The direct-to-consumer model is not all it was once cracked up to be. Case in point, Nike finally caved and started selling its wares on Amazon this year, despite having been known as one of the stalwart holdouts from that marketplace. The reason ultimately came down to Nike's ongoing struggle to keep unauthorized retailers at bay on Amazon.
Then there's the matter of increasing customer expectations. For example, 83 percent of customers now consider "fast" shipping to mean two or fewer days, according to Deloitte. Brands that lack the supply chain resources and budget of the Amazons of the world may not be able to offer their customers the on-demand service they crave without the help of a seller network.
However, that doesn't mean the relationship between brands and retailers hasn't changed, because it has – mostly thanks to the power of advanced analytics. Here are just four examples:
1. Automated MAP monitoring
A minimum-advertised price (MAP) policy gives brands greater control over their pricing. The other side of that coin is that they still have to enforce that policy among authorized and unauthorized retailers alike. Historically, this has been easier said than done.
But today's brand manufacturers have the ability to automate the otherwise painstaking task of scanning the web to find where their products are sold, and at what cost. The secret lies in the ability of data-driven software that can crawl the web in search of a brand's products. Once it finds those products, the solution can tell a brand manager which of those retailers are complying with a MAP policy, and which are violating it.
PriceSpider's MAP Guard offers this functionality, but it also tracks the order in which MAP violations occur. This makes it easier to know who violated the policy first, and how quickly other sellers followed suit. MAP Guard also tracks violations over time, so brands can keep tabs on repeat offenders.
You can't necessarily prevent MAP violations, but you can stop them in their tracks.
2. Brand compliance is more easily enforced
"Monitor how retailers
represent your brand to their consumer audience."
MAP policies are not the only compliance woes brand manufacturers have to deal with. Even though most brands will share carefully crafted images and product descriptions with retailers to include on its product pages, many third-party vendors will alter or exclude that material.
Much like pricing, how a brand depicts and describes its products on the web will affect customer perception of the quality of that brand. A simple typo or a low-resolution image, for example, could hurt a specific product's credibility on a retailer's page. A lack of specificity in the product's name could create confusion among potential customers about the product they're looking at (i.e., "is this the 2016 or 2017 edition of this tablet?"). Not to mention, a brand may use very specific language for search engine optimization purposes.
But there's a common thread between product names, product descriptions, SKU numbers and even images: They're all data. If you analyze that data just as you would a retailer's list price for a certain product (and you can), then you'll be able to monitor how retailers represent your brand to their consumer audience.
3. Customers can more easily find products they want
"Give customers a one-stop shopping directory for your products' availability."
We've all been in a situation where we want a particular product, but aren't sure where to buy it. That search will inevitably take us online, but e-commerce isn't always the answer. For instance, maybe there' a hefty shipping fee for that product. Or maybe you need it right away, so you want to know where it's available for pickup. This is a problem that brands can solve with data.
By integrating with internal and external inventory data, a brand can know exactly where its products are being sold near a particular customer. The brand can then make this information available on its website, so the customer will essentially have a one-stop directory for all of its products. Shoppers will know which sellers carry them, if they're available for "buy-online pickup in-store," home delivery, and so on.
The goal for brands is to facilitate buying behavior, and that means showing customers where they can find their products. If that data exists, Where to Buy from PriceSpider will find it, so that you can share it with the customer, and make the most of your seller network.
4. Easier access to customer ratings
Mike Fioravanti, VP of Sales at PriceSpider, posed an interesting idea in a recent LinkedIn Post:
"What if brand manufacturers also made ratings from other sellers available on product pages?" Fioravanti asked. "In other words, a potential customer could see how buyers from Target, Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and other e-commerce platforms have rated that specific product, without going to those product pages."
It may sound counter-intuitive at first pass, but think about it this way: A brand's seller network is not its competition. If your retailers succeed, then typically, so does your brand. So why just stop at showing customers where they can buy your products? Go the extra mile. Give your customers a sneak peak into what others have said about your products. As Fioravanti pointed out, it's the best free marketing there is.