Channel Conflict: How to Protect Your Brand

Kevin Lamb

April 15, 2021

Expanding your product distribution beyond the brick and mortar and into the omnichannel is an exciting next step for your business with a myriad opportunities for growth. But growing a business does not come without growing pains, and one of the peskiest pains is channel conflict.

What is channel conflict?

According to the Investors Book, channel conflict is “any dispute, difference, or discord arising between two or more channel partners, where one partner’s activities or operations affect the business, sales, profitability, market share, or similar goal accomplishment of the other channel partner.”

Essentially, once a manufacturer has moved their products beyond one channel, like their brick and mortar channel, to a more competitive arena like Amazon, it can create friction and issues that negatively impact their relationship with their channel partners and can evolve to hurt their long-term growth.

What causes channel conflict?

Channel conflict can happen for a variety of reasons, but there are three main areas of conflict you should know about.

The three types of channel conflict are:

Vertical Conflict: when two parties at different levels of the distribution chain have a dispute. An example of a vertical conflict is when a manufacturer sidesteps retailers to sell direct-to-consumer, making themselves competition for the wholesalers, sales reps, and retail partners who sell their product. Vertical conflict also happens when a manufacturer allows too many retailers to distribute their product, creating fierce competition and ultimately hurting sales.

Horizontal Conflict: when retailers at the same level compete amongst each other. Horizontal conflict happens when a retailer drops their pricing to drive more traffic to their store and then upsells more expensive product to make up the difference on margins, forcing other retailers to drop their own prices to compete. Horizontal conflict also happens when multiple wholesalers or retailers are operating in the same area, creating turf wars.

Multi-channel Conflict: when two or more of a manufacturer’s channels compete against each other to sell in the same market at different prices.

What are the effects of channel conflict?

Ecommerce is expected to reach 12.4% of total retail sales in the U.S. That doesn’t make ecommerce insignificant—many brands are making hundreds of millions of dollars selling their products online. But what happens when your 12.4% of ecommerce sales begin to destroy your other 87.6% of sales?

Let’s say customers start using your brick and mortar retailers as showrooms for your product, ~~most often ~~because the price of that product is cheaper online. You may very quickly find your relationship with those brick and mortar retailers ending as your ecommerce sales reduce sales volume at their store.

channel conflict solutions for ecommerce

Channel conflict also creates confusion among consumers. Tools like PriceBlink allow consumers to easily compare prices across marketplaces. If they see different pricing on different channels, consumers may wonder if they’re being overcharged when prices are high, and whether they’re receiving authentic products when prices are low. This causes both your brand and your product to lose its value.

When pricing is different across channels, consumers may delay making a purchase to ensure they get the best deal, or if they do make a purchase, they may regret it after seeing a better price online, and your return rates will go up as a result. Thus, the buying experience is also negatively impacted due to channel conflict.

How do you resolve channel conflict?

Omnichannel selling doesn’t have to be synonymous with channel conflict. There are a number of ways to ensure your channels live in harmony with each other:

1. Establish MAP pricing

Creating a MAP policy tells your distributors the price they should be selling at. It also assures them that you won’t undercut their prices online. Your brand can enforce your MAP policy across marketplaces with the help of a legal partner. By doing so, it ensures your other channel partners that you’ll play fair.

2. Clean up your supply chain and limit your distribution

Many brands scale their distribution in attempt to grow revenue quickly, but when too many distributors have their hands in the pie, they’re harder to control, and this can destabilize your supply chain.

Leaky supply chains often result in unauthorized distributors selling your product, and unauthorized sellers don’t share the same incentives you do. Their primary goal is to sell their stock, and because they’re likely unaware of or don’t care about your MAP policy, pricing will be all over the place, exacerbating your channel conflict. The more limited your distribution, the more control you have and the less likely leaks and multi-channel conflict is to happen.

