Is your channel-friendly ecommerce strategy pushing customers away?

Driven by brand loyalty and more product assortment, about half of online shoppers who are ready to buy are opting to go directly to manufacturer’s websites versus online retailers’ sites. 

When these eager shoppers arrive at your brand’s site, do you take their orders and convert the sales yourself, or do you refer them to a channel partner?

Many manufacturers – rather than take an “either or” approach – adopt a hybrid or “channel-friendly” ecommerce sales strategy. 

If you have taken a similar path, you are likely investing time and money creating, maintaining and optimising a storefront so that your customers can make purchases directly from your branded website. You track and analyse every single click to understand how your customers navigate your site and fine tune your checkout flow to capture and convert as many shoppers as possible into buyers.

Loss of control?

Integrating your channel or retail partners – and offering your shoppers an alternative shopping experience – is also part of a hybrid approach. 

This buying option curiously ushers shoppers away from your storefront, redirecting them to partner sites – like Amazon or Dixons. These big name partners often are viewed as experts at shopper conversion and can play an integral role in your multi-channel sales strategy. 

While this multi-channel approach might sound good in theory, in practice it doesn’t always play out as you may think – despite your best efforts.

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For most manufacturers, the problem a hybrid or channel-friendly ecommerce strategy poses is this: once shoppers leave your site, you lose control over what happens next. 

Did they ever purchase your product? If they bought your product, did they complete their transactions on a retail site you recommended? Or, were they distracted by product recommendations on the retailer’s site and ultimately bought a competitive product, a completely unrelated product or worse, nothing all?

Tracking your customers

To get the answers to these questions, you need to track your customers once they leave your site. 

A “where to buy” functionality makes this possible. Among its many benefits, this functionality tracks customers through the purchasing experience. It provides data about who left your site without purchasing, as well as who bought your product, a competitive product or a completely unrelated product through a retail site.

Data from “where to buy” functionality has revealed the following findings about direct and retail purchase paths:

  • Customers who leave a manufacturer’s site convert poorly; if those same customers would have simply purchased directly from the manufacturer’s site, they would have converted between three and five times more often; and
  • On multiple occasions, more than 50 per cent of customers who left a manufacturer’s site ended up purchasing a competitive or completely unrelated product.
Think about that. As a result of your “channel-friendly approach,” the customer that went to your website to research or purchase your product ended up buying an alternative product from one of your rivals. And you made it easy for them to do.

If you, like other manufacturers, are suffering from the unintended consequences of using a channel-friendly ecommerce sales strategy, you need to start to truly understand what and whose products your customers are purchasing once they leave your site. 

Most importantly, you need evidence that shows whether your customers are buying from your direct competitors or from you. This type of data is incredibly valuable, especially if you – without understanding the full consequences of your multi-channel sales strategy – are pushing your customers to retail partners. 

By getting into the mindset of customers and examining their buying patterns, you will increase your chances of retaining and growing your future sales.

Luke Frandrup is vice president of customer success for Digital River.

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