YOUR CUSTOMERS used to get what they paid for, more or less. Now they're poaching value left and right. Just a few years ago, when typical retail shoppers went to a store and received advice on the size, style, or purpose of a product, they almost always bought the product right then and there. If they were looking for personalized service, they chose stores that offered it - and paid premium prices for it. If they were bargain hunters, they sought out no-frills shops. Whichever distribution channel they opted for, they stayed with it until the sale was made.
Not anymore. Today's customers "channel surf" with abandon. They routinely avail themselves of the services of high-touch channels, only to buy the product at the end point of another, cheaper channel. Who among us hasn't leafed through a catalog before heading to the mall, or called a travel agent for advice about airfares and then either bought the tickets on-line or purchased them directly from the airline to get a better price? The result is that companies are left with "stranded assets" - physical and organizational capabilities, typically developed at great expense, that become more useless by the day.
Depending on the situation, these may include highly trained but underused salespeople, lightly trafficked retail floor space, and obsolescing inventory dedicated to displays and immediate fulfillment. Forrester Research analysts suggest that as many as half of all customers now shop for information in one channel, then defect from that channel when it comes time for money to change hands. Our own knowledge of clients' situations in both consumer goods and B2B markets supports this finding.
Surely, this isn't news to you. But what are you doing about it? You should be rethinking the core logic of your go-to-market strategy. Instead of designing channels to capture targeted demographic segments, you must design them to support unfettered buyers' behaviors. What's crucial is that customers get what they need at each stage of the buying process - through one channel or another - and that, at the end of that journey, your company has not spent more money on customers than they have spent with you.