Forrester: Manufacturer Direct E-Commerce Efforts Good For Research, But Little Else

When working on its annual study of manufacturer Web sites that try selling directly to consumers, Forrester Research pretty much found what it expected to find: that manufacturer sites are great for research with brand-loyal consumers, but the purchases are invariably made elsewhere. Forrester's Sucharita Mulpuru, the principal analyst for Retail eBusiness and arguably the sharpest E-Commerce analyst working HTMLs today, said that, sometimes, the market works just as it's supposed to. Many manufacturers were originally scared about offering direct-to-consumer deals, fearing that they'd undermine their channel and cannibalize sales. Turns out that consumers are smarter than they look and the product-maker sites haven't hurt retail partners one little bit.

As Hershey's concluded this month, the E-Commerce community trusts manufacturers to make stuff, not to sell it. It's the exceptions that make the rule, Mulpuru said, pointing to two rare manufacturers that actually do make some direct to consumer sales: Apple and Dell. Apple does it by an almost biblically strict adherence to price, making the prices same regardless of whether the product is purchased directly, while Dell has a lengthy history of only selling directly (although it now sells through the channel). Still, Mulpuru argues that manufacturers should still offer E-Commerce for the CRM data collection and customer feedback info it provides.