Synnex Partners: The E-Commerce Struggle Is Real When Competing Against CDW

Some of Synnex's top partners said they need more e-commerce capabilities from the distributor to win deals against billion-dollar solution providers such as CDW.

Mike Estep, president of Norcross, Ga.-based BECA, said CDW's electronic capabilities are the main reason they are able to beat small, regional solution providers. Estep said he's been in contact with Synnex's e-commerce specialist about pushing that business forward, as he believes the storefront of the future looks very different from what the distributor is offering today.

"We struggle to compete with the CDWs," Estep said during a Varnex member panel Monday at Synnex's spring conference in Atlanta. "We believe it's time for the next generation of Web storefronts."

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Adam Sprague, chief operating officer of Fredericton, New Brunswick-based BrunNet, said he agreed with Estep on getting help from Synnex with Web storefronts, as BrunNet's internal e-commerce capabilities aren't what they should be.

It's very difficult to use marketing, social media or business development to get a foot in the door when competing against CDW, Sprague said, because it's so good at guerilla marketing and contacting prospective end users over and over again. Outside of Web storefronts, he hopes Synnex can help with prospecting and landing new customers when facing off against billion-dollar competitors.

"I want to go after CDW," Sprague said. "I do not like them in my market."

Both Estep and Sprague said they have no trouble winning deals over CDW once they're able to get with prospective customers, because they have better knowledge of the area and are able to add more value.

"If our customers are talking to us, we win over CDW," Estep said.

Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW, No. 8 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, did not respond to a request for comment.

Deal registrations present another challenge to companies like BrunNet when going up against a national or international solution provider. Sprague said assertive registration tactics from companies like CDW will stop BrunNet in its tracks when pursuing a potential customer, as the registration gives the Goliaths a four- or five-point margin advantage from the beginning.

Salvation might come in the latest version of Synnex's e-commerce platform, which was introduced Monday and will be rolled out to select customers in May and everyone later in the year. The ECExpress 7.0 will allow partners to manage vendor promotions and incentives from one location, check inventory and prices with a single click, and order from Synnex's Solv microsites from a unified shopping cart, according to Synnex.

"This is going to be a great tool," Bob Stegner, Synnex's senior vice president of North American marketing, told hundreds of Varnex attendees Monday. "It's going to help not only our sales business, but it's also going to be great for you. It's a tool that we really continue to grow on."

Hutto, Texas-based Texexpro has no e-commerce presence of its own and has been waiting a long time for a new version of ECExpress, according to company owner Terri Driver. She said she's particularly pleased that the latest version will allow solution providers to search for parts and products by warehouse location, providing more flexibility and potentially cutting down on shipping costs.