Publisher’s Note: We asked one of our partners, Ecomdash, to share their thoughts on the importance of multichannel retail. They graciously obliged and we’re happy to share that with you here.
Every place you sell online is a sales channel: your website, Amazon, Instagram Checkout, and more.
If you only sell on a single channel, you’re missing out on potential customers no matter how successful that one channel is. Most online shoppers, including those in your target audience, have a few favorite platforms where they spend the majority of their time (and money). If you’re not there, they’ll never see you.
How do you make sure they see you? Be in more than one place at once — in other words, multichannel selling. In this guide, we break down what you need to consider and how to maximize your time.
Five benefits of multichannel selling
Overseeing one sales channel is hard enough, so why bother putting in extra effort? There are a number of reasons it’s worthwhile:
1. Reach new people
Some people never leave their favorite online marketplaces to discover new ones. They won’t come to you — you need to go to them.
Rather than convincing customers to change their shopping habits, meet them where they are. With each new channel you open, you tap into a new, built-in audience.
2. Diversify income sources
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If you drop that basket and the eggs break, you’re left with nothing. But if you spread your eggs across multiple baskets, you have some protection should anything happen to one.
Running a business is no different. You may generate revenue through a single channel, but if something happened to it, you’d have to start over again with nothing. Even minor inconveniences, like a site going down, could have substantial effects on your bottom line.
Diversification — multiple streams of income — is the best defense.
3. Test new products and strategies
Have a new idea, but don’t want to risk putting it on your main sales channel? With multichannel selling, you can test new products, pricing strategies, or promotional campaigns on secondary channels to see how they perform before bringing them to your largest audience.
Use your secondary channels to gain extra insight into what works (and what doesn’t), and benefit from a wider pool of customer types and site designs to experiment with. This comes in particularly handy when you’re redesigning your website or optimizing your checkout for more conversions.
4. Improve brand awareness
The more people see your brand, the more likely they are to remember it. Many shoppers use multiple platforms, and every time one of them sees your name or logo, it reinforces your brand and helps them remember you in the future. And an appearance on multiple channels can make your brand look successful — people assume you’re doing a lot of business if they see you frequently.
5. Excellent return on investment
Many online channels take a hefty fee from each sale. But despite narrower margins than your WooCommerce store, startup fees are usually minimal and the increase in revenue can be well worth it.
Your multi-channel checklist
Ready to start selling on multiple channels? Answering these questions will get you off to a solid start.
Do you know where your target customers shop?
Multichannel selling benefits from focus and precision — it’s not about joining as many channels as you can, it’s about joining the right channels for your business. Research which platforms your target shoppers prefer and join those first. Likewise, look into which ones are best for your niche. Homemade crafts are a perfect fit for Etsy, but might not see high demand on Amazon.
If you’re not sure about your target customers’ preferences, we recommend creating a buyer persona to help fill in the gaps.
Have you reviewed the rules and seller policies for your new channel?
Each channel has its own guidelines. Some are minor, like specific formatting for product pictures, but others, like return policies, may have a substantial impact on your procedures (and income). Review these in advance to avoid any surprises.
Have you adopted standardized product identifiers?
It’s best to use one standard method. Otherwise you’ll end up with logistical headaches trying to remember which systems you use for which channels.
Your safest choice is Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN), regulated by GS1. GTINs include both the Universal Product Code (UPC), popular in North American, and the European Article Number (EAN). Some channels have their own identifiers (Amazon has its ASIN), but for most, a GTIN will suffice.
Are you using inventory management software?
The most daunting part of a multichannel selling strategy is managing all of your outlets at once. Luckily, inventory management software automates a lot of these tasks for you.
Inventory software updates stock levels on all your channels every time you make a sale. Without this, you’d have to go through each individual channel and change the stock levels yourself, or risk overselling.
Do you have an adequate announcement strategy?
If you’re branching out into other channels, you want your loyal customers to know. They may prefer one of your new channels to the old one, making them happier customers. And, a public announcement on social media is easy to share and spreads the word to new people.
As with brick-and-mortar stores, it also helps to have a “grand opening sale” to attract new business at the start, when you need it most. If you follow the best practices of email marketing, you can even reward subscribers with exclusive coupon codes for your new channel.
The more the merrier!
Adding multiple sales channels can increase your reach and help you service customers better. Be sure to use inventory management software to minimize the work required and you’ll enjoy a more diversified, broad-reaching revenue stream.