September 12, 2016

Even if you don’t embrace the concept of multi-channel branding, it’s coming whether we like it or not. Successful businesses will adapt to a changing marketplace.

If you haven’t heard of multi-channel branding, it’s a business model that uses a variety of channels to enhance the end consumer’s shopping experience, including those who research before a purchase. Multi-channel branding includes selling to retailers through traditional distribution as well as direct to retailers where there is no distribution and even includes sales direct to the end consumer. The latter is for products that haven’t successfully broken into the distribution network.

Although my day job is in the pet industry, I also do consulting for brands that sell in the health and grocery categories, where I’m seeing multi-channel branding beginning to take hold. I am also see some manufacturers in our industry who are using this practice, and I expect this trend to continue.

The manufacturer’s multi-channel branding concept relies on current technological advances, mostly in social media and Internet resources. The concept is, in a nut shell, to offer a manufacturer’s full line of products through multiple channels, allowing them to reach the broadest customer base possible. This may sound sinister to any brick and mortar retailer reading this, but in fact, if done right, it will increase the store’s sales over time—or at least that is the theory.

The aim of a multi-channel branding strategy is to maximize revenue and consumer loyalty by offering choice and convenience all the way through to the end consumer. A successful multi-channel strategy offers a consistent quality of experience, whichever channel the consumer uses. The theory is that a customer’s experience in buying a product influences their perception of the brand, and the easier it is to find what they are looking for, the better the brand fares.
This type of mindset isn’t new. A perfect example of this business model is Hewlett-Packard (HP), who has been doing this for more than a decade. HP offers complete support in the way of software updates for their products and trouble shooting forums. You can even buy their products right from their site.

What HP is doing is making their website a destination for everything HP. But if you look a little closer, what you will notice is that, although they make their products available for sale to the consumer, you will be able to buy elsewhere for the same price or less. HP’s goal is to first establish a value for their products. Second, they aim to inform the consumer about their products, making them aware of their range and product functionality. Finally, if a product is not available from other sources, the consumer can click on the buy button.

In today’s cluttered advertising market, most messages become lost in the mix. But the more channels on which a brand is displayed, the better chance consumers will respond. The better known a brand becomes, the better it will sell. If careful pricing policies are developed, the theory is that all channels will be able to compete, enhancing the end consumer’s shopping experience, including those consumers who research before a purchase. Even if a manufacturer doesn’t sell direct, if they maintain a strong MAP policy, their best option is being present on as many selling platforms as possible.

Since there isn’t any way of turning back the clock, planning ahead is a better option than ignoring what is happening. Look for ways to use the manufacturer’s concern for their brand presence. Pick brands that matter to your business and let those manufactures know that you support their products and ask for support in return.

Now might be the time to develop a policy that will help grow your business over the long run instead of flipping around to who has the best price this month on products you purchase. Letting your suppliers know that you have a long term business strategy will allow them to better meet your needs.

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