How Ecommerce Multi-Channel Selling Can Increase Your Profit Dramatically
Online entrepreneurs live in constant fear of the hammer falling.
Google updates wiping out all their search engine optimization (SEO)-based traffic.
New Facebook algorithms demolishing their social reach.
Laptops malfunctioning or breaking (with no backups to speak of).
Seeing “Your changes have not been saved,” after three hours of work and a spinning ball of death computer freeze.
Their site crashing.
Has your heart been pounding since you started reading this? Mine has.
Allow me to depart from the doomsday imagery for a second and let’s consider: what do all of these potentially catastrophic situations mean for the intrepid online businessperson?
Look no further than a familiar yet outdated axiom: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In other words — cover your ass, folks.
While the online world is replete with opportunities to Ctrl + z any mistakes you make, planning ahead strategically makes more sense, contributes to a sounder peace of mind, and perhaps most importantly, puts more money in your pocket.
How? Diversification. The buzzword of financial planners and now, online entrepreneurs.
By selling your products across multiple channels that don’t all rely on one site, platform, or system, you strengthen your business’ chances for success.
Expanding into different marketplaces not only increases the number of opportunities for new sales, but enhances brand recognition, which can also lead to higher conversion rates and increased profits. (Not to mention, it protects you from any technological Armageddons.)
It just takes some forethought, know-how, and maybe a little bit of fear (or initiative, depending on how you look at it) to make your ecommerce setup all the richer.
Enter, Multichannel Selling
If you’ve never heard of multichannel selling before, don’t worry. In fact, you might already be doing it without realizing it. (Lookitchu!)
In a nutshell, multichannel selling is “having your products for sale on multiple platforms, including ecommerce platforms, various marketplaces, and offline.”
When you sell your content through multiple channels (not just on your site or online store), you increase the reach and potential conversion rate for your products.
Customer Reach and Brand Recognition
This uptick happens for a couple of reasons: you’re reaching new customers (some might have Amazon accounts but not eBay accounts, for example), and your brand awareness goes up (people have more opportunities to stumble across what you’re selling, making them more likely to buy).
According to a 2015 Stitch Labs Report, retailers who sell on two marketplaces see 190 percent more in revenue than those who sell on only one.
That’s a lot of extra cheddar you could be making.
It makes sense, right?
When it comes to other aspects of your business, you diversify. You post content on multiple social media platforms, conduct A/B testing on opt-ins, toy with different sales funnels, and the like in the hopes of increasing your conversion rates.
Treating your selling strategy with the same mindset is a logical next step.
While you might still be in the traditional camp of single-channel selling, with fears of over-complication, extra fees, duplicate inventory, and so on, the current online business climate seems to be moving away from a singular sales location, with new systems emerging to make multichannel selling a more practical and painless option.
Before you dive in, take a look at your options, and proceed toward new channels with a plan.
Where Else Should I Sell?
This question might be the first that popped into your mind when you heard about multichannel selling. The answer is: it depends.
Online entrepreneurs come in many stripes. If you’re reading this, you might be a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) guru, a Shopify whiz, an eBay prodigy, a content marketing wizard, or someone working in another online business.
Your current sales strategy and marketplace may differ greatly from those of your fellow online entrepreneur compadres, which means you’ll probably end up in slightly different marketplaces.
No matter which specific market you’re in at the moment, there’s always opportunity to expand into another one.
But the good news is that, whatever background you’re coming from, you don’t have to give up the expertise you’ve already acquired — only add to your wheelhouse, one thing at a time, by considering other internet spots that might be a great fit for your products.
Finding Similar Online Marketplaces
If you’ve already created an online store somewhere, you might think that other marketplaces are your competitors, or you might feel a particular loyalty toward the one you work with.
However, your potential customers probably aren’t limiting themselves to one marketplace for shopping, so neither should you for selling.
Your goal should be to have a presence in the main places that your ideal customers will be shopping anyway.
For example, you may have created a technology store on eBay, but Rakuten or Magento might be just as fruitful. Etsy may have been your first love for selling your artisan wares, but aftcra or even Handmade at Amazon can bring you similar customers. Amazon may have the size you need for bookselling, but would niche markets like TextbookX.com or ComicConnect bring you closer to the perfect customers?
Or maybe you primarily sell from your own site, but other marketplaces simply offer more potential for conversions. They could be another spoke in the wheel of your business, so to speak.
