I came home from work the other day, and my son was excited to show me the Pokemon trading cards he received by mail. We purchased these cards online via eBay a week earlier. Then, I found my wife ordering a book online from Barnes and Noble. Later that night, I purchased airline tickets online for a trip to visit my sister in Houston. Three separate purchases, and we never left the house!

E-commerce has taken almost every industry by storm—even the traditional electrical industry. Just look at some of the announcements that have rolled across my desk in recent months.

SourceAlliance.com (owned by Rockwell International) and MRO.com have teamed up to fill your need for maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) products.

You can select suppliers from a list of more than 800 affiliated distributors.

Galco Industrial Electronics, an electrical distributor, recently added an online shopping feature at www.galco.com. It offers access to more than 14,000 part numbers from 170 manufacturers.

Even Amazon.com is getting in on the action. Its home improvement division announced it will launch a virtual store, which offers an array of electrical and lighting products.

One of the early adopters of e-commerce within our industry, W.W. Grainger, Inc. has three divisions in its Internet Commerce business. You can order products online from Grainger and five other suppliers via OrderZone.com.

You can also place real-time bids on surplus MRO products from a variety of categories via an auction process on the company's central Web site (www.grainger.com). And FindMRO.com gives you access to more than 5 million MRO products.

Another online stocking distributorship, bestroute.com LLC (financially backed by Hughes Supply, Inc.) provides real-time inventory of hard-to-find products not stocked in local and regional distributors. When it opens for business in a month or so, the company projects an inventory of more than 60,000 electrical/voice/data SKUs.

Just as the Internet has changed the way my family and I purchase goods and services, I'm convinced it will affect your business purchasing strategies for years to come. The benefits to shopping online are real: easy access to thousands of items within minutes; simplified ordering and billing; and even job site delivery of products.