FILL NEW ELECTRONIC COMMERCE NEEDS
Anxious about electronic commerce (EC)? It is already deconstructing channels such as - books, CDs, travel, PC, stock brokerage, personal collectibles, autos, music publishing, etc. These "verticals" may be "different than ours", but that doesnít stop the exponential growth of the underlying forces for EC that will transformed all channels sooner than most might think. So what should we do now without a detailed map for getting to the new, digital world? Final specifics for digital channels may be unknowable, but successful distributors will have to change to fill new needs that both manufacturers and end-users are already learning to expect.
Individuals who shop the web for goods and information have already learned to expect at least the following 8 new needs that will be eventually expected of distributors by commercial customers:
- 24x7 convenience. The most ambitious and time-pressed people (best customers) like it.
- Just in time education and information on a pull and push (topic-specific, email notification) basis from a site(s) that will have targeted our total information needs.
- A corollary to #2 is no more intrusion marketing from suppliers Ė no just in case sales or telemarketing calls. We will ask for 24 x7 help if and when we need it.
- Shopping the total universe of items, not just what one vendor wants to sell.
- Analytical tools that allow powerful searching, configurations and simulations of the global product data warehouse if appropriate. Be our own consultant 80%+ of the time!
- Access to end-usersí views about a product. Their collective opinions deflate and round out the hype that sellers have traditionally provided.
- Access to new types of experts 24x7 that can answer more specific and involved questions based on our use of #s 2, 4, 5 and 6. Local, generalists may not be able to help focused, pre-educated shoppers.
- Total cost reductions due to: a) time savings in the shopping process; b) functional discounts for educating and ordering ourselves; c) shared savings from more efficient paperless transactions via the net and fewer, differently located and stocked distribution centers.
The other half of a new-order distributorís task will be to meet the new needs of manufacturers. Here are five benefits that early, web-selling manufacturers are reaping and all others want:
- The ability to reach many new, global customers for less, instantly, directly and personally. "As a previous buyer of book(s) by this author, you can buy their forthcoming book when it becomes available in 5 days for half-off by clicking here." (An email from Amazon.com).
- Have a sense and respond dialogue with the end-users as well as intermediaries. Their click patterns, inquiries and critiques are the basis for better forecasting and a faster, more effective product development and marketing cycle.
- Getting niche products new cyber visibility and efficient selling economics that heretofore were not stocked or affordably pushed by distributors.
- Letting customers configure their orders and enter them directly into a build-to-order plant, whenever possible. (e.g., Dell, Cisco and future auto plants).
- Re-intermediate channel partners with real time availability of all information, qualified leads and new commission structures for new pre and post cyber-selling duties that will still be best done by trusted, local agents.
Current channel intermediaries can be part of the digital channel solution or futilely resist the revolutionary change and disappear. Without the detailed map to the new digital world, we will have to make many decisions that are both expedient in the near term and consistent with the new needs above in the longer term. Itís time to clue in, start experimenting and fall on our faces forward towards the future.