M & A Trends: Ignoring Web Sales Channels Can Limit Growth, Empower Competitors


Liberty Advisor Group

Ignoring Web Sales Channels Can Limit Growth, Empower Competitors

Operators tend to focus on what’s working and double the efforts around successful channels. This strategy of overweighting what already works has proven itself time and again and has become standard fodder among business school case studies.

While we do see some companies ignore this lesson to their detriment, we also see companies who dig in so hard on it that they fail to see the potential in auxiliary sales channels. As more of the economy shifts to electronic conduits of sale, companies who ignore this will go flat or shrink, and those who embrace it, see Domino’s Pizza, can ride the wave borne of convenience and cheaply-acquired new customers for years.

Half of the most successful startups during the last decade are simply companies that took complex offline sales processes and moved them online. The collateral damage of these companies’ success is the incumbent firms in their spaces, which were left tethered to shrinking sales channels and no major beachheads on the web.

Businesses that have missed out on growing sales via the web exist all over. We see many of them in our private equity clients’ portfolios. Plenty of these operations have legitimate reasons for ignoring web and mobile potentials. Among them:

  • The company believes its product to be too unique and nuanced to be sold directly via the web. While this is an understandable position, it’s one that is becoming less tenable in most industries. Companies who don’t crack the web sales riddle will lose customers to those who do.
  • The company has no inside knowledge of how to set up and run a web-based store for its product. As mentioned above, this may require a bespoke process, one that’s not easily solved by out-of-the-box solutions. But it is solvable.
  • There is a lack of traffic, and therefore sales, to the company’s website and its web channels. Fixing this takes specific knowledge of web marketing, the activities of competitors, and a lot of hard work to build up a web marketing foundation. But, as with everything else, it’s eminently addressable and can be a major asset to a company once in place.
  • Growth via direct sales, dealers and other channels is spectacular, and the company simply hasn’t moved its focus yet to the web.

It’s a rare case when a company owner will exclaim, “This is too much growth,” yet that’s what she is saying implicitly by ignoring the potential of web sales. The sophistication of web-based points of sale and the depth of data and engagement that consumers are willing to go to on the web are often underestimated by those who aren’t spending their day-to-day in eCommerce.

Nearly every sales process at this point begins with a web search. Giving these potential customers/searchers more information, more outlets through which to explore a product or service, and, ultimately, more seamless methods through which to begin a purchase or sale will lubricate the sales pipeline of any company. This goes for startups, a growing mid-market firm, or a large cap.

Solving this kind of problem isn’t simple, but it can be broken into three steps:

  1. Analyze a company’s web footprint and sales channels, compared with competitors and what is possible. This goes from the company’s website itself to the volume and types of traffic it’s attracting to the SEO profile of the company and its space. Assess potential and what can be improved, the latter often being a long list.
  2. Hire the right person/people, preferably internally, to take on and tackle the problem. This process can start with consultants, but it should end with hiring people with the right experience.
  3. Execution. Ramping up web sales can take months or years, but the payoffs can be extraordinary. Ensuring that there is a sufficient budget to execute is imperative.

Just as any decision process can be boiled down into a series of binary choices, just about any sales process can be moved into an electronic format. At the very least, key information can be gathered from potential customers that kick off a number of other marketing processes.

Companies who incessantly push potential customers toward human interactions starting at the top of the funnel can lose leads to competitors who have found better ways to nurture leads electronically. Most potential buyers try to exhaust data inputs online before they’re willing to pick up the phone, and they’re more likely to call companies who gave them the best experience during the first part of their buying engagement.


Liberty Advisor Group is a goal-oriented, client-focused, and results-driven consulting firm. We are a lean, handpicked team of strategists, technologists, and entrepreneurs – battle-tested experts with a steadfast, start-up attitude. Our team, with an average of 20+ years of experience, has delivered over $1 billion in operating income improvement and over 300 M&A deals for our clients. We collaborate, integrate, and ideate in real-time with our clients to deliver situation-specific solutions that work. Liberty Advisor Group has the experience to realize our clients’ highest ambitions. This year, Liberty has been named to the 2019 Best Places to Work in Chicago and to FORTUNE’s list of Best Workplaces in Consulting and Professional Services.


Liberty Advisor Group

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