To succeed in adopting a multi-channel strategy, companies must first become channel stewards. Most high-tech companies are investing huge amounts of resources to sell through channel partners via a partner portal. Although the motivating factors of using this strategy are efficient market coverage, reduced sales costs, and product and price differentiation, none of these would be achieved if there is no multi-channel strategy used that is especially designed for the type of customer, affiliate and product.
A channel steward is defined to be a dominant company in the Hi-Tech value chain that proactively participates in the design and execution of the go-to-market strategy. It helps channel partners and customers to do business with them easier by extending their intra-enterprise framework. This turn up brand equity increases, share generation and market revenue. The four essential elements are: (1) continuous process of alignment and influence; (2) players a myriad in a channel value chain; (3) create superior responses to customer needs and requests; (4) to guarantee economic returns appropriate to all members.
There are three strategies that channel stewards can use to manage channels and are: Storefront, eMarketplace and Channel Volume. Choosing the right one should be based on a framework depends on factors such as relative size and dominance of partners and customers, existing partnerships and product complexity.
Virtual showcase or eBusiness Partner Portal – this is the preferred approach of large customers and channel partners. Using this strategy, companies are activated to create a portal for partners who are dedicated and customized to customers or partners. It allows them self-service tools for browsing catalogs, researching the product information and details, configuring solutions, viewing change orders, tracking shipments and receiving payment invoices. These portals offer a specific set of catalog products and information that are based on the specific needs of customers and partners and are deeply integrated into their pricing systems.
eMarketplace – this is beneficial for medium-sized businesses that tend to serve small and medium-sized businesses. It is expensive and unmanageable to offer a virtual showcase for each partner. It is therefore essential to reduce the number of product segments by standardizing platforms and functional modularization and then offering these products or platforms through an eMarketplace that is best suited for organizations that carry in their value chain. It is a unique platform for order fulfillment that provides flexibility to partners by enabling intermediation to group the solution with finance, services and accessories.
Channel volume – this is useful for scenarios where the complexity of the product is low. It focuses on operational efficiency in the distribution of product knowledge and the orchestration of quoting orders and returns. The key elements for the success of this model are low complexity and the range of products offered, high partner and customer self-services and close monitoring of key performance indicators and distributor and ODM / CM Service Level Agreement.
Stewardship is open to everyone on the net, be they manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and so on. However, it has nothing to do with charity. In reality it is a way for a company to let its channel compete through collaboration for the greater good. If done well, all members will get to enjoy the benefits and achievements.