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What Happened to the Middleman:
The Decline in Relationship Selling
As eCommerce customers don't have personal relationships with VARs,
distributors or salespeople, customers do their own product research.
Online vendors can only provide impersonal electronic suggestions. As
a result, customers are less loyal. These changes have affected many
businesses, including software and electronics companies and appliance
stores and book stores. Here are some steps that your company can take
to compensate for the missing human touch.
What Happens When the Channel Shrinks?
When the channel shrinks, customers often exchange convenience for
pre-sale and post-sale service.
- In offering electronics and appliances, Amazon is now challenging
Sears, Best Buy, and local appliance stores. However, Amazon has replaced
service departments with manufacturers' warranties and repair manuals
that customers can order from Amazon!
- Online mortgage companies help people get mortgages but are less
likely than individual mortgage brokers to craft solutions that consider
a customer's total financial situation.
- eBay and craigslist are vehicles for selling everything from window
air conditioners to vintage china, creating markets for items that
were previously unsalable. But, service is minimal.
How to Respond to a Shrinking Channel
To compensate for the shrinking channel, provide more customer assistance
before and after the sale.
- Research which segments buy from your company, and provide targeted
content for each segment.
- Provide realistic product demos that differentiate your products.
- Guide customers to make suitable product choices. Then, check if
customers are satisfied. Apply insights gained to future customers.
- Let prospects ask questions to real people. An FAQ section that
answers a few generic questions seldom meets customers' needs.
- Think long-term. A local appliance store builds loyalty telling
customers how to fix simpler problems by themselves.
- Design your web site so that customers can easily find the information
- Track what competitors offer, and learn from their successes.
Whether you follow an eCommerce or traditional model, differentiate
your company from competitors by providing outstanding customer education
and support at all stages of the purchase cycle. A customer-centric
web site is another differentiator. Many of the above steps involve
research and analysis. We can help you identify ways to respond to the
challenges of a shrinking channel.
Copyright © 4/12 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.
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