Channel management involves opening up, managing and organizing different distribution channels in order to provide customers with broad-based access to consumer goods. Whereas goods used to be offered almost exclusively in stores, i.e. locally, the distribution channels have changed and expanded in recent decades. As consumers’ interests and shopping habits have also changed accordingly, many suppliers are relying on a broadly spread network of sales channels, i.e. multi-channel sales. To coordinate and control these channels, many companies attach importance to professional channel management. In addition to traditional in-store sales, the possible sales channels include Internet sales, catalog sales, shopping channels on television, direct sales via agents, party sales or telephone ordering options via call centers. Customers thus have diverse options for accessing goods and services regardless of store opening hours or spatial restrictions. Making the most of these opportunities requires professional coordination and control.
Channel management for service providers
Service providers are also increasingly turning to channel management. One example of this is banks, where, for example, a vending machine no longer just allows withdrawals but also enables account information to be retrieved or transfers to be made.
Sales channels must complement each other
Although many consumers want to be independent of predefined sales channels, such as store opening hours, many still do not want to do without possible personal or telephone contact with the provider. Channel management responds to this by offering customers the most comprehensive support possible. The more flexible a company is, the greater its chances of surviving in the market. Apart from price advantages, consumers often choose their service providers or retailers on the basis of convenience or availability of suitable products and often want a mixture of impersonal ordering options and personal contact. It is therefore important not just to let the different sales channels run side by side, but to create a network in which the individual channels are interlinked and complement each other.
Opportunities and risks
Many marketing strategies that are considered new today have, strictly speaking, been around for a long time. Nevertheless, the ever-increasing importance of the Internet today actually offers new marketing strategies that rely on new distribution channels and other forms of advertising and public relations. One possible risk in channel marketing is seen in the fact that a new distribution channel could replace an old one. The assumption is that if a brick-and-mortar store and an online store are offered in parallel, consumers will shop either in the brick-and-mortar store or in the online store, so promoting one will weaken the other. However, studies show that only about one in ten online purchases replaces a store purchase. Whether suppliers with a multi-channel strategy ultimately have greater sales opportunities than suppliers who focus more cost-effectively and / or more specialized on one sales channel, however, cannot be answered.
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