Regardless of what online marketplace your e-commerce business starts on, there will likely come a time when you start to consider the possibility of expanding your online presence into new storefronts. Multi-channel e-commerce has emerged as a powerful strategy, offering entrepreneurs and established companies alike the opportunity to reach new heights.
It's a sales strategy that transcends the boundaries of single platforms, enabling businesses to diversify, expand, and connect with a broader audience. In this post on multi-channel e-commerce, we'll delve into the strategies, benefits, challenges, and insights that can help you take your business to the next level.
E-commerce, short for electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services online. A channel in online sales is the route in which an ecommerce business sells or promotes its goods or services. Popular channels include personal websites and social media platforms as well as established online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Walmart.
Multi-channel e-commerce is the practice of conducting your online business across multiple channels. If you are having success selling your goods or services on one platform, there’s a good chance that expanding your reach to more customers with new channels will lead to even more revenue and success.
Prior to starting their online business, many sellers research whether it’s better to sell on Amazon, eBay or Etsy or other sites in their specific niche. If things go well on the platform they choose, it’s only natural to wonder if expanding into new channels is a worthwhile venture.
If you are considering expanding into multi-channel e-commerce, that’s a good sign that it’s probably a good idea. After all, most online businesses don’t attempt to take on additional sales channels before they have already had success on one. Before diving into this venture, however, it is important to understand some of the key benefits and challenges of a multi-channel strategy.
The most obvious benefit to expanding your sales efforts across multiple channels is the increase in sales. By reaching different customer bases on different online marketplaces, you will gain access to sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to earn. As shown in this post on mastering multi-channel selling, retailers that sell on three or more platforms generate over double the revenue that single-platform sellers do.
In exchange for access to Amazon’s massive customer base, sellers must agree to play by all of Amazon’s rules. This means that if fees increase or policies change that make your Amazon business far less profitable, there isn’t much you can do about it. Selling your products across multiple channels mitigates your risks, as policy changes or restrictions on one platform won’t affect your performance on others.
If you sell your own private label products or simply want to build up a reputation as a reliable online reseller, your brand will carry a lot of value. When customers search for your brand or product line and see it showing up across multiple online marketplaces, this will give your brand more credibility and exposure. It also increases the overall chances of your products showing up in search results around the web.
The popularity of Amazon has made competition fierce across all Amazon niches. Sellers will have to deal with competition no matter where they sell their products, but those selling across many different channels will have a clear competitive edge over their single-platform competition when it comes to reaching customers.
Engaging in multi-channel e-commerce will give you brand-new insight into what works and what doesn’t across multiple online storefronts. You will have the chance to collect sales data and feedback on your products that you would have never had access to remaining on just one site. This data can be used to optimize your product line and advertising campaigns across all your e-commerce outlets.
Stocking more online stores means keeping track of your inventory across more online stores. Overstocking can lead to additional fees or storage costs, and understocking can cause you to miss out on potential sales—or worse, selling items that are already sold out. You will need to have a system in place to keep up with your inventory needs.
Each platform that is a part of your multi-channel e-commerce strategy will have a different backend and interface. Sellers that are used to operating on one online storefront may be intimidated by the idea of needing to learn many more.
A larger customer base will lead to more sales, but it will also lead to more customer support requirements. Whether your customers have questions about your products or would like to make a return, you will be responsible for handling these issues in a timely manner. Depending on the size of your business, this could be an extremely time-consuming process, especially as requests get scattered over different messaging platforms.
Sellers on all platforms are responsible for adhering to the Terms of Service (ToS) laid out by each individual online marketplace. Learning the rules for each channel that you sell on and keeping up with any ToS updates that may come about will be key to your long-term success and the good standing of your various accounts.
While the list of challenges multi-channel sellers face may look daunting at first glance, they can be overcome with planning and the use of some highly recommended resources. Here is our advice for taking on the challenges of multi-channel e-commerce head-on.
ExportYourStore (EYS) is a multi-channel selling tool that gives you the power to export and sync products across eight different online marketplaces:
It also allows you to seamlessly integrate your online marketplaces with shopping carts like Shopify and WooCommerce and social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram. ExportYourStore can help your multi-channel sales efforts in many different ways.
While ExportYourStore will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to integrating your various sales channels, you may still want some additional help with customer support.
After dealing with the frustrations of trying to optimize customer service himself as a multi-channel seller, Michael Dash eventually went on to hire a team of developers and build an app to address the issue. That app was ChannelReply.
You can now use ChannelReply to help you to integrate multiple accounts so that you get your Etsy, Walmart, Shopify, Amazon and eBay emails forwarded to customer service software like Zendesk or Onsite Support. Having all your messages conveniently located in one place severely cuts down on the time and hassle of digging through multiple platforms to find and respond to them.
Even with the assistance of tools like ExportYourStore and ChannelReply, expanding into new marketplaces is still hard work and will come with a learning curve. This is why we recommend just adding one new online storefront at a time.
Give yourself some time to get acclimated to the workflow and logistics on your end and the rules and performance of your new platform on their end. Instead of getting bombarded with a whole bunch of new channels at once, taking them on one at a time will ensure that you know you are ready and comfortable before expanding further.
If you are just getting started in the world of e-commerce, we would recommend sticking to one platform at the beginning. This will give you the opportunity to test the market’s interest in your product line and to gain valuable experience in online sales.
But if you already have a successful online store on Amazon, eBay or anywhere else and are on the fence about whether to give multi-channel e-commerce a try, go for it. The rewards outweigh the risks.
Without the help of tools like ExportYourStore or ChannelReply, expanding your online presence into new channels might be an overwhelming process. Fortunately, resources like these have made multi-channel sales more accessible than ever to online businesses of all sizes. If you are willing to put in the necessary time and effort, you can multiply your sales without adding a single new item to your inventory.