February 4, 2004, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED WHITE PAPER: Multi-channel integration

(Page 3 of 3)

Manufacturers need to be multi-channel, too

Manufacturers have long played a role in product retailing. But the web has amplified that role. Retailers’ and manufacturers’ own experience, backed by surveys, shows that many consumers turn to manufacturers’ web sites for product information before they even start thinking about where to buy something.

Manufacturers suddenly find themselves in a position to influence sales in a way they’ve never experienced before. “Manufacturers play a vital part in multi-channel retailing and they exert tremendous influence over the purchasing cycle,” says Ilana Richmond, senior consultant with Fry Inc., which collaborates with a number of consumer product manufacturers to identify and implement effective multi-channel strategies. “Manufacturers can help retailers support their various distribution channels. They can take the lead in areas such as multi-channel marketing and after-the-sale service where they have the opportunity to establish a direct customer relationship.”

Whether they serve as the ultimate source of online product information or use their web sites to create more Internet, catalog or store leads, manufacturers must develop a multi-channel strategy that optimizes how they help retailers.

“While retailers concentrate on merchandising, we work with manufacturers to achieve their goals in multi-channel brand awareness and customer service,” says Andrew Krasner, Fry director of consulting services. “We created a multi-channel lead effectiveness offering because our clients are looking for ways to generate more sales leads from their web sites and to integrate the management of those leads with other channels.”

For instance, manufacturers can use their own sites to provide extensive product information and then build in features that direct sales leads to merchants. Shoppers may begin their research on a retailer’s site, but often wind up on a manufacturer’s site for more extensive information. Manufacturers can support retailers with online multi-channel marketing applications such as a Store Locater button, and advanced search and navigation tools that help customers find a product and tell them which retailer carries it. They can even build Retailer Buy Now buttons that direct shoppers to retailers’ e-commerce sites or store locations.

By providing strategic consulting, information design and usability best practices and the managed services expertise to integrate diverse back-end systems, Fry works with both manufacturers and retailers to capture more of today’s new “multi-modal” shopper.

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