How do you choose?
Follow the same line of logic that you used when you selected your first marketplace:
1) Consider your customers. Research which places they are most likely to be found perusing in “shop” mode. What do they read? Who do they trust? What do they click on? Maybe they tend toward massive online retailers, niche markets, socially conscious companies, apps, personality-branded web stores, or some mix of a few.
2) Identify how you are acquiring customers now, and locate other marketplaces with similar characteristics. Are you relying on the behemoth reach of a huge online retailer, or the targeted SEO of highly specific searches? You may want to hop onto other places that have those same characteristics.
3) See what competitors are up to. If it looks like similar companies in your industry are having success by expanding into other places, you probably will by following suit. See what your competitors are doing, and consider following some of their strategies.
4) Poke around the Interwebs. If you’re still not sure where to go, Google [your current marketplace/platform + alternative]. You’re likely to come up with other sites that also carry similar products to yours, and can at least be a good starting point for identifying your options.
5) Start with one. Don’t overwhelm yourself by signing up on all the marketplaces at once. Narrow yourself down to one to start, and run with it.
How Do I Keep All of This Straight?
So you’re convinced and ready to give multichannel selling a shot, and even have your next platform picked out. But then the next big concern hits: logistics.
Expanding your sales to multiple marketplaces or channels might seem overwhelming, especially when you consider everything that involves getting set up and running on an additional channel or platform, let alone multiple channels.
Creating the account, organizing inventory, tracking purchases, managing orders, dealing with customer service. It is, indeed, a lot to consider duplicating.
As more people opt for multichannel selling, technology has answered the call for more streamlined systems to assist online business owners in making the transition.
While the options for multichannel management systems might seem vast, they essentially boil down to two main options:
- Integrated systems (set up within a single platform, but manage data from other channels)
- Third-party management systems (outside systems that manage data from other channels)
Take a look at the features offered by both systems, and consider which one might be best for your business’ needs and goals.
Since you are already selling on one platform, you might start by checking to see if any integrations for multichannel selling already exist on that platform. These intraplatform systems can assist you in keeping everything straight without leaving an interface you are already familiar with.
Let’s look at two examples of marketplaces that have made this happen.
Shopify recognizes its users’ inclinations to spread their products far and wide, and has integrated multichannel selling into their own systems.
Shopify Home shows users an overview of their business with all sales channels combined, and offers suggestions based on tracking data to assist business owners with managing across online stores, points of sale, buy buttons, etc.
If you’re already using Shopify, you can more seamlessly enter the multichannel selling space using this function.
Amazon Multichannel Fulfillment
Amazon also supports multichannel fulfillment for Amazon FBA sellers, regardless of which sales channel the purchase came through.
This option can allow business owners to maintain similar delivery and tracking systems so they can scale more easily. Again, if learning entirely new systems seems daunting to you, managing everything through Amazon may be a logical first step into the space.
While integrated systems are convenient, you may end up requiring more than what a single platform can offer.
In that case, your best option may be …
Multichannel Management Systems
Generally, multichannel management tools fall into one of the following categories, although this is not an exhaustive list.
Channel/Inventory Management Systems
One-stop shop, all-in-one or standalone services. These generally track all the key data such as product information, inventory syncing, shipping information, orders, analytics, and marketing.
Depending on the needs of your business, you might choose a system that has one of these, or other drag-and-drop add-on features such as dropshipping automation or point-of-sale integration.
Website/Web Store Connectors
Think of these as a boost for your existing ecommerce platforms. These apps or plugins can supercharge the main functions of the platform. Opting for this system may mean you need to add multiple apps or add-ons to make sure you’re tracking all the functions and data you need.
Warehouse Management Systems
These tools focus primarily on the physical moving parts of your business so you know all your inventory’s current locations and where it’s headed next.
While the other tools listed above focus more on actual stuff, feed managers control information. These can help people wanting to make the marketing side of the business a bit more cohesive and streamlined.
Depending on the industry you’re working in, you may find it necessary to have a highly specific tool that can assist with the selling of your product. These solutions can help you more adequately address any highly specific concerns that relate to your type of products (e.g., food, tech).
Before you choose a service with which to manage your products, make sure to do your homework to find the system that offers the right services and integrations necessary for your business and the different platforms you’ll be selling on.
