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The adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” carries a lot of weight in eCommerce. Online retail sales and competition continue to grow amid consumer demand, new technologies, and ever-expanding online marketplaces. With more marketplaces cropping up, the need to be competitive has become more critical.
Savvy merchants are making the most of the seemingly limitless options for selling online, gaining market share across multiple marketplaces to increase their chances of success. In this post, we’ll dig into the benefits of multi-channel selling and help you understand the pillars for success so that you, too, can see positive returns from your online sales strategies.
What is multi-channel selling?
Multi-channel selling is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the practice of selling goods or services on more than one platform. This can include your own stand-alone eCommerce page or selling on large marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay.
If you also have a brick-and-mortar location, or if your social media platforms allow purchase integrations, congrats! You’ve added two more channels to your sales strategy. Essentially, every place your business sells products is a channel.
Multi-channel selling might seem daunting if you’re just starting out, but the key to growing your business is to sell in more places to attract new customers and widen your reach.
Benefits of multi-channel selling
Multi-channel selling allows you to engage with audiences across several channels simultaneously. In fact, merchants who previously operated solely in brick-and-mortar stores immediately realize this major perk. The internet makes it easier and more cost-effective to grow your business without the restrictions of geography, parking challenges, or relying on foot traffic.
Increase your customer base
Increasing the number of potential customers who see your products is an excellent way to boost revenue. As you acquire a larger audience, you fill the top of your funnel to generate more revenue. Don’t limit yourself — or your income streams — to a single channel.
Expanding to a high-traffic platform like Amazon or Walmart Marketplace immediately gains you access to hundreds, if not thousands of new potential buyers who can search for or otherwise discover your products while they browse.
With your product pages on multiple platforms, your reach instantly broadens, allowing you to grow your audience faster. Through multi-channel selling, you may even discover audience types you hadn’t previously targeted that are interested in your product. This allows you to better manage your marketing campaigns along with attracting new prospects.
Diversify your income
Diversifying your income protects your overall business while helping you improve your sales strategy. It involves finding new ways to bring money into your business and leverage those opportunities.
Multi-channel selling allows you to implement a custom marketing strategy for each of your channels to better meet customer preferences and needs.
When you sell to a new group of customers, you no longer rely on a single stream of income or the repeat business of only a few customers.
A diversified income stream also protects your business in case one of your sales channels hits a snag, as it helps to ensure a steady stream of income from multiple places.
Boost brand recognition and trust
By appearing everywhere your target audience shops, your brand will begin to feel more familiar, and trustworthy. In psychology, this is known as the mere exposure effect. The more a consumer sees your brand, the more comfortable they feel with it, and as they begin recognizing and recalling your brand, it generates more trust.
Keys to multi-channel success
Taking a multi-channel approach doesn’t mean you’ll immediately see results. As with every element of your business, multi-channel selling must be carefully considered and managed. To give yourself the best odds, it’s important to understand the key pillars that drive multi-channel success.
It might be tempting to hop on the biggest sales channels right away, but you need to consider every element of your business first. You don’t want to grow faster than your infrastructure can handle, or waste effort moving into a marketplace that doesn’t compliment your products.
Read on to learn how to set yourself up for multi-channel success.
Select the right channels
Deciding it’s time to expand your business to multiple sales channels is the easy part. Now, you have to determine which platforms or marketplaces to sell on. Consider your brand, your business model, your current payment processing capabilities, the products you sell, and your goals.
A few questions to ask yourself are:
- What category/industry do you sell in?
- Are you price competitive?
- Do you sell commodities or luxury goods?
- Do you manufacture your own products?
- Do you wholesale or sell direct-to-consumer (DTC)?
- Do you drop ship?
- Do you fulfill in-house or outsource?
- Can your fulfillment partner(s) handle spikes in sales?
- How much storage space do you have access to?
- Do you have retail stores for pick-up options?
- What payment methods do you offer?
- What selling methods are most profitable (for example, subscriptions)?
- What are your margins?
- Are your products niche or widely appealing?
- Do your products require any special handling or restrictions?
- Are your items personalized or handmade?
- How quickly do you plan to scale?
Answering these questions will help you select the best channel(s) for your business. Depending on where your business currently stands in terms of maturity, capacity for fulfillment, and sales volume, some platforms will be a better fit than others.
For example, Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) makes it easy for sellers to outsource their fulfillment and streamline sales via Amazon’s in-house fulfillment network. The company also offers Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) so you can leverage the FBA network even when selling on other channels, such as your own website via Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce.
Starting with a single, large platform like Amazon before moving on to others such as Walmart Marketplace, Wish, Rakuten, Etsy (for handmade or vintage items), or eBay will allow you to test the waters and optimize that channel before expanding into others.
You can also consider social selling through your social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Find the right fulfillment partner(s)
Once you’ve selected the channels where you intend to sell, it’s imperative to have a fulfillment partner who can meet your business needs and help you scale.
To start, make sure you’ve thoroughly considered your business requirements, then look for partners who are equipped to work with the type of products you sell. You might want to talk about integrations early on as well to streamline your fulfillment with technology-powered solutions and help you keep tabs on your processes.
When choosing a fulfillment partner, make sure they can provide an end-to-end solution tailored to your needs. This includes:
- Geography: Do they have warehouses and infrastructure in the areas where you do business?
- Inventory management: Can they handle inventory management on your behalf and alert you to overstock or low-stock levels?
