Selling products or services through multiple channels – whether it includes web, in-store, phone, affiliate, or catalog – can be highly lucrative for merchants. It can also cause a lot of headaches, and if not managed properly, can lead to inefficiencies, angry customers, and even lost revenue.
Here are four tips for effective multichannel selling.
Take it one step (or channel) at a time
Every channel is different, whether it’s the different types of buyers you encounter, the expenses that are involved, or the different policies and procedures you have to abide by.
As merchants look to expand their presence, it makes sense to think about the channels they already have experience with, and the ones that have been successful for their business. For example, let’s say your business started with your own ecommerce site. After a year, you started selling on Amazon, which has been great for business. Because you’ve been successful listing products alongside your competitors, and since you’re already set up for online sales, the next logical step may be to look at other online marketplaces, such as eBay.
It’s also important to keep in mind your products, and your audience. For instance, if you sell hand-made goods, Etsy may be a good option. If you have a younger demographic, as opposed to considering catalog as a new channel, you may consider social commerce as a more fitting channel with greater future potential.
Have a channel-specific plan
As with most things relative to business, it’s a good idea to do your homework when considering new sales channels, and to have a plan. For instance, you may find that, due to the user base, there’s little to no demand for your products or services with certain channels.
You may also find that you need a tailored strategy. Let’s say, for example, that when it comes to Amazon, you see far greater opportunity to generate sales with certain products over others, whether due to the audience, level of competition, or pricing. In this case, rather than listing your entire inventory, it may be a good idea to get selective, allowing you to more easily manage and become acquainted with that particular channel.
One of the biggest challenges associated with multichannel selling is to maintain consistency relative to pricing, messaging, and overall customer experience. For some merchants, the importance of maintaining this consistency is significant enough that certain channels are ruled out. As an example, when you sell in certain online marketplaces, you lose some of the control over messaging and/or customer service.
As you do your homework, make sure you understand the level of control you have when it comes to all types of customer interactions within each channel, from service to messaging to pricing. Develop a plan that will allow you to maintain as much consistency as possible, so as customers encounter your brand within other channels, their experience is seamless.
Make sure you can scale
Let’s face it, you get into new sales channels to make more money. There’s also, however, the potential to lose money, if not managed properly. Before you enter a new channel, part of your plan should include the ability to scale operations as demand grows. This is applicable to your facilities, technology, and service providers.
For instance, perhaps right now you handle your own order fulfillment, which is consuming a good chunk of your time. As you enter new channels and sales increase, the amount of time and resources required for in-house fulfillment will increase, and may no longer be viable. As such, you may choose to outsource order fulfillment to allow you to more easily scale, and to give yourself more time to focus on other things.
Relative to scalability, another crucial element is technology. As your business expands into new channels, you’ll need multichannel IT architecture capable of integrating with various front- and back-end systems to effectively manage inventory, process orders and payments, and communicate with customers and employees across multiple departments.