With the advent of online buying and searching, there is no group of businesses harder pressed to prove their worth than distributors.

Anyone can look for what they need and arrange delivery be it one item or a whole shelf-full direct from the manufacturer, so how can distributors stay alive? It’s that age-old marketing term: value-added.

A recent study by UPS (UPS Industrial Buying Dynamics study) revealed that 30% of buyers felt that distributors were not performing well in the aspect of having a nearby physical location where purchasers could pick up their orders. Another, relative stat, was that 50% of respondents cited customer service as a factor in selecting a distributor. See the opportunity there?

What this tells us is that although the online world of researching distributors, arranging purchases and deliveries and discovering product information, there is still a place for bricks-and-mortar and face-to-face. Don’t run out and build new store-front locations, or higher an army of sales representatives, but do look to your customers’ buying behaviors and consider the best ways to offer service.

The distributors that embrace the changes in supply chain and customer expectations, viewing these changes as an opportunity, are likely to be the companies that will be the most successful in years to come.