- Reliability: Does the potential partner have the resources and knowledge to fulfill your business’s specific product requirements? Do they have a proven track record, complete with references from current or past customers?
- Technology: Can your potential fulfillment partner integrate with your existing tech stack, or do they use another application or software that you’ll have to learn?
- Pricing: Does the pricing align with what your business can sustainably afford to invest? What’s included in the costs?
- Continuity & order management: Does this partner provide a continuity management system that can accept changes requested by a customer? Does their order management system prevent errors to streamline processes and maintain open communication with customers?
- Customer service: Does this partner provide customer service or customer support solutions?
Structure your logistics strategy carefully
When it comes to creating your logistics strategy, a holistic approach that embraces inventory from all channels will help you stay agile and run an efficient program.
Depending on where you sell, you’ll have access to additional fulfillment and logistics support (at a fee) that will enable you to earn back time and energy to focus on other aspects of your business.
For example, if you choose to sell on Amazon, you can use Amazon FBA or MCF in addition to handling some of your fulfillment in-house and outsourcing other elements to a third-party logistics provider (3PL). This employs a multi-pronged fulfillment approach that matches your multi-channel sales activities.
Leveraging multiple fulfillment solutions and structuring your logistics strategy so no order is missed will protect your reputation by giving every customer the best possible experience. Carefully consider which products you fulfill through each of your fulfillment solutions (3PL, FBA, Walmart Fulfillment, in-house, etc.) and ensure you have a full view of your inventory across all sales and fulfillment channels at all times (your partners should be able to help you with this).
Don’t forget about traditional retail
It might seem an unlikely tale given the state of our world these past two years, but retail is making a comeback as stores reopen and digital-first brands are opening brick-and-mortar locations. If you have a physical retail location, promoting your in-person shopping experience across your digital channels is a great way to differentiate your brand from your online competition.
But, if you don’t have a physical location, don’t panic! You can still benefit from in-person retail experiences without investing in a permanent storefront.
Consider your brand + pop-up shops
Pop-up shops can be a great way to marry your brand and products with other vendors or locations to create a unique in-person shopping experience for your customers.
For example, if you sell fitness equipment and/or apparel, you could consider partnering with local fitness studios for pop-up shopping events in your target market areas. Promote these events on your digital channels, livestream them, and sell on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok to let out-of-area shoppers take advantage of these events and get an “in-person” experience from afar.
You might also consider holding a “pop-up” style event during a regularly held market, especially if you sell handmade or custom products. Weekly, monthly, or seasonal markets create a retail experience without having to maintain a regular storefront.
If you do have a regular brick-and-mortar store, remember that it, too, is a part of your multi-channel sales strategy. Find ways to cross-promote and showcase your in-store experience on your digital channels as much as you can. Want to drive your online traffic to your store? Consider special discounts for online customers to redeem in-store only, or promote in-store sales and special events on your digital platforms.
Optimize your listings per platform
It might be tempting to duplicate your own listings as you add your products to more marketplaces, but simply copying and pasting content has no business in your multi-channel sales strategy.
Why not? Well, there are a few reasons:
- Every marketplace has a slightly different search engine. This means you must optimize your listings to meet the unique needs of each platform to increase your chances of ranking high in search results
- Different marketplaces use different tags, so you have to review and fill these out carefully to create your best listings
- Audiences can vary from marketplace to marketplace, and your content should speak directly to them rather than follow the same formula
Focus on optimizing your product listings on each platform. While some elements can be repurposed, it’s important you take the time to craft your product listings methodically on every marketplace to create unique content. Doing so builds valuable search engine optimized (SEO) juice that helps your product pages rank higher and capture audiences organically.
Supercharge your marketing efforts
Once you’ve set up your multi-channel sales strategy, it’s time to drive traffic to your product listings and optimize your marketing efforts for each channel.
Make sure your targeting is spot-on to create a smooth and seamless experience for your customers that’s tailored to the platform they’re shopping on. For example, if your customer bought from Amazon and had Prime delivery, be sure to showcase other Prime-eligible items relevant to their shopping habits in your marketing and keep them informed of Amazon-specific deals you’re running.
Regardless of the platform where your customers shopped, they should all see a uniform and cohesive brand representation in all marketing collateral.
And speaking of marketing — don’t be afraid to cross-promote in your marketing efforts! Include links to all of your sales channels in your newsletter, promote each on your social media platforms, and ensure all the places people can shop your products are visible on your own website to attract and convert customers across the board.
Wrapping up — Sell multi-channel to build a more resilient and successful brand
Multi-channel selling allows you to reach customers on multiple platforms, meaning you go to where your customers are, not the other way around. To stay competitive and grow your sales, you need to expand into additional eCommerce sales channels based on the specific needs of your business and your long-term strategy.
Whatever sales channel(s) you choose, the determining factors that are key to making a solid choice will be the same: your business model, your brand, your business goals, and your products. When you take those points into consideration, finding the right sales channel(s) for your needs can be much easier and has the potential to take your business to the next level and beyond.
About the Author
Rachel Go is the marketing director of MyFBAPrep, a nationwide and international network of 3PLs and prep centers, with 50+ warehouses, 5 million+ square feet of operating space, and the ability to reach any US customer (or FBA center) in 1 – 2 days. MyFBAPrep provides access to strategic warehouse locations and a wide variety of eCommerce services with a single partnership, along with white glove customer service and best-in-class technology. Sellers can send items into a single MyFBAPrep location and let us handle shipment splitting, prepping, packaging, and shipping across their sales channels.