By Nathan Rigby, VP Sales and Marketing at One Click Retail

The Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies (BISS) category is a relatively small one for Amazon. The platform began as a consumer goods retailer and continues to be much more successful among consumers than among business customers. In categories such as Home Improvement and Office Supplies, businesses still rely on brick-and-mortar-based retailers almost exclusively, while ecommerce growth continues to be driven by consumers.

For this reason, BISS gives us a unique insight into Amazon’s performance. BISS is a category that almost exclusively includes products designed for business and professional use, so it provides valuable information about Amazon’s emerging role as a B2B supplier. Though the BISS category remains relatively small, it surpassed $1.5B in the US last year and is growing rapidly. At this point however, the most successful brands are those that can appeal to both professional and personal buyers.

In the US, Amazon’s market share of BISS remains low compared to most other product groups, but that may not last much longer. As has been proven time and time again, no category is immune to the Amazon effect – it’s only a matter of time before Amazon becomes one of the key retailers in this space, and there is no better time for brands to invest in the platform.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies: The Amazon Effect


Occupational Health & Safety

Across all markets, Occupational Health & Safety is the leading category in Amazon’s BISS product group, as well as one of the fastest growers. Last year in the US, this category earned an estimated $280M in sales and grew by 36% compared to 2016, which makes it very unlikely that another category will outrank this one anytime soon.

Occupational Health & Safety is led by personal protective equipment. The top brands in this space – Howard Leight by Honeywell and Peltor by 3M – both specialize in hearing protection and Howard Leight came out on top in 2017 with their Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff, which was also the #2 bestselling BISS item of the year.

The dominance of this category is proof that Amazon is still a consumer-driven marketplace. All the top items, including earplugs, safety goggles and first aid kits, are items used in both professional and personal settings. One of the key trends driving this category is DIY, as most of the bestsellers are the types of products that anyone working with power tools would want to keep around. However, the growing market for locally-produced, “craft” products is leading many hobbyists to go pro (or semi-pro), which is solidifying Amazon as a key sales channel for brands looking to capture the growing pro-sumer market.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies: The Amazon Effect


Janitorial & Sanitation

The Janitorial & Sanitation category is nearly as large as Occupational Health & Safety (though growing more slowly), and both are significantly larger than the remaining BISS categories. There are four key brands that are leading in this category: Georgia-Pacific and Scott, which together make up over 55% of 1P sales in Paper Products, the largest Janitorial subcategory; Rubbermaid, which controls roughly 15% of the entire 1P Janitorial & Sanitation market; and Oreck, a manufacturer of floor-cleaning equipment which is the only brand to have produced 2 of the top 10 bestselling BISS items of 2017.

This category is a unique fit for Amazon in the BISS space. In some areas, such as maintenance, companies rely on established distribution chains with local hubs because, when something goes wrong, they can’t afford to wait two days to fix it, they need their parts delivered right away. Other areas such as medical instruments include some highly specialized and delicate equipment which companies are more comfortable purchasing directly from the manufacturer. Janitorial & Sanitation, on the other hand, mainly consists of consumable products which can easily be stocked up on ahead of time, so Amazon is the perfect retailer for companies because of their low prices and free shipping. As more professional buyers switch to Amazon for their Janitorial Paper Products, they’ll follow suit with other categories.

Business, Industrial and Scientific Supplies: The Amazon Effect


Professional Medical

The remaining categories in the top 5 – Material Handling, Food Service, and Professional Medical – are all similar in size, but the latter is the fastest growing category by a wide margin, with 55% YoY growth. Overall, the top-selling Professional Medical brand was 3M, which produces stethoscopes, but the Stethescopes subcategory experienced the least growth in 2017.

This growth in Professional Medical is primary driven by Physical Equipment, a subcategory which more than doubled in size in 2017. Again, products in this space appeal to both consumers and professionals – consumers undergoing physical therapy may be purchasing these items for self-care, while professionals use these items in their daily activities. In 2017, the Physical Equipment subcategory was dominated by TheraBand, which produces affordable and easy-to-use resistance bands for rehabilitation and strength training, widely used in both professional and personal settings.

In many sectors, organizations are finding Amazon to be a cost-effective supplier for many of their day-to-day necessities. At the same time, consumers are more educated and selective than ever, and want professional-quality equipment whenever possible, so brands that can appeal to both professional and personal buyers can find success in Amazon’s emerging BISS category.

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