Etymologically, the word channel is multi-layered and multi-faceted with meanings spanning many disciplines ranging from geography, geology, communication, construction to physics. The term channel management has been widely used in salespeople parlance since 1980s. Channels are vehicles for selling products. A marketing or distribution channel is made of people, organizations, and activities necessary to mediate relationships between providers and customers. Channels include physical stores, social media platforms, events or automated emails. The approach blends distribution and communications tactics in an operational way to keep products and services moving from companies to clients.
Channels are usually third-party organizations. Historically various channels used to be treated and managed in parallel by dedicated sales personnel, more recently marketers tend to view channels as integrated gateways unlocking unified customer experience. Integration of vendors to become trusted partners, who communicate product benefits aligned with desired positioning, relies on shared sales planning and balanced approach to compensation. Attention needs to be paid to transparency of (customer) service, provision of channel choice and consistency in content and process. Especially in the online environment, where customers switch easily from one platform to another.
Omnichannel experience is connecting seamlessly individual touchpoints over a variety of channels, allowing customers to pick up where they left off on one channel and follow the same customer journey on another. Keeping price levels and price incentives comparable across channels and combining push and pull approach without losing efficiency from sight are just as important determinants of successful channel strategy. One way of analyzing, whether products are under- or over-distributed is making use of velocity graphs. If intensive distribution results in a small market share, the push approach succeeded, however this is not sustainable as it requires significant investments and sales efficiency for both provider and distributor is compromised. Similarly, if availability of a product in distribution points is limited while market share is relatively high, it may indicate problems with customer convenience and satisfaction.
There are generally three main challenges with retail channel integration – moving through different offline channels, moving through online channels and switching between online and offline shopping experiences. A traditional question of transferring customers between different brick-and-mortar retail outlets seems to be the most challenging one as it relies on intensive cooperation of channel partners and their dedication to feed shared CRM platforms. Various technology companies offer solutions for hassle-free transition between online platforms, combining mostly customer contact and sales data with location and device identifiers. Endless aisles offer a solution to a transition from brick-and-mortar store into online – retail outlets get equipped with in-store kiosks to allow customers to place their orders for products, which are not available in-store and have them later shipped to their homes. Conversely, click-and-collect services (formerly in this column described as BOPUS) enable customers to buy online and have their items delivered to a store of choice.
Sailing bumpy waters of channel management is still an adventure for many and unlikely to become a comfy cruise ever. Once marketers are able to swim against the odds of the channel divide, they cross the Rubicon of truly united customer experience.
Splouvání channel management: Od multi- k omni-kanálovému přístupu
Pojem channel managementu či channel marketingu je od osmdesátých let dvacátého století využíván pro spíše operativní integraci distribuce prostřednictvím třetích stran s marketingovou komunikací v dané distribuční cestě – kanále. Přesun a fluidní přechod zákazníků mezi a napříč jednotlivými kanály znamená nutnost integrovat jednotlivé distribuční články do té míry, aby poskytly zákazníkovi ucelenou zákaznickou zkušenost. K tomu je nutno distribuční články neřídit paralelně (tj. multi-kanálově) nýbrž synteticky (tj. omni-kanálově).
Kontakt na autorov/Address
doc. Ing. Pavel Štrach, Ph.D., Ph.D., ŠKODA AUTO Vysoká škola o.p.s., Katedra marketingu a managementu, Na Karmeli 1457, 293 01 Mladá Boleslav, Česká republika, e-mail: email@example.com