Is 2013 the Year to Add a Direct Consumer Sales Channel?January 3, 2013 By Mark Donnelly
For some companies, there comes a time when sales strategies require some tweaking. While that might entail minor changes, there are also instances when organizations need to make more monumental alterations such as expanding opportunities and adding a new sales channel. To meet their 2013 goals, some businesses that have focused on business-to-business (B-to-B) markets since their inception are looking to move into the business-to-consumer (B-to-C) arena as a matter of both opportunity and necessity.
This strategy shift isn't new. Sporting goods companies that once generated all of their sales by selling their products wholesale to specialty stores and big-box retailers now have their own e-commerce sites in response to consumer demand. Take Nike, Under Armour or any of the top name brands as examples. This trend is no longer limited to the big brands; other companies are considering expanding their channels as turnkey direct sales platforms have significantly lowered the barriers of entry for them.
If your business is starting to receive consistent feedback from consumers requesting items directly, it might be time to consider implementing a direct sales channel. Before doing so, here are five things to consider:
1. Modifying the risk management plan. It's important to have a plan in place to foresee risks, estimate impacts and have responses to issues that may arise. With B-to-B, there are fewer end users of a product or service who are more homogeneous, with the average user being fairly knowledgeable. With B-to-C, many end users of an organization's product are heterogeneous, and the average user is less knowledgeable than their B-to-B counterpart, but the distribution is more extreme.
This represents a shift from "buyer beware" to "seller beware." When a product is sold B-to-B, the responsibility for its performance is in the hands of whoever has possession of it. When a product is transferred to the end consumer, the responsibility usually stays with the seller.
Adding a B-to-C sales channel will require a big change in focus and scale. For example, a B-to-B customer service department is going to have to starting answering a wider range of questions. In addition, legal and regulatory infrastructure and costs will increase. A PR department will receive more work because communication is going to move more in the public eye than it was in the B-to-B space.