3. Establish your brand across marketplaces

If your brand is widely distributed, odds are someone is selling it on Amazon, eBay, Walmart.com, or any number of specialized ecommerce sites, such as Houzz or Newegg. While managing multiple ecommerce channels can be difficult, by selling products yourself on these marketplaces—where people are already searching for your products—you can play defense for your brand and homogenize the customer experience across all of your channels so it’s consistent, high quality, and in your control.

These are just some of the ways that Pattern brand partners have found success in eliminating channel conflict. It requires continuous effort, but the reward is happy retail partners and a seamless customer experience wherever customers want to find your product.

Product Case Study - Thorne Research Vitamin D-5000

Consistent product experience across the top two U.S. ecommerce marketplaces have lead to price parity with Thorne’s own DTC Site:

Amazon

Walmart.com

Thorne.com

PriceBlink results showing price parity across retailers:

price parity across channels, solutions to channel conflict

Want to know how you can grow your brand online while maintaining strong relationships across your distribution network? Reach out to Pattern and find out about our Amazon multi-channel fulfillment capabilities by requesting your demo today.

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Sept 27, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon drives renewable energy push with 71 new projects Amazon is planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity through a couple of new projects as the company attempts to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. The ecommerce business will soon have a total of 329 renewable energy projects, generating 50,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to powering 4.6 million US homes every year. [Read more on Reuters](https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/amazon-drives-renewable-energy-push-with-71-new-projects-2022-09-21/) Amazon launches Prime Early Access Sale Amazon is launching a new 2-day shopping event for its Prime members only, beginning on the 11th of October. Across 15 countries, Prime customers will have access to the shopping event, with thousands of deals on offer globall, ranging from fashion to electronics to essentials. The event has the purpose of giving Prime users the chance to spread the cost of items over the winter months, 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/26/prime-early-access-sale/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopify unveils new localisation tool Shopify is launching a new localisation tool, called Translate & Adapt, which works with Shopify Markets to offer localisation for sellers who are looking to expand into new markets. The tool translates a user’s online store into different languages, including product pages and information pages. Merchants are also able to create different shipping terms for each market using the new tool, which allows international expansion and offers a more localised consumer experience, unveiling new potential. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/shopify-launches-new-localisation-tool/) Etsy is set to invest hundreds of millions into its marketing platform Etsy CEO claims that the company is on route to spend more than $570 million USD on marketing this year. Even during a time of macroeconomic pressure, inflation and rising interest rates, the company is preparing itself and its sellers for the upcoming holiday season and is focused on retaining interest from buyers. [Read more on Yahoo News](https://uk.news.yahoo.com/etsy-600-million-on-marketing-ceo-154054219.html) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Meta looks to cut costs by 10% in the coming months Meta employees are facing job redundancies as the company plans to cut its costs by 10% over the next few months. Meta reported a 22% YoY increase in costs and expenses, totalling over $20 billion USD. The cuts are expected to come in the form of job redundancies as a result of department reorganisations rather than formal layoffs. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/22/meta-to-slash-costs-by-10-over-coming-months/) DHL teams up with Quadient to offer smart locker deliveries in the UK DHL and tech company, Quadient, have partnered to offer smart lockers parcel pick-up throughout the UK. The new contactless, secure locker stations will give recipients more choice and flexibility to receive their parcels at a time and location best suited to them. The partnership plans to install 500 locker stations across the country by the end of 2022. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/21/dhl-partners-with-quadient-to-offer-smart-locker-delivery/) The online fashion market is set to be worth nearly $170 billion USD in 2025 The European online fashion retail market is set to grow 50% by 2025, with an online turnover of $170 billion USD, which is 33% of the retail branch’s total. Cross-border marketplaces prove to be the largest drivers of this growth, with online websites and apps like Vinted largely pushing the market’s online growth. Zalando recently became the largest cross-border fashion retailer/marketplace, responsible for 11.7% of the online market’s share. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/online-fashion-market-worth-e175-billion-in-2025/)
Sept 26, 2022

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Peak with Google Ads

Peak season is almost upon us and with all signs pointing to it starting earlier than ever, with Christmas gifting searches now ramping up in August and September, it’s time to start preparing for peak. In this article, we’re sharing our top five tips for planning and preparing for peak season with Google Ads and the strategies required to get your Paid Search ready so you can drive success over this crucial period.

