DISTRIBUTORS IN TRANSITION -- E-enabled Dealers
"These products are not just commodity products. They require significant, hands-on customer service. The dotcoms don't make distinctions. It doesn't allow the manufacturers to segment their customers, which is all based on complex menus of variables," notes FitzPatrick.
Want Personal Service
Also, dotcom's could not provide the level of service that printers were used to receiving from their dealers, claims Demharter. He adds that clients want a salesperson who is on-site working with them by assessing their requirements. Clients also want access to dealers via the telephone, so they can talk with a technical salesperson or a customer service rep who can answer their questions.
But just because some dotcoms have failed in recent months doesn't mean that the Internet does not have a place for dealers and their clients. "The Internet is just another alternative way for us to serve our customers," contends Demharter.
"We want to offer the customer all the alternatives. We don't care which alternative they use to buy from us—as long as they buy from us. We don't want to push our customers towards buying online, but, as they evolve, we want to be able to satisfy their needs."
It's just this kind of forward thinking that dealers must adopt, agrees DuRoss. While clients may not be currently clamoring to purchase products online or even to gather data online, it will come. E-
commerce is not going away, he states, and dealers must begin to plan for the future.
Still, some dealers are just not answering that call, contends FitzPatrick. "Many dealers spent last year investigating and studying e-commerce. They approached it skeptically and carefully because of the exaggerated claims by some Internet companies and pundits.
"As, we know, during the past year many of these Internet companies have collapsed, which has caused many dealers to hesitate," FitzPatrick explains. As a result, companies like GoPrinter.com—an ASP model that built dealer e-enabled Websites—have closed their doors due to lack of interest.