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Top 200 Electrical Distributors Wait for More Customer Action on Mobile Purchasing

May 24, 2013
The survey also showed just how quickly Top 200 electrical distributors have integrated tablet computers into their businesses. Virtually all of the Top 200 distributors who responded to the survey are utilizing tablets for sales presentations, general office use and other applications such as on-site energy audits.

North America’s largest electrical distributors are adapting to radical changes in their customers’ purchasing habits, according to responses to Electrical Wholesaling magazine’s annual Top 200 survey. The survey asked the largest electrical distributors in the land about whether or not they offer online purchasing on their websites; how many of their customers are using mobile devices to purchase electrical products; and where else their customers were shopping online for electrical products.

The answers from Top 200 distributors offer an interesting snapshot of the state of online purchasing in the electrical wholesaling industry. Electrical Wholesaling’s editors found it particularly interesting that while some of the magazine’s recent surveys on the online purchasing habits of electrical contractors and other end users showed that online commerce currently accounts for 10% or less of electrical end users’ total purchases of electrical products, 51% of the 133 Top 200 electrical distributors who answered a question on their website’s e-commerce capabilities said they currently offer an online purchasing option, and another 17% said they plan to have an online storefront within 12 months.

Many Top 200 electrical distributors also said they believe their customers are now shopping at other websites for electrical products and that W.W. Grainger Inc., Lake Forest, Ill., is the most popular purchasing option. Eighty-two respondents listed www.grainger.com as an online purchasing destination for their customers. None of the other sources of electrical products in the e-commerce arena garnered quite as many mentions, but several are definitely on the radar screen of Top 200 distributors, including www.fastenal.com (34 mentions); www.automationdirect.com (30 mentions); and amazonsupply.com (21 mentions). Respondents also said their customers are shopping at other electrical distributors’ websites (33 mentions).

While there’s quite a bit of chatter about mobile purchasing in the electrical market and in particular the focus that Grainger is putting on this option, it appears we are still in the early innings of the game in this industry. Of the 129 respondents who offered their take on mobile purchasing, 53% said it didn’t seem too common yet, and 20% said the early adopters of technology are all over it but that most of their customers weren’t yet using it. Another 16% said it was tough to get a read on mobile purchasing in their market and 9% said there was lots of talk about it but little action.

The survey also showed just how quickly Top 200 electrical distributors have integrated tablet computers into their businesses. Virtually all of the Top 200 distributors who responded to the survey are utilizing tablets for sales presentations, general office use and other applications such as on-site energy audits and the vast majority of them are using iPads instead of Android tablets.

The Top 200 survey respondents also  told Electrical Wholesaling’s editors about their ERP systems. As expected, Epicor continues to have the vast majority of ERP installations among the industry’s largest electrical distributors, as 57% of the 135 respondents (76 respondents) identified their ERP system as one of Epicor’s software packages. Eclipse was identified the most often of the Epicor packages, and was specifically mentioned by 56 distributors, followed by Profit 21 (11 mentions); and Array (8 mentions).

Infor was mentioned as the ERP system of choice by 26 of the Top 200 electrical distributors, and six distributors are running on a SAP ERP system. Sixteen of the respondents are running customer computer systems, and 11 respondents had other computer systems developed by Butler Curless, J.D. Edwards, Microsoft Dynamics, Mincron, Rubicon, Quickbooks and Sage.