How do manufacturers fit into omni-channel marketing

happy customerWith advancing technology and shifting customer behaviour the multi-channel environment is evolving into omni-channel marketing. Ensuring that consumers get a seamless consumer experience no matter what channel they are using is a challenge that retailers are starting to address by implementing omni-channel strategies across their organizations. How do manufacturers fall into this strategy? Is omni-channel something that manufacturers should be concerned with? Considering how intertwined manufacturers and retailers are they definitely should be factoring in omni-channel marketing into their strategies. In the webinar “Enabled Commerce: Dealing with manufacturing e-commerce from business to business”, Raj Kumar addresses how manufacturers can incorporateomni-channel marketing into their business strategy.

Thinking like a retailer

Manufacturers have realized that in order to be successful they have to think like a retailer to ensure the seamless customer service centric experience that consumers want. Manufacturers must become an active part of the omni-channel marketing process in order to ensure their products are in the right place at the right time, and that the consumer has a seamless experience with their product from research to purchase to ownership. Manufacturers must be able merchandise at a micro level and have real-time communication with retailers. Customer intelligence becomes paramount in order to forecast and anticipate which products consumers want and when. To tap into this knowledge they must know how products are being promoted and how widely, what the product placement on websites is, what the social community is saying about their products, how user reviews have rated their products, how competitive the pricing is. All of these factors will determine how well a product will sell, and will help the manufacturer know how much product is needed when and where to ensure customers get what they want when they want it. Some manufacturers are taking it a step further and starting to sell directly from their website to the customer.

In the webinar Raj Kumar lays out the 5 levels of how manufacturers are pursuing value chain integration within the multi-channel environment. Below is a summary of the 5 levels.

Level 1 – Enabling the Research focused customer

Manufacturers at this level provide minimum information to the consumer. They have product search and comparisons on their mobile enabled website. They are almost entirely leaving the marketing of their products to the retailer.

Level 2 – Customization

At this level manufacturers add in some shopping features on their website. They have customized online ordering. They provide a search to find retail locations that carry their products. And they provide customized order management for retailers.

Level 3 – Direct Delivery
As manufacturers become more integrated into the customer experience they add more capabilities to improve service. At this mid-level integration manufacturers have started to become online retailers and will ship orders directly to customers. This cuts out the middle person and gives immediate gratification to the customer – they can order the product then and there. At this level of integration manufacturers have increased the product information on their websites – more and higher quality product images and user reviews
Level 4 – In transition

Manufacturers at this level have started to incorporate the omni-channel customer experience into their strategy. They are offering in store pick up, no hassle returns, easy online and mobile ordering. They are tapping into customer intelligence and segmenting products by channel.

Level 5 – Omni-channel champion

Very few manufacturers are at this level of integration. The are researching and analyzing their consumer and have user communities. They offer global shipping, store fulfillment for last minute delivery, one click customer service. In short they are completely customer service centric. At this level manufacturers have to either have completely open and real time communication with their retail partners or they have to have their own branded store fronts.

How to go from being just a manufacturer to an online retailer

For manufacturers to take the step to online retailer and full omni-channel integrationit’s imperative that they manage their relationships with their retail partners. The following has to be managed:

– manufacturer and retail partners must manage channel conflict
– pricing
– define and set integrated pricing
– coordinate promotions and sales plan
– Manage cannibalization
– segment products by channel
– effective inventory deployment

The more a manufacturer incorporates omni-channel into their business strategy the more the consumer will be satisfied and become a product ambassador.

Free omni-channel marketing readiness assessment

Acknowledgment: Image of Happy Face by marc falardeau used with permission under creative common license agreement.

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