BMI Microsoft Dynamics NAV Blog

Who Says Independent Distributors Can't Compete with the Big Box Giants?

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 11, 2017 12:49:18 PM



 I talked to an independent distributor the other day, and he let me know what a tough time he had competing with big box etailers and retailers’ huge discounts and wide-ranging product offerings. So he changed his approach.

He makes it easy for consumers to do business with him by automating the ordering and sales process. He offers free shipping, a generous return policy, and as a small, agile business, he can broaden his ecommerce channels through social media and flash sales.

Studies show that the social network quadruples a retailer’s message online. Not only that, but friends who share good deals with their friends have the credibility that no big box company can match.

Here are some action items to take if you want to win against the power channel:

  1. Compete by offering free shipping or free upgrades to shipping. Multiple shipping options are a mighty conversion tool. You can make your customers happy by letting them know they are getting a great deal. Emphasize the pain they feel when they buy an item elsewhere and then end up paying $100 in shipping charges.
  2. Don’t even try to compete on price - you won’t win against the big box retailers. However, you will win if you offer a customer experience that they can’t resist. Be personal, use their names in correspondence. Use buying history to offer more of what they want. “Dear Sue, we noticed last month you ordered some computer paper, and we’d hate to see you run out right before a big presentation. Just fill out the form below, and we will have your order on the way with Bob, our delivery driver, who knows exactly where to deliver it. Big box stores will have a hard time duplicating the level of service you can offer. They are concentrating on a volume play. You can win with your attention to detail. How many times have you walked into a big box store and were ignored by three workers with no more knowledge than you?
  3. A strong online presence is essential to attract new customers. Get the word out and the sales in your carts by creating an easy-to-use eCommerce site. Your goal is to make it easy to buy and easy to return so they will buy again.
  4. Sell value, not price. I once had a dry cleaner who was further away than other local dry cleaners. However, that didn’t stop me from driving across town to bring my business to them. Why? Because they were smart enough to send me weekly tips about how to care for different fabrics. A big snowstorm hit our region, and they sent me an email with a list of fabrics NOT to wear in the snow so they wouldn’t be damaged. Not only did they share their expertise, but I learned to trust that they would know how to handle my clothes.
  5. Define your niche and beat the pants off Amazon. Look at a company like GoPro. Yes, you could order it on Amazon, but if you are a fan of GoPro you want to buy from GoPro where all those geeky experts live. With 3.5 million followers there is a reason they have a loyal base. Their top-notch customer service beats Amazon because they know the answers to your questions.
  6. Be radical. Make a deal with a popular pizza restaurant and offer your office product customers free pizza with every 5th order. Alternatively, send Starbucks cards when they reach a certain dollar value in orders. The folks who place those orders will remember you as they enjoy a pizza lunch or coffee the next day and they’ll come back for more.

What are some of the ways you compete with the big box companies?

Please comment below; we’d love to hear your story.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Business Software, E-Commerce, BMI Software, Customer Service

Garvey's Office Products Anniversary

Posted by Craig Greitzer on May 12, 2016 5:17:50 PM

Ninety Years and Counting for IL Dealer Garvey’s Office Products

(Reprinted with permission from the Independent Dealer e-zine)




The Garvey family (from left to right): Kevin Garvey, Bernie Garvey Jr., Sheila Gartland, Ken Garvey, Bernie Garvey Sr. and Dan Garvey.


It was champagne time in Niles, Illinois last month, as Bernie Garvey and his team at Garvey’s Office Products celebrated their 90th year of service to the Chicago-area business community.


The dealership was founded in 1926 as Schiller & Schmidt by two printing sales reps. In 1954, Bernard Garvey, Sr. came on board as a sales rep and 12 years later, he bought the company.


Fast forward to today and Garvey’s is a thriving $40 million business, with some 90 employees operating out of an 85,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Niles and a product mix that covers the full spectrum of office needs from office supplies and furniture to breakroom supplies, document finishing, promotional products and more.


The company today is in the safe hands of the second generation of the Garvey family, with Bernie serving as president; one brother, Ken, running inside sales and larger accounts; two other brothers, Kevin and Dan, in outside sales, and sister, Sheila Gartland, handling marketing and IT.


The dealership has been enjoying a good year so far, Bernie reports, with furniture sales particularly strong and new business coming from a number of larger accounts that had previously been in the hands of big box competitors.


Our congratulations to the Garvey family and the entire Garvey team. Here’s to the next 90 years!


Garvey's uses BMI OP Revelation Software to run their dealership.  Click here to learn more about BMI Software.




Topics: Navision, Dynamics NAV, OP Revelation, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, E-Commerce, BMI Software, BMI OP Revelation, Office Products

Understanding The Importance Of E-Commerce And Digital Capabilities In Your Business

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Sep 16, 2015 1:21:47 PM

Essendant’s Girisha Chandraraj explains why the OP industry must update and evolve e-commerce and digital capabilities.

The shift to the digital marketplace is a key factor driving workplace purchases as almost 70% of transactions with independent dealers are made online, a number that will likely continue to grow.

To compete and succeed in the online marketplace, independent dealers, resellers and distributors must focus on updating their digital capabilities and evolving their e-commerce solutions to drive growth and new opportunity. 

Trends guiding the user experience

According to an Essendant survey of end users, 89% of customers have purchased products online for personal use in the past 12 months. Although individuals are increasingly comfortable shopping online for their personal lives, the B2C arena currently has an impressive array of digital capabilities that the B2B world has yet to effectively utilize.

It may be another decade until B2B catches up to the current state of B2C, but there are several areas dealers and distributors can and should focus on now. First, the customer does not clearly distinguish between a B2B and B2C user experience – he or she will expect B2B sites to provide a similarly gratifying, convenient online shopping experience as the B2C sites they use for personal purchases.

Next, there are three primary digital capabilities, or key pillars, that are necessary for success in the B2B online marketplace: search, merchandising and marketing. While not particularly complicated from an e-commerce standpoint, a number of resellers are lagging in these areas and quickly losing ground to competitors.

Looking ahead, resellers should also recognize the role that mobile devices play in digital purchasing as 71% of Americans currently own a smartphone and the influence of mobile purchases continues to grow. Resellers that are not prepared to adapt in three to five years may miss out on significant revenue opportunities.

Steps to optimize the user experience

In order to optimize the user experience, resellers should address the following topics:

  • Determine your capabilities and resources. Are you able to rely on internal resources or will you need to utilize the capabilities and skills of your partners?
  • Evaluate the platform you’re on. Are you using independent or third-party vendors, such as ECi or BMI? This will determine the tools and capabilities that are available to you and what you may need to add or enhance to evolve your digital offering.
  • Ensure you have the necessary tools to help you compete. At Essendant, we have a series of tools that can aid across all of the key pillars (search, merchandising and marketing) and capture a wide variety of metrics to enable an optimal digital presence. These metrics allow dealers to better understand areas of weakness or potential opportunities to drive additional growth.
  • Engage partners in optimizing tools for your categories and customer base. Partners can aid in maintaining content, testing your site, making sure marketing triggers are launching and making sure emails that go out are triggered against the right events (first purchase, sign up, etc).

The expansion of digital technologies and e-commerce capabilities presents dealers and distributors with an important opportunity that will likely have a significant impact on business in years to come.

By choosing to embrace these technologies, specifically focusing on the key pillars of search, merchandising and marketing, resellers will be able to adapt to the demands of the modern customer and ensure success in the digital marketplace. 

Girisha Chandraraj is the Chief Digital Officer at Essendant.



Topics: OP Revelation, mobile e-commerce, E-Commerce, BMI