B2B distributors might not view Amazon Business as an ally—at least not yet, anyway—but the B2B e-commerce subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc. offers them opportunities, Rob Green, director of sales and marketing for Amazon Business, said during a presentation yesterday at the B2B Online conference in Chicago.
“We use resellers and manufacturers, and Amazon Business is very meaningful for their businesses,” Green said. “There is a massive opportunity for distributors to participate.”
Green noted that Amazon Business is still trying to expand the range of inventory it offers to fill a “tremendous gap in products” that business customers want. Green did not provide specific product categories, but one example could be Amazon Business’s January push into the auto parts business.
Andy Hoar, vice president and principal analyst for B2B e-commerce at Forrester Research Inc., who shared the stage with Green, asked him what Amazon Business tells manufacturers who inquire about selling on the marketplace.
“Brands, particularly in the consumer space, are going direct,” Green said. “That train has left the station. The same is coming in B2B, whether Amazon is part of it or not. We have talked to a lot of manufacturers who have long relationships with dealers and distributors and they don’t want to disrupt that.” But at the same time manufacturers say they want to shift some business into new channels, he added.
Two years after Amazon’s B2B portal launched in the spring of 2015, Green said Amazon Business, No. 104 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, is encouraged by its growth numbers, including more than 400,000 business accounts and more than 45,000 sellers. “We feel we are delivering the experience business buyers want,” he said.
Amazon Business is expanding its markets as well, notably its move into the public sector announced in February. Buyers at tens of thousands of public agencies and nonprofit organizations can procure a range of products on Amazon Business—including items ranging from books and art supplies to scientific equipment and animal supplies—under terms of an agreement with U.S. Communities, a buying cooperative for more than 55,000 public-sector agencies.
Not all is going according to plan for Amazon Business, Green said. He singled out fulfillment.
“We have a fulfillment network that’s highly efficient at getting a single box to single locations,” he said. “We’re not great at things like order consolidation. One big buyer ordered 900 external battery chargers for cell phones and I think we sent them about 900 boxes. But we are a company that thinks ‘long-term’ and we are solving those problems.”
Hoar also asked Green about mixed feelings among consumers, retailers and businesses about Amazon and its B2B unit. “As consumers we love Amazon,” Hoar said. “When we talk about Amazon Business that shifts from love to some hate. Why is that?”
Green noted that “Amazon.com is very relatable. We are delighted when a box shows up on our doorstep and we have built some great customer loyalty. At the same time, Amazon has been a little disruptive. That transfers to Amazon Business.”
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