By Anthony Capkun
October 5, 2015 – While at the Affiliated Distributors’ Electrical Supply Division’s North American Meeting, the $31-billion contractor and industrial products wholesale buying/marketing group announced its eCommerce initiative to help independent wholesale distributors compete in a digital world through the AD eContent Service program.
“Independent wholesale distributors’ battle for a level playing field must be fought anywhere that nationals are able to use their size and leverage to create a competitive advantage for themselves to the potential detriment of independents,” said Bill Weisberg, AD’s chair and CEO (photo). “And one place that this battle must clearly be engaged and fought is on the internet.”
“There are a lot of people out there addressing this need for good eContent on their own… working to build a database that reflects their needs. But what they are finding is this is an incredible undertaking. Just getting the data in the format needed and keeping it current requires dedicated resources. However, working together we can build a cost-effective solution for our members,” said Ed Crawford, AD’s president, Electrical Division. “This is a game changer for our members.”
The AD eContent Service program includes a content management solution that incorporates a shared master eCatalogue and web portal, along with member-specific sub-catalogue and store front options.
“We have full-time staff members working inside AD specifically to support eCommerce for our members; we have active engagements with business partners and consultants, and we are making direct investments alongside our AD members for the express purpose of helping the AD independents compete and win on the internet,” added Weisberg.
This includes eContent production, continued Weisberg, paid search demand generation and the purchase of licenses and technology. “Our model is member-defined because we believe that distributors understand better than anyone how products should be organized [taxonomy] and what pieces of data are the most important about the products [attributes].”
AD explains its Industrial Division has undertaken and funded the build-out of two million product SKUs and marketing content and maintenance to support them on an ongoing basis. The AD Electrical and Pipe, Valve & Fittings divisions are revising the eCommerce initiatives they started several years ago to follow this model so that all seven AD divisions can leverage the group’s economies of scale and share ongoing production costs and content.
“Ultimately, we will have millions of SKUs for our members’ use,” said Jack Templin, AD president, Industrial Division. “When we work on something collaboratively, we’re able to do something bigger together.”
To implement the program, AD has partnered with Unilog—a technology company specializing in eCommerce and enriched product catalogues for the B2B marketplace—to provide its CIMM2 platform to AD members.
“We believe this is a watershed moment in wholesale distribution,” added Suchit Bachalli, president of Unilog North America. “When you look at the collective power that AD brings, this program is going to have a meaningful impact on the entire industry.”
Photo A. Capkun