Most brand owners today reach their customers through a combination of direct sales engagement and indirect B2B distribution and retail, all performed face to face or online.
When customers have a different experience through each of these channels, brands tend to suffer. Channel cannibalization or outright customer defection are genuine threats to consider.
Customers may accept a higher retail price when the shopping experience becomes entertainment. They may expect to pay more for the consultancy that accompanies a purchase from a value-added reseller. They may still choose to get advice from the partner or direct sales force and then complete their buying online to profit from channel arbitrage. Some degree of cannibalization will always exist. However, when the entire engagement is substantially better through one channel than all other channels, it exacerbates that cannibalization.
What customers will not accept from any route to market is a failure to deliver on expectations. Whether it is a product failure followed by poor service with missing parts and skills, or the failure to communicate and fulfill orders on time in full, the ultimate effect will be the same – customers leave brands that don’t keep their promises.
Brands may establish multiple routes to market to achieve accelerated growth and profitability goals. Lack of consistency in customer experience across channels will have the opposite effect: lost sales opportunities, wasted investments and unnecessary costs associated with the offending route to market.