Study: Nearly 43% of JanSan Resellers Plan to Invest in E-Commerce Within Next Three Years

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New Essendant study uncovers the top challenges and opportunities JanSan resellers face in the sales process

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Today’s evolving Janitorial Sanitation (JanSan) resale and distribution industry has shifted the way resellers interact with customers and approach new business. A traditionally fragmented market, the JanSan market has been consolidated from a number of mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies ‒ making it critical for resellers to add value in their channel and maintain market share. In tandem, the entrance of consumer retail giants have shifted B2B buyers to expect more B2C experiences, forcing resellers to consider leveraging mobile-based and e-commerce sites instead of traditional selling.

Essendant, a leading national wholesale distributor of workplace items, today released its latest industry study, “The Future of Janitorial and Sanitation Distribution,” which found that despite the push for digital transformation, face-to-face relationships will always be important to the industry. In fact, the majority of resellers (75 percent) find that building personal relationships is the best way to grow and maintain customer loyalty.

To further understand the challenges and opportunities in navigating today’s JanSan industry, Essendant surveyed 114 JanSan resellers about their pain points, investments and priorities in digital marketing and commerce strategies.

The survey found that resellers understand the value of integrating digital capabilities, but are struggling to keep up with competitor movement and customer expectations.

The New JanSan Competitive Landscape is Redefining Business Models

Twenty years ago, local and regional JanSan resellers dominated the industry, but today these resellers are competing against huge new players. The study found that 58 percent of resellers see large retailers (e.g., Walmart) as their biggest competitors, followed by Amazon Business at 46 percent. When looking at these giants’ impact on the industry, key takeaways include:

  • Resellers have to add substantial value to compete with retailers. Resellers are losing customers to larger competitors that are able to provide lower prices (54 percent) and wider product selection (38 percent). To compete with this, resellers can consider expanding into vertical markets and focusing on offering a personalized experience only an industry expert could offer.
  • Resellers are feeling the ‘Amazon Effect’ on the customer experience. Resellers report Amazon has been the leader of the change in the industry, leading to increased customer expectations for free shipping (39 percent), lower prices (35 percent) and improved customer service (30 percent).
  • Amazon has had a direct impact on business. Thirty percent of resellers say Amazon’s entry has disrupted the industry, resulting in a decline in customers and buyers (30 percent), their company’s revenue loss (21 percent) and competitors going out of business (20 percent).

“This is an exciting time for JanSan distributors who are exploring ways to embrace digital enhancements to their customer experience,” said Michael Hauck, vice president of marketing and digital at Essendant. “Even distributors who are just starting this journey seem well positioned to revolutionize the buyer journey in new and exciting ways – moves that will differentiate and insulate them from pure e-commerce players like Amazon. The path they can ill afford is to simply do nothing.”

The JanSan Customer Experience Requires a Balance of Traditional and Digital Tactics

The study shows the overall JanSan industry is behind in the shift to digital. In fact, 28 percent of resellers have a website but don’t sell or list products online, and 11 percent don’t have a website at all. While it’s important to maintain the human element in the JanSan sales process, it’s critical for resellers to build a digital brand and storefront to keep up with competition and buyer expectations. Challenges and opportunities for this include:

  • Resellers aren’t using e-commerce to its full potential. Of the 53 percent of resellers that have an e-commerce channel, three in five (59 percent) say their online presence is ‘excellent.’ However, another 73 percent report less than half their revenue comes from e-commerce ‒ indicating there’s still room for improvement.
  • Resellers find success by blending online and offline marketing channels. Resellers note social media is the most effective tactic for driving sales (54 percent), followed by word-of-mouth at 47 percent and email marketing at 37 percent.
  • Digital integration is top of mind for future plans. Top business priorities include boosting brand awareness (37 percent) and investing in digital for the customer experience and supply chains (29 percent), highlighting a more competitive reseller market.

“JanSan resellers and distributors need to recognize that the buyer journey and customer expectations are evolving. Business buyers today expect more intuitive, self-service ordering options to supplement the personal relationships they have with their dealers,” said Hauck. “By integrating digital into the marketing mix and buyer experience, resellers and distributors can meet consumers where they are and provide them with information to make more informed choices. This key value proposition allows JanSan resellers to not only compete today, but win tomorrow.”

To view the full results of the study, visit    

About Essendant
Essendant Inc. is a leading national wholesale distributor of workplace items, with 2016 net sales of $5.4 billion. The company stocks a broad assortment of over 190,000 items, including janitorial and breakroom supplies, technology products, traditional office products, industrial supplies, cut sheet paper products, automotive products and office furniture. The Company's network of 70 distribution centers enables the Company to ship most products overnight to more than ninety percent of the U.S. For more information, visit

Essendant common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol ESND.

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Meg Avril
Walker Sands Communications
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