When I look back through the canon of my blogs, there are over twelve hundred of them, a regular topic is channel management. It is something I keep coming back to. Well, you don’t expect me to write on a completely different topic every time do you?
The reason I write about it regularly is because it keeps coming up in conversations time and time again. It is a topic on the lips of anyone who manages customer relations and is under financial pressure. That will be everyone then. It came up again in conversation yesterday.
My fear is that we get it wrong. We think of channel shift as something that we do to our customers. We think of them like the flow of a river and all we have to do is dam their path or cut a new groove and they will flow in a different direction. But it is not like that.
Channel shift is something that our customers do to us. Indeed customers are like water in that they find the easiest route. Water flows from high ground to low. Customers flow from the awkward to the convenient. Convenience is the gravity that makes customers flow from one channel to another.
Look at the rise of Uber, or cashless payments, or streaming music, or Netflix, or taking pictures on your phone. All of these things have happened because they have been more convenient than the previous alternative. No one has had to force customers down these routes, they have found them and made use of the services because they are easier.
Ordering a taxi, carrying money, going down to the shops for some tunes or carrying multiple devices is a faff and anything that is inconvenient for the customer is ripe to replaced by an alternative channel.
The key then to channel shift is not through coercion or even persuasion but rather through convenience. Make your replacement services more convenient for the customer and easier to use and they will do the rest.
Customers will flow down the easiest channel.