The age-old question of whether a brand should sell direct to consumers.
As a project manager at an eCommerce company, I have been exposed to many different (and mostly contrasting) strategies as to why a Brand has decided to pursue eCommerce. Many times their reasons are so specific to their company, that their specific reason will be the only time I hear it as a reason for wanting to go direct.
It recently hit me… How can any business do due diligence on selling direct if they don’t know whether the feedback, research, and guidance would be relevant to their brand?
The quick answer? You can’t.
What you can do is focus on what you do know about your business and what your goals are. If your goals are focused, your strategy can be streamlined.
Let’s look at it this way… If you don’t know where you are going, how do you know which map to look at?
What I have gathered from years of project kick-off meetings is that my first question never changes; why? It takes a lot to make a change within a company, whether it’s a new process or a new system. This means the value proposition has to be loud and clear.
As a project manager, once I know the why, I know what is important and ultimately what the focus is to that company.
Here are a few common “whys” I hear:
We want our full product line to gain traction. Our brand’s following is there, but we have limited product exposure due to our retailers stocking the same, limited line of products.
Retailers, (especially brick & mortar retailers) most likely have a limited budget that is holding them back from pushing all your products and not just the best-sellers.
Brands that feel this way are the brands that typically have multiple product lines that range from core product to accessory. Example, sports brands. You sell a set of skis, but what about the apparel line that never is seen?
We need to vary distribution channels. In today’s age, we are worried about focusing on one specific channel and limiting revenue opportunities.
We live in consumer-driven world of over-exposure and competition. Brands are becoming very aware that they may be limiting their abilities to grow in a changing industry if they don’t branch out. Going direct is the stepping stone to allowing their brand to expand beyond the B2B confines they are so familiar.
We want to get to know our consumers.
Let’s be honest. Retailer to Brand relationships are co-habitual. Brands need retailers to expose products where your consumer bases are shopping. Retailers need Brand’s products to provide competitive offering to stay on-top of what consumers want. The common goal? Provide products to consumers that align with their needs and wants.
Selling online provides insights and analytics to what your consumer types care about. Being able to see that organic value can dictate how to market, and better yet which products to market. Receiving this data from brick and mortar retailers can be biased to demographics, geographies, and other area-specific data. Ultimately, brick & mortar prevent seeing the full picture on product demand for a brand.
If the items above appealed to the “whys” you believe your brand has or wants to have, chances are it’s time to look into going direct.
If all you saw while reading the above were red flags and warning signs combined with “DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!”, the time may not be now to go direct. This does not mean it has to be forever, but in my experience, if there is any hesitation or the value proposition isn’t clear internally, going direct will go about as smoothly as a turtle racing in molasses covered in bees.
Don’t be afraid of having the conversation. If you think there is any appeal to going direct for your brand, use the points above internally to see what is the immediate push back and why. If there is a common ground to be found so that expansion is possible, you don’t want to miss out.