Back in time, selling was as simple as making your own products and deciding where in the storefront they would look best. Then more and more decisions were added: sell them at outdoor fairs, in franchises, in department stores, abroad, in online store distribution channels. Now, nothing is as simple as choosing your own storefront, and you need to start looking for where your potential customers and allies are. Jorge Zuñiga Blanco, an entrepreneur and marketing expert from Costa Rica, discusses how to create better marketing distribution channels.
Tuning product information is critical to streamlining a distribution strategy. You’ll save a lot of time each time you want to add a new channel if your product content is always up-to-date and reviewed, and if it’s easy to share it with any agent you want. A distribution channel is not exactly where you put the products for sale, such as a website, a counter in the English Court or Amazon. A distribution channel is the chain of steps required for a product or service to reach its end consumer.
This chain may require few or many steps and intermediaries, can be offline and online, and include distributors, wholesalers, retailers and agents. Depending on the number of participants, it can be considered a direct or indirect distribution channel. But whether it’s one way or another doesn’t do better or worse: it depends on the company’s goals and the type of audience and product. Explains Zuñiga, “A distribution channel strategy evaluates ways to better position products to grow demand around them. Your main goal is to find the right customers, places of demand and streamline and monetize the process of connecting products and customers.”
Distribution channels encompass strategic decisions and seek demand generation among consumers. It is a branch turned to the outside of the company that analyzes the demand environment to adjust the business activity. For its part, the distribution chain of products and services is carried out considering internal factors, mainly inventory: what is the best method for the company to produce and distribute the products or services, considering available costs and resources.
Although an indirect distribution channel actually seems more expensive and convoluted, in reality a direct distribution channel is more expensive to maintain and does not have to ensure efficient distribution of products and services. The most effective strategy will combine direct and indirect distribution channels, and always according to the expectations of a particular clientele.
Not all methods work on all types of product or service distribution. The chosen channels must add value to the customer and improve their user experience. Choosing a distribution channel involves evaluating costs and profit margins, especially when intermediaries and third parties participate. “It is necessary to ensure that distribution is feasible and can be carried out in the agreed terms, with the possibility of scaling according to demand. Goals and benefits for business, customers, and distributors must be synchronized,” asserts Zuñiga.
Maintaining product or service knowledge within the company requires a lot of effort in itself, but it is important to turn it to the other parties involved as well. Teach your intermediaries what your products consist of so they act like good sellers and know how to talk about them to consumers. Additionally, B2C distribution channels are often longer and easier to define, while a B2B strategy may require shorter steps, as the company comes into direct contact with other companies. However, the procurement process will be very different, perhaps slower, or with large-volume purchase requisitions.
One of the main sources of problems between intermediaries and customers is not having homogeneous and reference product information. However, to ensure the success of this relationship, companies must chart common promotional goals and campaigns, agree on analytical exchange methods, provide product or service training and inventory provision assistance, if necessary.