Make a list of the necessary elements you need from each platform, and check against it as you research different options.
The Way the World is Moving — And Why You Should Move that Way, Too
There’s no mistaking the fact that we’re at a tipping point in ecommerce, where one channel just isn’t cutting it anymore. Increasingly, both brick-and-mortar and online businesses are recognizing the necessity of diversifying.
Digital and physical continue to merge, and online reach is expanding outward rapidly.
On the other side of the process, consumers are getting savvier, more knowledgeable, and less likely to be tricked by salesy tactics of the past.
Take comparison shopping engines as one example of this trend. These sites allow shoppers to quickly and easily filter and compare products using different criteria, from price to reviews and specs.
Sites such as Google Shopping, Shopzilla, and PriceGrabber help consumers make better purchasing decisions by showing comparable data across different platforms.
Not to mention the fact that online sales funnels are much longer than those IRL. On average, customers need to have six to eight “touches” from a company before they will change from research mindset to buying mindset.
This shift means that companies need to be even more prepared than before.
Gone are the days of “you better shop around.” Your potential customers have already done that.
With the right amount of time and effort beforehand, they’ve hopefully already seen you around, and will be ready to buy from you once they have.
Moral of the Story: Put Your Eggs in a Few Baskets
In the world of online business, there is no such thing as totally circumventing disaster.
However, with enough research and proactive organization, you may at least be able to put yourself in a slightly more advantageous position all around.
By doing so, you may even see results beyond immediately seeing your sales go up. Consistently working on multichannel selling may ultimately assist you in increasing the worth of your business overall — a key element should you choose to sell your business in the future.
While multichannel selling might seem like an overwhelming endeavor at the outset, by understanding the key factors, main players, and benefits, you can start making moves toward a multichannel selling strategy that works for you.
As you make the change, remember these key aspects of multichannel selling:
- Multichannel selling is offering your products across several platforms, not just one. It usually involves selling products in other places, such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify.
- Done well, multichannel selling has the potential to increase revenues by nearly twofold.
- Multichannel selling can be done on traditional platforms such as those mentioned above.
- Managing inventory across multiple channels can be done through integrations on your existing channel/platform, or getting a third-party option to handle everything.
- Studies on ecommerce trends demonstrate that businesses of all stripes continue to diversify across multiple platforms, and shoppers are becoming savvier and more knowledgeable.
By making the move to multichannel selling, you can join the ranks of online entrepreneurs who see the value in diversifying, and aren’t scared, even if a hammer falls.
Photo credit: jamdesign
E-commerce multichannel retailing can definitely increase your profitability as it gives the customer to shop their hearts and the type and kind of services provided by the companies will monitor the number of profits produced.
Your write-up makes an interesting read, Gina. Absolutely, my heart was pounding as I read through the first few lines 🙂
I can see your remark coming from a place where businesses have invested heavily or interested to invest heavily to expand their reach, however, caution, strategy and understanding the pulse of the market is necessary before jumping off the cliff!!!
Diversification is something like reinventing.. Reinventing the business purpose, direction, monetary policies, potential, limitations, investment theories etc. Technology has always driven such decisions in an enterprise and opened doors to something more marvellous and extravagant. It’s like indulge in as many luxurious features as you may like!
Why am I saying this? Well, the multichannel management tools are exuberant with features that might throw a company (new to diversifying into multichannels) into a fix. Working the way around, reinventing the company need and reach may place them in a good position to pick integrated multichannel management solutions that automate and take away the fear out of the enterprise of handling ‘too many channels at a time’
Loved and enjoyed the post. A good good post 🙂
I would work smarter and not harder. Yes have multi channels that sell but also use some that money to work for you. You can use of that money and invest like the stock market. You can also use also money buy into a business and reap the profits. Of course its hard work but now you have your online stores plus another venue that brings you money. Of course your going to have to hire people to help you make those dreams a reality. Work smarter and not harder. My 5 cents! Thank you for the informative article!
Thanks for the great comment!
Yes, multichannel selling can be one of many streams of income. Creating new streams of income for your busines is a good idea, but diversifying even more into buying several different businesses, real estate, stocks etc. as you said also helps secure you in case of market fluctuations or changes (i.e owning only SEO traffic play websites and your income tanking due to a Google algorithm change as an example).
Every entrepreneur should plan for rainy days and really think best on how to diversify their income into solid profit producing assets.