Amazon’s Impact on B-to-B Distribution Channels

February 28, 2013

Ecommerce sites have changed the consumer experience and are beginning to make a mark on the b-to-b buying experience as well, says Scot Wingo, CEO-ChannelAdvisor, an ecommerce solution provider based in Raleigh, N.C. Wingo will speak at the 2013 International BMA Conference, sitting down for a fireside chat with Charlie Peters, senior executive VP-Emerson. The pair will discuss the impact that an influx of sites like could have on b-to-b distribution channels.

“Amazon has raised the bar on the consumer experience, and it’s leaking into the b-to-b experience,” Wingo says. “It’s important for brands to monitor that. B-to-b is the new b-to-c.”

Buyers have begun to expect an Amazon-type interface, whether they are shopping for their home, their office or an industrial facility, Wingo says. They expect to find product information combined with independent reviews, transparent pricing and inexpensive shipping options.

That shift creates several challenges for marketers.

First, transparency traditionally has not been a hallmark of b-to-b negotiations, Wingo says. “B-to-b businesses rely on opaque pricing. People mark up across geographies and new markets. But the b-to-b world will need to become transparent.”

Businesses need to create direct paths to buyers, he says. He expects the buying experience to go through a transition in b-to-b-to-c markets within five years, while strictly b-to-b markets will lag behind that schedule. 

Wingo has spent the past 11 years working with client companies to ease the transition to direct sales, and he suggests that marketers start thinking now about strategy. “Start getting to know your customers and establish relationships with end users,” he says. “Build a customer lifecycle.”

Channels like can serve as introductory learning experiences, he says. “Start to put your toe in the water to get some learning.” Be prepared to ramp up your infrastructure based on the insights you gain.

Engage with your audience and start building a connection with end-users, he says. Monitor social media channels to learn what people think of your products. Respond to criticism and negative reviews, providing trouble-shooting tips and other helpful feedback.

“We want [marketers] to think about having that direct point-to-point connection,” Wingo says. He expects the new distribution model to give rise to value-added services, including subscriptions, mobile apps and other customer services.

Resellers can survive in the marketplace, he says, but ecommerce sites with wide product listings and cheap shipping options will make it difficult to compete on traditional footing. “You really need to differentiate yourself outside of selection and proximity,” Wingo says. “You survive by providing unique services. You have to add service to differentiate.”


"Amazon’s Impact on B-to-B Distribution Channels." BMA Buzz. 2/2813.