Creating value: Tackling threats to the channel ecosystem
A changing channel for a changing world
Online sales has become the norm and the relentless growth of B2B marketplaces is changing the landscape for the channel. Digital Commerce 360 projected for 2021 that the collective sales on B2B marketplaces would grow 130% and total $56.0 billion.
Buying cycles and sales funnels are changing in this ever-evolving ecosystem, so resellers need to be where customers are and be visible wherever customers are doing their research.
The Microsoft Azure marketplace is a great example. It matches customers to a catalogue of over 30,000 apps and services and helps the channel to scale by giving them access to over 1 billion Microsoft users and over 90,000 partners in the Cloud Solution Provider programme.
The rise of marketplace selling
The channel has always had to adapt and change with the times. Online marketplaces and online buying is perhaps new to many in the channel, but is a significant route to market to consider. By nature, marketplaces differ from traditional sales with transparency in propositions and digital engagement, but the channel and vendors supplying the channel must be able to deliver and transact services in the way that the customer wants.
Marketplaces are not just about a different way of transacting but importantly, require a different way of marketing and selling. For channel companies, this is a real shift. Whilst it may appear more transactional, with fewer opportunities to add value, it is more important than ever to market in a way that shows you really understand your customer, and their needs.
For years, Google has been ahead of the game since they recognised that relevance is key and the better the content matches a customer’s search query, the more likely it is that it will achieve a good ranking.
The shift to digital marketing requires a shift in skills, as we see less opportunity for face to face selling. It is important for sales and marketing people to put themselves in the shoes of the customer online, positioning products efficiently, considering what they might search, where they might look, which adverts they might see, understanding the various persona profiles that would be most relevant to the proposition and how they might understand one proposition directly compared to a competitor’s. The journey needs to be thought through with easy contact, easy support, easy engagement and easy purchase, but before the journey even begins, services need to be matched digitally to the needs of customers as quickly as possible.
Those in the channel that have built their business on knowing what their customer wants and market needs, are supremely well-placed to take advantage of the digital shift.
Clear objectives for the channel
The challenge comes down to visibility and clarity of proposition, alongside a clear customer success strategy. This is much tougher than it sounds, both for vendors and resellers. Resellers must grab the opportunity of being a trusted advisor and expert, layering their expertise and their understanding of customer needs on the proposition, to help them select the right tools and applications for their businesses – no matter where they do their initial research or how they choose to buy.