Whether the threat is real or perceived, channel conflict is a legitimate concern for many B2B companies considering ecommerce.
In most cases, B2B ecommerce actually grows sales in a company’s other sales channels. However, if channel conflict is a concern for you or someone at your organization as you consider B2B ecommerce, the following best practices will help mitigate the risk.
Let your dealers and distributors offer the best pricing
This is probably the #1 way you can avoid channel conflict as a B2B company. Undercutting on price is a huge no-no as it positions you as competition for your dealer/distributor/local store network. Quite frankly, they can’t compete with ecommerce’s lack of overhead. Refuse to undercut your local distributors on price. Keep your online prices a modest amount higher on any items that you both carry. Give your dealer/distributor network the edge on price–they keep their foot traffic and you make up the difference in increased margin on online sales.
Promote your dealers and distributors on your ecommerce site
Your ecommerce site is going to catch a lot of attention from search engine crawlers and new customers alike. While ecommerce is the preferred shopping method for a lot of people, there are still a fair number of people who research online but still want to see a product in person before buying. Help those customers find a dealer near them by creating a “dealer locator” and then post it prominently on your ecommerce site. Also, consider using a “find it in store” button for the products you sell online. These two features will help push the online-researchers-but-in-store-buyers to an affiliated dealer or distributor.
Create special dealer- and distributor-only promotions–and then promote them online
While it might seem counter intuitive to promote in-store sales and discounts on your ecommerce site, it’s actually a good ecommerce best practice for avoiding channel conflict. Your physical locations get the boost from real-time only offers and promoting it on your site lays the bait for those “researchers” who might otherwise defer their purchase until a later time.
Ecommerce doesn’t have to be a threat to the other sales channels in your business. In fact, when implemented properly, ecommerce will grow business across all channels.
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