The Changing Face of Distribution

Distributors offer new ways to go to market; Zappos; fast-food chains such as Panda Express, Papa John's and Jimmy John's promoting specials on food items and offering online ordering-more and more people are turning to the Web to buy products and services. It's an extremely safe way of doing business and it's fast and interactive.

Distributors are starting to get their Web wheels in place and ready to gun it for the finish line. Many have revamped their Web sites and offer new ways to buy products as well as packaged solutions. Systems integrators can have a direct online chat if they need more information or can phone a designated help number. Once ordered, they can have products direct-shipped to the customer location or their offices or arrange for after-hours pick up at a distributor branch or another remote location.

There are so many ways to do business with distributors and so many ways in which products come into the hands of the systems solution provider. While many have been hard pressed by the recession, they are doing their best to provide incentives and new programs. Here's what these distributors told us about how they are changing or adapting their models.

Have you revamped your online ordering or Web site recently?

Tony Sorrentino, vice president of Sales, ScanSource Security, Greenville, S.C.: "Our online presence has increased through our social media efforts. We recently launched a comprehensive online community, The Source, which offers blogs, groups and media galleries enabling resellers to learn about the latest trends in the industry; search for discussions and Q&As relating to technologies and vertical market offerings; find educational material; and start a dialog with manufacturers, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and distributors. We also introduced SUMO, created to provide networking and partnership opportunities for our dealer partners and resellers. The international online tool allows members to seek out potential partners by entering specific search criteria into a search bar, which then returns companies that match the search criteria. This allows resellers and dealers to extend their reach by finding partners in other technologies and geographies. We also continue to offer online educational tools for our partners, including the IP Center, which provides information on video surveillance and the available solutions; the Wireless QuickStart Center, designed to help security dealers and IT installers discover the benefits of IP video surveillance using wireless; and links to Web seminars and online training opportunities."

Mike Capulli, director of Sales, Security General International (SGI), Austin, Texas: "Our customers' main concern is if they buy online, will they still be able to get their price? We don't post the prices online but instead, they have to get this through access codes. We created a more user-friendly Web site offering easier site navigation for our customers. Customers are also able to view monthly flyers on our site."

Lauri A. Christiansen, director of Marketing & Business Development, U.S. Lock, Brentwood, N.Y.: "We recently launched a new Web site in January to make it easier for our customers to do business with us. The site offers account management, advanced search parameters, custom catalogs, Web specials and many new features. We are also adding thousands of products to our online offering this spring.

Are you getting a sense that integrators are ordering online more? Why or why not?

Sorrentino: "Yes, we are seeing more customers buying online. However, for those who want to talk with a sales representative, we are more than happy to work with them."

Capulli: "Yes, initially the Internet started as a resource center where users could gain knowledge. Now, distributors and their customers are utilizing the Web more to their advantage to buy online and take advantage of other services."

Christiansen: "We find that more of our customers are ordering online today than ever before. Our customers are a mix of integrators and locksmiths and security dealers and we have improved our search engine making it easier to find product."

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