The Internet will continue to play an important role in the channel strategy for manufacturers both large and small. One of the ways your business can gauge how big a role the Web will play is understanding how your customers use the Web.
Order placement is not the only function that’s migrating to the Net. The technology has significant value in manufacturer-distributor-customer communication. So, what are customer really looking for when they surf the Net?
Information. Information. More information. While many customers still want personal interaction for product support, they don’t want to pick up the phone to find out where the heck their order is.
On a scale of “most important” to “last important,” the National Association of Wholesaler Distributors (NOW) reports customers want to use the Web for:
• Tracking of orders
• Managing inventory levels
• Improving order accuracy
• Speeding up the inventory cycle
• Obtaining product information
• Locating hard-to-find items
When choosing a channel partner, consider their ability to provide this information to customers. The process has to be “transparent”—in other words, the information has to be the same regardless of which Website (yours or your distributor’s) customers use to seek out that information. This will require a lot of information-sharing between you and your distributor. Next, we’ll talk about the implications of sharing this much data.