1. Go Early

In 2021, gifting search terms started increasing in popularity in August. The general trend is that people are looking, researching and weighing their options early, so it’s best to start your Paid activity early to ensure that you’re capturing that early research traffic. This will help drive revenue alongside aiding those consumers who are in their research phase.

From 2020 to 2021, spend during Cyber Week actually only rose 2% but in the weeks leading up to it, it increased by 16%. However, Cyber Week is still the biggest period during the latter half of the year, accounting for 23% of all online spend by consumers over peak. Being prepared and starting early will help you to maximise your time during this period.

2. Get Ready for Privacy Changes

 According to Google, 48% of global consumers have stopped buying or using a service due to privacy concerns. Privacy is front of mind when consumers are shopping online and we know that Google is phasing out 3rd party cookies in 2023. This is going to make it much harder to track users online and it’s something that brands need to think about this now – waiting isn’t an option.

From a Google Ads point of view, you want to ensure you have set up the Google Ads tag across your site and have enabled ‘Enhanced Conversions’, which ensures all conversions are tracked and allows you to monitor other actions such as ‘Add to Cart.’ This is relatively easy to set up, especially if you use ‘Google Tag Manager’.

It’s also vitally important that you build up your first-party data during this time as this is data you own and it can be used when targeting consumers that have provided your brand with their email address. Pattern’s own experience shows that by segmenting and using first-party data, you can see a 10% improvement in revenue and ROI.

3. Ensure Consumers Can Discover your Brand

A full-funnel approach is now more important than ever as consumers become more discerning and have more choices than ever of where to shop.

Pattern has seen success with Google Ads’ ‘Discovery Campaigns’ (image-based ads that appear on Google platforms such as Gmail and the Google app), which have driven success both from a traffic and revenue perspective.

The performance of these campaigns is significantly enhanced by adopting a segmented and nuanced approach to first-party data and incorporating these into your campaigns. Other options for a full-funnel approach include YouTube and testing bidding on keywords that are more representative of the research phase. (e.g. ‘best baby clothes’ for a baby clothes brand)

4. Get Moving with Performance Max

Earlier this year, Google announced that they were moving away from Smart Shopping and launched Performance Max. This is a new campaign type that incorporates features and placements from Smart Shopping but expands them onto other platforms such as Gmail but also alternative creative options, such as images and videos.

Since Google has already started automatically upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max, expect to see some fluctuations in the first 2 weeks following the switch over but results generally seem positive. We recommend upgrading sooner rather than later to limit any potential impact to peak period.

5. Flight Budgets Accordingly

Peak period will be even more competitive than in 2021 and you’ll need your budgets to support this period, we recommend boosting budgets in October to start capturing that early peak traffic. As we enter November and the Cyber Period, start early and make sure you are capturing those consumers looking for early bargains, ensuring you are being nimble in your optimisations and reacting to the data that you are seeing.

Overall, peak period is vital to help drive your sales and by preparing early, you will see strong results and drive success for your brand. If you want to discuss how your brand can navigate this next peak period, contact us to discuss your options with our performance team now.

Sept 20, 2022

4 Ecommerce Marketplace Consultant Must-Haves

Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces. 

Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.

So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.

Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products. 

What is an Ecommerce Consultant?

An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.

An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.

Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.

1. Brand Obsession/Specialization/Passion

At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services. 

2. Proven Results

It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.

3. Wide Range of Marketplace Expertise

It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.

4. Network of Resources

The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.

Achieve Your Ecommerce Goals With Pattern

Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces. 

With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.

Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.