carter: We’re excited to be a part of the conversation and to be given the opportunity to talk about what we’re building. In fact, there are many tenured Amazon sellers who have been reaching customers in our Business, Industrial, and Scientific Supply (BISS) category for 10+ years, in many cases using the marketplace as their primary e-commerce channel. A long-lasting, positive relationship stems from a shared commitment to customers and an open dialogue. We look forward to working with industry organizations, sellers, and customers to ensure that we’re meeting customer and seller needs.
tED magazine: Are there any lessons you feel that Amazon Business and the electrical distribution industry can learn from each other?
Schindler-Carter: We have a great deal to learn from the electrical distribution industry and we’ve barely scratched the surface. The dynamic between manufacturers, distributors, and manufacturers’ representatives is complex, with each link in the chain adding value to the customer. We’re growing in our understanding of that path to market and how we can add value as a complementary channel for both customers and sellers. From our end, we’ve continued to pursue innovation around customer experience and fulfillment that could be a benefit to distributors looking to drive incremental business and access our logistics network and expertise. Most importantly, we’ve started the conversation and look forward to working together with the electrical distribution industry to do what’s best for sellers and customers.
Bloom is a 25-year veteran of the lighting and electrical products industry. Reach her at email@example.com
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