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The Internet has made it easier for you to find and serve customers in new ways. At the same time, expectations are higher than ever before and customers can make themselves heard when things go wrong. It’s important for you to implement the systems that will support an excellent customer experience when you expand your distribution channels.

Evaluate new channel opportunities
Identifying the new channels that will best expand your client base or revenue mix is the first step. While the Internet has reduced many market barriers, careful evaluation of new channels is still critical to success. As with any business planning, the size of the target market, competition, margins, marketing will all factor into your decision.

Some of the ways that businesses are expanding their channels include:

  • Service offerings aimed at new markets – Companies who have served one industry or region can now reach across industries and across the globe.
  • Selling to larger clients – Small manufacturers can sell to the big guys directly using electronic data interchange (EDI) and other technology advances.
  • Reaching customers directly – Centralized marketplaces from eBay to Amazon are making it easier to reach customers directly, eliminating the middleman.

How ERP can help
The systems that you have in place were designed to support your current business. When expanding through new channels, the business process requirements will be different. Take a proactive approach to build the systems that support a great customer experience.

  • Integrate store front and back-office – If you are going to sell to customers through the Internet, a website connected to your accounting system is critical to deliver good service. At the very least, customers expect to know if the items they order are in stock and when they will ship.
  • Automate to support higher volume and smaller orders – For a distributor used to dealing with large orders, selling direct to customers means higher volume but more small shipments. Automation through an ERP system can streamline the order entry and fulfillment process to maintain profitability.
  • Integrated ERP provides one source for answers – Customers expects answers fast. If your customer service reps have to check three different systems to figure out if and when the order shipped, customers may report the slow service on their social networks.
  • ERP reporting will help you determine real profits – Not all channels will be profitable for your business. It’s better to know that early and change your strategy to focus on channels that work.

The opportunities to expand your distribution channels have never been better, but poor execution can reflect badly on your entire business. Let’s talk about the systems that you need to make your multi-channel approach fuel business growth.

Published with permission from Source.

Published on 1st November 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.


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