Selling across multiple marketplaces and channels used to be an exercise in Excel hell.
Each channel added more complexity when tracking inventory, managing shipping and processing returns. The amount of back office administration work required was equivalent to running multiple businesses at the same time.
Depending on the size and experience of your team, average order value and your unit economics, the hassle of omni-channel wasn’t always worth it.
That meant business growth suffered.
Yet, in today’s environment, relying on growth from a single channel is unsustainable. Successful business owners understand the value that comes from sales in multiple places and technology has finally caught up, now able to address the demands of both buyers and sellers in an omnichannel world.
As we approach 2017, it’s clear two things will drive omnichannel retail: consumers’ increasing desire to shop how they want, where they want and when they want technology that allows ecommerce businesses to deliver on that experience
Your customers are eager to connect with your brand on a personal level. Increasingly, they are spending time interacting with brands on community platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. At the same time, consumers recognize the advantages of marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to buy exactly what they are looking for quickly, reliably and with perks like fast processing and free shipping.
The reality is your customers aren’t sticking to just one channel anymore. They want the freedom to shop everywhere.
For businesses, the future of omnichannel retail will be driven from SaaS ecommerce solutions that make it possible to sell everywhere without introducing added cost or complexity. Instead of seemingly running several different businesses, merchants can use a single commerce platform to have a holistic view of sales, manage inventory, fulfill orders and optimize pricing and listings across channels — all in one place.
This means omnichannel merchants that sell products from a branded website can easily integrate other channels — like Amazon, Facebook and Google Shopping — to attract new customers or quickly move inventory. For those selling physical goods, they can even pull in sales from a point of sale service like Square while keeping all product information and inventory data constantly updated.
With this, merchants can eliminate unnecessary back office inefficiencies and focus on what they do best: selling their products and services to their customers.
I’ve seen first hand how important an omni-channel strategy is and how complex it can be to manage sales cross-channel. An ecommerce platform should make it easy to roll out a new channel through built-in functionality or integrations so merchants have the opportunity to test which channels work best for them, and then double down on optimizing those that show value.
Technology has opened the omnichannel door for even the most hesitant store owners.
The largest channels are investing in helping merchants as well — marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google Shopping are working overtime to attract and keep merchants selling with them.
These marketplaces compete with each other for the attention of merchants and understand that helping merchants sell more effectively on their platform ultimately wins them more business. It’s become a race between the top marketplaces to gain the biggest market-share — a race that’s led to huge advances in targeting capabilities that sellers absolutely need to take advantage of. The ability to target your customer more precisely means that every marketing message hits closer to home, and an increase in your conversion rates should naturally follow.
Nowhere is this more apparent that on Facebook, where the acceleration of improvements on its advertising platform serve as a microcosm of the advances in selling online and the competition between channels.
Taking advantage of these increased abilities requires a deep understanding of who your customers are and how they shop. Each channel offers a different way to connect with the buyer, and knowing the “why” of your customer’s purchasing decision will help maximize your efforts across marketplaces because buyers gravitate towards different marketplaces depending on their needs.
Sell a commodity or highly searched item? Amazon and Google Shopping might be best for you out of the gates.
Sell something unique or visually interesting? Try Facebook or Pinterest instead.
In 2017, there isn’t one channel that’s necessarily better to sell on than others; it’s about being in the right marketplaces with the right strategies for your target customers.
Technological advances mean that any ecommerce company has the ability to pursue an omnichannel strategy and see what works for them. Competition is increasing everywhere and marketers are getting better at selling to the right crowd, so there is no better time to start than now.
The companies that win will be the ones that know who their customers are and those that are willing to experiment across channels, then double down on the tactics that work best.
Casey Armstrong is Director of Marketing for BigCommerce