At the beginning of October, we joined up with Insider: Made in the North West for our manufacturing event at Oldham Athletic A.F.C. The morning brought together professionals from all over the region to discuss the hot topic of selling directly to consumers.
The traditional model of manufacturers selling to wholesalers or retailers is under threat since the development of channels such as eBay and Amazon. A number of opinions on the day echoed this and acknowledged many other difficulties that manufacturers and distributors are currently facing.
Selling directly to customers was definitely a focus and many attendees felt this was an area for growth. Here are the main pointers from the event:
Don’t erode your retail channel – selling direct is a balancing act
Before embarking on a direct approach, ensure you are clear on your varying approaches to market and how you plan to execute each. There are a number of ways to tackle the management of each channel by varying your product range, your pricing structure and service levels.
Add Amazon with care – someone could be undercutting you with your own product
If you choose to use Amazon, understand how it also fits into your channel mix.
With Amazon, you don’t own the customer and it can be hard work staying on top of the demands made by the brand. Management is key so having a dedicated person on that account, every day, to optimise the brand is recommended. Remember to be careful of your distributors using online channels to undercut you as the manufacturer – this is a common issue.
Stay ahead of the education curve
Manufacturers are in danger of falling behind the curve so they need to adopt digitalisation. There is a skills gap that needs addressing.
Many manufacturers struggle to find cost-effective ways to upskill their employees and take advantage of new digital tactics. A suggestion posed by the Manufacturing Alliance was to recruit ‘intrepreneurs’ into businesses. This allows fresh talent to come up with new ideas, as an entrepreneur would, but as an employee in your business.
Harvesting and retaining trust in customers
When it comes to direct selling, the emphasis is on ownership and having the confidence to sell in your own environment. You can build trust through many marketing strategies, but the best and cheapest form of marketing is word of mouth.
Create art and flair with your brand
A challenge that many manufacturing brands are facing is how to convince consumers that they need to buy your product. James Eden from Private White V.C. (a high-end British clothing brand), said “There is an art, flair and nuance to social media and online marketing. Nobody needs another raincoat; our challenge is to create a narrative that convinces customers that they can’t not have one”.
The agenda of the morning also included a Q&A session between our MD, Callum Reckless, and our client, Mareike Mueller, from Horizon Global. They took to the stage to provide an insight into the process of diversifying Horizon Global’s offering and introducing a direct-to-consumer (D2C) model.
Following a number of acquisitions, Horizon Global identified that the future growth of the business required a focus on diversifying their offering and introducing a D2C model. Horizon Global, which includes brands such as Witter Towbars, Westfalia, ROLA and Ixplor, partnered with Reckless to deliver an online digital transformation project. This required moving their traditional B2B product-led business into a market-leading, B2C e-Commerce suite of lifestyle brands.
The morning came to a close with Sean Fielding, leader of Oldham Council, who discussed the manufacturing heritage and plans to reinvigorate the sector.
At Reckless, we are helping a number of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to expand their business online in order to capture new audiences, engage with existing customers and ultimately, increase sales. Soon to be released, is our ‘Digital Marketing Manual for Manufacturers’, which provides some simple steps into the online world.
To read more about our experience and insights in manufacturing, click here.
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