Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

We Mean Business

February 18, 2011

Electronic commerce (e-commerce) is an emerging platform that allows for the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet.

In this information age, e-commerce is quickly gaining momentum as a viable way to procure the products necessary to run a custodial and/or maintenance operation smoothly.

According to Forrester Research Inc., online sales are projected to reach $192 billion in 2011 and increase to upwards of $250 billion by 2014.

To say it another way, e-commerce is expected to grow by nearly 10 percent a year for the foreseeable future.

In some cases, business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce — unlike business-to-consumer (B2C) online sales — is not as much a matter of generating revenue as it is a way of making lasting business connections.

This is reflected in the estimated $1 trillion in web-influenced sales that will be seen in 2011.

Regardless of whether or not actual purchases are made, consumers and businesses are using the e-commerce platform to perform research and make informed decisions about products.

"Our overriding goal is to help contractors and in-house staffs do their jobs more effectively, cut costs, eliminate redundancies and simplify tasks," asserts Michael Feenan, vice president of marketing for xpedx. "We are helping them clean smarter and greener — even with fewer resources at their disposal."

Why E-commerce?

Electronic commerce is all about convenience.

By automating everything online, companies gain visibility into where they are spending money.

Additionally, JanSan professionals are empowered with a few clicks of the mouse to easily search for, browse and purchase the products they need instead of thumbing through paper catalogs that may be out of date or incomplete.

"In the traditional paper-driven purchasing environment, a significant amount of time and labor is invested to determine what products to purchase, process the orders and obtain approvals from all the appropriate managers," states Lisa Hamblet, vice president of facility solutions at Staples Inc. "Information tends to be decentralized and it is more difficult to track where and how money is being spent. E-commerce tools not only accelerate the purchasing process and ease the administrative headaches associated with procurement, they also offer a powerful way for companies to control costs."

Larger, nationwide distributors are able to provide added value to multi-location businesses by consolidating purchases from a single vendor, which helps them realize greater savings and helps to streamline purchases across different office locations.

Resistant To Change

Some in the JanSan industry have reservations about e-commerce, fearing that it might erode the personal relationships that have been built and nourished for years between distributors and custodial professionals.

However, as some are discovering, e-commerce can help foster different relationships with suppliers and does not necessarily take the place of interpersonal interaction with your local go-to guy or girl.

Ken Galo, owner of L&K Office Cleaning Services LLC, has this to say about the role of e-commerce in the JanSan industry: "I am first and foremost a service provider, but I also co-own a distributorship with my partner. As a service provider, I utilize a local distributor for the items not carried in our store. This distributor has an online store for me to browse, but I have always enjoyed the ''shop talk'' I get by meeting or calling my salesperson. It doesn''t stop me from e-mailing my orders in each month — and that is convenient — but I still like to talk to people."

To quell the hesitancy to fully adopt the capabilities of online sales, the following are demands of the B2B market from potential utilizers of e-commerce:

  • Think like a consumer
  • Keep the layout simple and intuitive
  • Provide detailed product images and descriptions
  • Make payment processing easy
  • Increase site security
  • Strive for thorough and prompt customer service
  • Market the site and its product and service offerings.

From controlling costs more effectively to streamlining the ordering process, e-commerce provides a robust and flexible solution that allows companies to minimize the time it takes to get what they need.

"Today, JanSan professionals understand that e-commerce plays an important role in helping them become more efficient in their jobs and drives down the cost of goods and services," notes Hamblet.