Monday, November 30, 2015

Aldrich = Amazon?

Also in this week's C&EN, Marc Reisch writes about Sigma-Aldrich's completed purchase by Merck KGAa with this interesting little paragraph: 
Among the Sigma services that Merck coveted was a Web-based laboratory supply store that, according to Batra, is not unlike the consumer goods operation run by the Web retailer Amazon. 
A scientist who arrives on Sigma’s website looking for an obscure intermediate will also be offered related intermediates and access to relevant research papers, Batra says. Before long, that scientist might have three or four items in the checkout cart, making for a more substantial order for Sigma. Twenty-four-hour delivery service allows the scientist to advance her research project more rapidly, he explains.
So the CEO of Millipore thinks that people go to Sigma and click on their suggested links, while they're ordering some Trifluoromethylator (the Burninator!). So maybe he knows his site much better than I do, but let me assure you this - the number of times I've been convinced to buy something on Aldrich's site while shopping for something else is on the order of zero.

Readers, your experiences? Maybe I'm weird. 

21 comments:

  1. I wonder how they define "related" intermediates: chemical or cheminformatic similarity, price, similar frequency of purchases by other chemists, taste...

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  2. Perhaps if one is ordering di-t-butyl dicarbonate from Sigma-Aldrich, they will have Burnin' For You, by Blue Oyster Cult (Boc) playing in the background.

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  3. I see you are interested in purchasing Red-Al. Could I perhaps interest you in a "please dont sleep with me" bow-tie?
    http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/product/aldrich/z741263

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    1. I'm really disappointed that Sigma-Aldrich has a SDS button on that page, but no actual safety data sheet. I think the safety warnings could be quite entertaining.

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  4. Most of Aldrich's academic traffic is grad students and postdocs, who don't have the power to say "ooh yes, some of that other Pd complex might be fun, too"... even if they wanted to.

    To confirm, I've never impulse-bought from Aldrich.

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  5. Caution: Old-man rant ahead...

    Back in my day, we looked up materials we wanted in the Aldrich catalog (read: doorstop), and then placed orders by phone, or in the handy Web 1.0-interface order sheet.

    Sometimes, while looking up a ligand or heterocycle, I would stumble across something I thought might work in my chemistry. I had a pretty good rule of thumb: If it was below $50 and would get me a publishable answer, onto the order it went!

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    1. I agree. Whether it is the new-fangled recommendation system or old-style catalogues, looking for (reasonably priced) analogues of my targets is often part of my research.

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  6. I think its "also purchased" area has led me to buy a few additional items, but not many. Typically structural analogues of what I was already buying. That said, the way our chemical approvals go, I cannot really impulse buy anything

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  7. I've impulse bought one thing a couple of months ago, but that was the only time. It was a precious metals catalyst. I was buying some specific catalyst and I saw another one that I didn't think was available yet, and it was only 80 bucks for 100mg. Was that ever a good purchase though... it's active for substrates with double bonds, whereas the one that I was intending to buy is not. A few more substrates in the table can't hurt.

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  8. Aldrich has a pretty good racket going - buy a drum, tote, supersack, etc of some chemical for a few dollars a pound, then sell tiny little bottles of it at an astronomical markup. The grad students and postdocs have no idea what industrial chemicals cost, they're not spending their own money, and they're at universities that are swimming in cash.

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    1. I don't think it's all that different from what other distributors do. I agree that academic types have no idea what industrial chemicals cost, but they also (almost always) have no way of handling totes or supersacks, so it's a moot point.

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    2. This type of commodity chemical always sticks out. $25 for a ten gram bottle, $30 for a 250 gram bottle.

      Also, as a non-industrial chemist, I'm always fascinated when I search for a seemingly straightforward compound and it is ridiculously expensive, but a seemingly complex one costs basically the price of the bottle.

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  9. Where this may work better is with lab supplies, but most of those companies have incompetently run web sites (see Cole-Parmer.) I have no confidence they have the ability to get it right.

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  10. Auntie MarkovnikovDecember 1, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    Typical management-think, at least in the chemical industry. Managers want their business/company to emulate high profile companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, etc., but fail to recognize that their customers are technically astute and not interested in their products beyond price and performance.

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  11. Aldrich first starting testing this when I was there about 4 years ago and the early returns were pretty surprising. They have a pretty sophisticated analytics system that ultimately led to people converting at a 1-2% clip. That's a pretty good number in the eCommerce world. After 4 years of AB testing and optimization I'm sure that number is closer to 3-4% by now.

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  12. All our purchasing is through the "Science Warehouse" online marketplace, which is easiest to search by CAS number. So the process is: Find chemical on S-A site, stick CAS number into Science Warehouse, then most likely buy it from a S-A competitor selling it cheaper. Even if the S-A site prompted me to think of ordering something else, they've still got to be cheaper/more convenient than the rest to get a sale.

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  13. I do not think the recommendations have ever made me buy more but they have given me information on what others are also ordering when they shop for the same things I am looking for. That has given me ideas on what to place on my next order. That all being said I think Merck KGAa bought Sigma-Aldrich for the Sigma part more than the Aldrich part. Maybe the life science people are more impulse buyers.

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  14. Auntie and silane! I had no idea you folks were readers. I am honored.

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  15. One does not make impulse buys on S A.

    On the other hand, I do wonder how long before Amazon itself buys out a chemical company and then that might be a different situation. They already have the warehouse and they are building distribution for a lot of industrial engineering stuff to compete with Grainger. They have all the consumer chemicals. One assumes they will eventually get into industrial chemicals since they will have to to take over the world. There's no one else big enough to absorb the ThermoFisher Borg Collective. So perhaps one day the palladium catalyst will come via same day drone service.

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    1. I have found the occasional good deal for lab supplies on Amazon.

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    2. For the start-up which I worked last year, most of the supplies were from Amazon.

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