Why manufacturers’ websites should include e-commerce has a rationale that – contrary to the fear of breaking valued distributor network relationships – can offer both short- and long-term benefits for the manufacturer, consumer, and the retailer.
Manufacturers that sell their products through a network of retailers are rightfully concerned about protecting these precious relationships when considering adding an e-commerce component to their corporate website. Supplying products to brick and mortar retailers is usually the largest segment of their sales, thus their decision to include it requires a delicate 3-way balancing act between the goals and needs of the manufacturer, its retailers, and consumers.
For the Manufacturer
By investing in an e-commerce website, the manufacturer’s goal is to increase sales through both retailers and online sales. But because retail distribution is usually a manufacturer’s largest business segment, including an intuitive store locator page on the website – as well as e-commerce pricing on the site that is at or near retail price points – supports retailers.
Equally important, the manufacturer wants to generate sales from customers who are not located near a retailer. Thus online ordering captures sales that might otherwise be lost to an online competitor. While e-commerce brings with it additional decisions and expense for the manufacturer regarding offering effective fulfillment and shipping processes as well as payment and reporting processes, the ability to capture sales from remote consumers who must rely on products being shipped to them is a benefit.
For the Retailer
The retailer’s goal is to move products out of the bricks and mortar store by bringing new customers in to shop.
Thus a retailer is keenly interested in a manufacturer’s product line promotions. Promotions not only create interest in and sales of the promoted products, but also “pull” customers inside the retail outlet where they can find and purchase other products as well.
Being included in a manufacturer’s online “store locator” is another sales advantage for retailers. Using today’s location technology, a store locator helps customers who know the product they need easily locate the retailer’s store using their own location data – whether sitting at a home computer or holding a mobile device.
In addition, with online access to a manufacturer’s product demonstration video library, the retailer also has the advantage of serving an educated customer base that knows what they want, saving the retailer’s staff time at point of sale.
For the Consumer
The consumer’s goal is simple, but perhaps the most important – “Educate me about the product I need, tell me how to use it, and make it easy for me to acquire” is his/her goal. Thus the following website components are critical to making the sale either online or in-store:
- Search Engine Optimization – Make sure that a potential customer can find the website based on relevant search criteria.
- Product Education – The consumer wants to quickly identify which of the manufacturer’s products he/she needs to solve the problem or need. Clear and consistent content as well as product demonstration videos make this step easy and intuitive.
- How and Where Can I Buy It – This customer need must be met quickly and easily. The option of a clear and accurate store locator coupled with the choice to purchase simply and directly from the manufacturer will ensure a positive outcome for everyone involved – the customer, the retailer, and the manufacturer.
All of the above solid reasons are why manufacturers’ websites should include e-commerce components where appropriate. Proper balancing of the benefits afforded to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers will make a manufacturer’s e-commerce website decision a win-win-win all around!