Channel management refers to the process of coordinating and optimizing the distribution channels that a company uses to bring its products or services to market. It involves managing the relationships between a company and its intermediaries, such as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers, to ensure that products or services are delivered efficiently and effectively to customers.
There are several key aspects of channel management, including:
- Channel selection: This involves choosing the intermediaries that a company will work with to bring its products or services to market. This can be based on factors such as the intermediaries’ expertise, reputation, and reach in a particular market.
- Channel development: This involves building and nurturing relationships with intermediaries to ensure that they are able to effectively promote and sell a company’s products or services. This can include training intermediaries on the features and benefits of a company’s products or services, and providing them with marketing support.
- Channel communication: This involves ensuring that there is effective communication between a company and its intermediaries, so that they are aligned on strategies and objectives. This can be achieved through regular meetings, updates, and other forms of communication.
- Channel measurement: This involves tracking and analyzing the performance of intermediaries, in order to understand how they are contributing to the overall success of a company’s distribution efforts. This can include tracking sales and customer feedback, as well as measuring the return on investment of working with specific intermediaries.
Overall, channel management is a key aspect of a company’s distribution strategy, as it helps to ensure that products or services are effectively delivered to customers through the most suitable intermediaries. It is an ongoing process that requires ongoing attention and effort to maintain strong relationships and optimize distribution channels. The following are common elements of channel management.
Planning your sales and distribution channels. For example, developing plans to improve your presence or expand sales into new regions.
The basic structure of your channels such as:
producer → wholesaler → retailer → customer
producer → retailer → customer
producer → value added reseller → customer
producer → customer
The detailed planning and implementation of new channels. For example, developing a partnership program for value added resellers.
The process of managing sales teams and partners such as incentives and performance management.
Sales & Operations Planning
Matching what you are producing to sales forecasts and demand generation efforts such as promotional campaigns. For example, scheduling increased production at your factories to support a sales event in your retail and ecommerce channels.
Partner Relationship Management
Developing, motivating, monitoring and managing the performance of partners.
Channel conflict is competition between channels that is perceived as counterproductive or unfair. For example, a channel that undercuts your retail partners such that they become unprofitable. Channel management involves careful design of channels to avoid such conflicts such as a fashion brand that allows retail locations to have new items weeks before they are available on to compensate for their higher cost base.
Developing a valuable brand experience across channels. This includes customer service and the design of locations both physical and digital.
Coordinating promotional campaigns across channels such as pricing and advertising for a sales event.
Channel based pricing strategies. For example, a fashion retailer with premium shops in luxury shopping areas and outlet shops in suburban locations as a means of price discrimination.
The process of optimizing your revenue for available inventory such as an airline that sells full priced tickets online and gives bulk discounts to tour operators when they need to fill seats.
The process of delivering your obligations to customers and channel partners. This includes reaching the end-customer with your products, services, brand experience and customer service. It also includes logistics such as product returns.