Is Amazon Business Right for You

April 3, 2018

There is no doubt about it, you love Amazon. It’s convenient, usually cheaper and, in some cases, items can be shipped next day. While all of those qualities are what have made Amazon the B2C juggernaut it is today, can it handle supporting all of your business supply chain needs? Unfortunately not, but there is a solution.

Traditionally, group purchasing organizations (GPOs) have offered customers the chance to access contracts with cheaper prices and firm terms and conditions they would never be able to get on their own. As competition has increased, GPOs have evolved and added additional services that elevate them from just great contracts to a true partner in the supply chain. This full circle solution is what sets GPOs apart from Amazon as the absolute best way to manage all of the business needs within the supply chain. 


Amazon is ever creeping into many industries including the B2B space with Amazon Business, but how does it stack up to group purchasing? On the surface, the Amazon model may seem like it is providing the best pricing; the truth is, that pricing is unstable. Amazon is beholden to market fluctuations affecting their third party sellers, while GPOs have established relationships with the nation’s top suppliers. More importantly, pre-negotiated terms and conditions, including price protection, shield customers from shortages and market conditions. Furthermore, you can rest assured that if there is a shortage it won’t mean a disruption in your supply chain. On the other hand, Amazon customers may not pay the same price every time for their products. If something is out of stock, it’s the customer’s responsibility to find a comparable product that hopefully isn’t much more expensive and meets the same function as the out of stock item.

Established relationships with suppliers are crucial because they go far beyond pricing and extended into a full range of ongoing services. Amazon for example, may be a great place to buy a printer, or even 10 printers, but a GPO contract offers a complete products and services solution. Through a GPO contract, you can purchase as many printers as needed and take advantage of managed print services available through the supplier. Managed print services are fully outsourced services that could provide regular machine maintenance, toner delivery, onsite managed mailroom services, document management software and efficiency consulting.

Services cover all business products and needs. For instance, Office Depot and Staples, both contracted Provista suppliers, have services to cover important tasks like graphic design and document shredding. Other suppliers offer critical services like elevator maintenance, full facility furnishing, staffing and business operational support, allowing customers to get everything they need for their business through a single supply chain partner.


Amazon is integrating procurement software platforms to help buyers manage purchases. This works well for smaller, single facility orders, but not as well for large, multi-facility bulk business orders. This is where the scalable and proven solutions provided by GPOs earn their stripes.

For example, Provista offers a full range of procurement services that streamline purchasing and help ensure accuracy, regardless of order size or number of facilities. Dedicated procurement specialists can implement an easy to use point-and-click system, fix and dramatically improve a customer’s current purchasing data, standardize data across multiple facilities and maintain data to ensure consistency and reliable insights into spending. These services can be used individually or as a whole to completely outsource purchasing. In comparison, Amazon’s insights into spending are limited to purchase history, order cadence and the item information provided to them by third party sellers.


Ordering products for your facility through Amazon can require administrative resources to track orders and deal with returns. These soft costs add to the overall price of products. This differs from the GPO approach, which allows customers to save with rebates and discounts. Depending on their aggregated purchasing volume and contracts, customers may be eligible to move into a higher tier for additional savings. In comparison to Amazon, a true supply chain partner like Provista offer specials, like Quarterly Promotions, that provide even deeper discounts.

Clinical expertise is also a factor. Amazon does not have the same level of clinical experience to help healthcare facilities order products that meet stringent regulations. This is another area where experienced GPOs deliver additional value. GPO staff includes experts who stay up to date on the constantly changing landscape of healthcare regulations to make product recommendations and answer questions. These experts can help customers pick products depending on where or how they will be used, like a piece of furniture that meets requirements to be used in an operating room in an ambulatory surgery center vs. furniture for a facility’s lobby or office space.

A GPO can be a true extension of a procurement team, and having experts with a pulse on market conditions can make or break a company’s long-term ordering strategy. Unlike Amazon, a GPO provides insights into supplier information as well, including; product additions, deletions, innovative new technology as well as any information on shortages and substitutions. Provista for example, provides weekly updates to customers with any changes within the contract portfolio.


Running any kind of business or facility takes more than ordering products from a virtual cart. The true mark of supply chain partner makes the constant grind of facilities management easier. Providing products at market-leading prices, industry-best terms and conditions to guarantee price protection and consistency, simple ordering technology, and a fleet of industry and procurement experts to provide peace of mind. A GPO can truly go beyond simple ordering and span every product category for a business whether it be office products as small as paper clips, to furniture, IT services, lawn maintenance, staffing and so much more.

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