In the TV series Mad Men, a period piece about advertising in the 1960s, a young copywriter suffers a nervous breakdown after his agency replaces its employee break room with a hulking computer. The computers, the copywriter screams, will take over his job… all of their jobs.
Cut to 2014 and computers haven’t taken over marketers’ jobs, they’ve expanded them. By its very definition, “online marketing” wouldn’t exist without the computer.
Yet today, the same destructive conflict played out in the psyche of that Mad Men copywriter appears in the friction between the online and direct sales channels within many manufacturing companies.* Indeed, channel conflict has grown with eCommerce. Left unchecked, channel conflict can cannibalize sales opportunities, stifle revenue, and drive customers away. Meanwhile, businesses aren’t certain how to properly solve the problem. A 2013 Oracle study showed that more than 50% of B2B companies said channel conflict concerned them.
But is eCommerce causing channel conflict within businesses, or is ineffective sales strategy the root of the problem? It’s true that B2B eCommerce is growing faster than B2C, and customers are waiting longer than ever in the buying cycle before contacting direct sales channels. Studies show that customers increasingly prefer to perform their initial research and product comparisons online. They also make more purchases than ever before from efficient, optimized eCommerce sites. However, when the time comes to make large purchases, particularly those involving input from multiple parties, customers continue to return to more traditional sales channels.
What does all of this mean? The best sales plan is an integrated, multi-front campaign tailored to a business’s products and using its online and offline channels as complementary rather than competitive pieces. By pairing specific markets and products with specific channels, and combining the advantages of both online and offline channels, a manufacturing business will inflate its overall revenue rather than suffocate it. Indeed, the same Oracle study that highlighted the problem of channel conflict also showed that 35% of businesses without such a conflict reported that most of their revenue came from online sales.
ECommerce isn’t an enemy of direct sales channels, it’s a partner. And when the two act together, your business will see a sales synergy you could not realize with either alone.
Contact us today, and let us deliver the end-to-end online solutions that will complement your direct sales and boost your revenue.
* It’s important to note that channel conflict can also occur between the online channels of a company and its distribution partners. However, in this article I focus on conflict between channels within a business.