How to sell D2C without disrupting retail partner relationships?

In a previous article, we discussed how becoming your own influencer can be a powerful tool to own the customer relationship while acquiring valuable customer data. But how to retain or even strengthen relationships with your big-box retailers while doing so?

“An e-commerce website can help a manufacturer to reduce its reliance on retailers and to hedge against disruptions in its retailer relationships. This is especially important in an environment where retailers are putting margin pressure on suppliers, weaker retailers are going out of business or being acquired…”


Add value and avoid channel conflict

Prevent stepping in the retailer’s toes. The key is to add value to the customer in areas that the retailer does not, WITHOUT adding roadblocks in the consumer’s journey. As an example, you may offer different products from that available in-store but your customer should not be confused by thinking they can get the same product cheaper at the retailer. This can cause purchase delays or even lead to selecting a different brand.

Transparency with retailers

Once you define what is the role of your D2C efforts you can share your objectives with B2B partners to find a win-win solution for both parties. Increasing sales is not necessarily the only objective, your D2C strategy could differentiate by:

  • Offering a time-saving solution or custom product
  • Gaining customer data and insights
  • A social listening tool
  • A user experience platform
  • Gaining shopping insights
  • Testing new products
  • Content delivery and education
  • Offering a subscription-based model

If done well, your D2C strategy can drive sales while also increase revenue for retailers. The table below shows the possible roles your e-commerce website can play:

Image: McKinsey&Company

Use your data to improve your channel partner’s performance

D2C allows the development of intimate relationships between you and your early D2C adopters. This leads to critical analytics data that can be used to improve your products, offers, and overall retail channel performance.

“They are begging us for data,” says Katrina High, Fit for Life’s Merchandising Director. “We take what we’ve learned and offer it to our partners which is obviously good for us but it also helps them make incremental sales.”

Offer a better B2B buying experience

You might also take advantage of the latest technology to streamline the ordering process for your retail partners. B2B buyers also wish to have the option to order online. Why not offer them the independence they need, with all the D2C features they expect.

“Being able to automate the process changes how we build our team,” says Luan Pham, Laird’s marketing chief. “It prevents us from missing 2 A.M. orders and keeps our customers from having to wait to place an order until we’re in the office. It just solves so many problems.”