In the past, discussions about distribution strategy always focused on channel. That is, how to get the product from the factory through the channel to the customer. But nowadays distribution means that we need to explore also the best way to deliver, maintain, and use the product.
Should we sell direct, through multi-tier, via the web, over the phone? And how should we deliver? Hosted, SaaS, on-premise? How will we deliver patches and upgrades? Nowadays the choices seem limitless.
Virginia recently passed a law forbidding use of handheld devices while driving. (That's called an Opportunity in SWOT analysis) I do have a bluetooth capability in my Toyota but the hands-free lacks noise canceling and it just doesn't satisfy. I find myself shouting into the phone and am exhausted after a short phone call. So, as a result, I was in the market for a new bluetooth headset.
What next? I could go to Amazon and do some comparisons. I could also go to the vendors' web sites and see what they have to say. I could go to the phone store and see what they have. Three different ways to buy. After looking at a few different sites and blogs, I decided on the Jawbone ICON from Aliph.
Now I have to think about delivery. If I buy from the phone store, I can see the product and take it home immediately--but alas, my store only carries The Thinker (black on black, a safe choice) With Amazon, I can choose from two different models but I'll have to wait a couple of days. With the vendor site, I can choose from all six models but have to wait a week or more. In my case (and maybe yours), I'll do anything to stay away from a retail store and Amazon didn't have the model I wanted so I was stuck with the vendor site. Sigh, hard to wait a week (a week!) when you're used to next-day service from Amazon.
Here's where it gets really interesting. You can change the usage over the web. Plug the headset into a USB port, go to the web site, and the website shows you how you can configure the headset. You can choose among six voices ("You have two hours of talk time remaining") and three or four applications including voice dial and memo capabilities. Logically, they could someday download a firmware update, add A2DP capability (please!) or offer other features.
So the distribution questions you ask yourself on a new product introduction is not just what channel any more but what is the best way to deliver, maintain, and use the product. I find it annoying lately when products don't automatically update themselves with bug fixes and new features. Operating systems have done it for years; virus programs do it too.
The more you understand your buyer and user personas, the more you'll know how to answer distribution questions.
Have you thought about distribution in these terms?