Multichannel Ecommerce: Types, Tools and Best Practices
Multichannel ecommerce can help you boost sales, make your services more visible, and drive customer loyalty. And it’s essential for staying competitive in today’s marketplace.
In this post, we’ll tell you how to get started with a multichannel ecommerce strategy. You’ll learn what platforms to use, what software is available, and best practices for ensuring your strategy supports your long-term goals.
Whether you sell your products on an established marketplace like Amazon, choose to self-host on a platform like Magento, or use several ecommerce options, it’s important to revisit your strategy periodically and adjust it if you’re not getting the results you want. Multichannel selling is an investment, but when executed well, it can significantly improve profit margins.
eMarketer projects that worldwide retail ecommerce will surpass $6 trillion in 2024, accounting for 21.8% of all retail sales.
Multichannel ecommerce is the practice of selling products and services across multiple platforms. If a business sells its products in a brick-and-mortar location, as well as an online store, that’s multichannel selling. Big-name retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart sell their own products online. But they also invite third-party businesses to sell their services in their stores.
Perhaps you already sell on at least one online platform. That could be your website or an online store like one of the ones we’ve mentioned above. To be a multichannel seller, all you have to do is sell in more than one place. If you sell products directly through your website, you could also be selling products on Amazon.
Multichannel selling has many benefits. It can increase the visibility of your products and services, raise awareness of your brand, and reduce risk by diversifying your selling channels.
Expanding your ecommerce efforts to additional channels means more potential customers will see your brand and products. If the thought of selling your products on another platform seems intimidating, consider this: Businesses that sell products on Amazon or another online marketplace earn 38% more revenue than businesses that sell products only on their own website.
Here are some more reasons to develop a multichannel strategy:
Marketplace fees may vary, but as of September 2020, businesses could sell products on Amazon for a monthly fee of $39.99, plus a small commission on each item sold. If you don’t have the staff to manage shipping and fulfillment, Amazon can do all of that for you — for a fee, of course. But with no large up-front cost, many businesses find the fees are reasonable, especially with Amazon’s massive customer base.
Customers are more likely to trust you if they see your brand on an established marketplace. In fact, Digital Commerce 360 found that 65% of prospective customers felt comfortable buying from a brand they’d never heard of, if they encountered it on a marketplace. And in 2020, Amazon had 150 million Prime customers — this segment is highly engaged with the platform, making purchases often (sometimes daily).
In a collaborative study with a major retailer, Harvard Business Review found that of 46,000 customers surveyed, 73% shopped both online and in-store. The study also found that these omnichannel shoppers outspent single-channel shoppers.
An August 2020 survey of U.S. adults by ChannelAdvisor and Dynata found that 53% of respondents conducted their initial product searches on Amazon. In 2017, more than half of Amazon’s products sold were from third-party sellers. With Amazon’s daily traffic and the success third-party vendors have had in moving products, it makes sense for businesses to at least consider expanding their product offerings to the Amazon platform.
There are many ways you can sell your products and services online. We’re going to cover four of them here. They are: hosted ecommerce platforms, self-hosted ecommerce platforms, ecommerce marketplaces, and comparison search engines.
While using multiple ecommerce platforms is a good practice, it’s worth noting that not every platform will be relevant to your business. So consider all the options here, and choose the ones you know will be right for you and your customers.
These are software subscription services where you pay the company to host your store. They also manage the technical side of it, using cloud-based solutions. They manage your server, coding, and security. You then access your store using a web browser, where you can design, launch, and run it.
Examples of hosted ecommerce platforms include Shopify and BigCommerce. Shopify is a platform that allows you to manage every aspect of your online ecommerce business. You can choose from a number of free or paid templates, and change their design to align with your branding. BigCommerce works similarly to Shopify for launching an online store. It also comes with ecommerce SEO support; however, its ‘‘expert base’’ is smaller than Shopify’s.
On a self-hosted platform, you’ll need to manage your server, code, and security yourself. This means you're able to make more custom choices than you would on a hosted platform. But you’ll also need more knowledge and ability to do this, or you’ll need to hire someone who can confidently do this for you.
Examples of self-hosted ecommerce platforms included Magento and WooCommerce. Magento’s open-source product lets you download a code for you to host on your own server, allowing for maximum customization of your site. Magento themes are user-friendly, so modifying storefronts doesn’t require expertise in coding. WooCommerce is a plug-in for WordPress, so if you know how to use WordPress, you may find WooCommerce easier to navigate.
Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace, and many businesses use its Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) service. FBA allows you to send your products in bulk to one of the company’s fulfillment centers, and Amazon will manage distribution and respond to customer service inquiries.
Other marketplaces include eBay, Etsy, Rakuten, Wayfair — and even large retailers, such as Target and Home Depot, are selling third-party products on their websites.
These are a special kind of search engine that offers product and service information across multiple retailers. Examples include Google Shopping and Nextag, and there are numerous others. These may not be ideal for when you’re just starting out, but as your business grows, they'll each be worth considering. Then you can make a decision about which of these is right for you.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the main types of multichannel ecommerce platforms, we can look at the different types of software that support them. This software helps your ecommerce business manage its core components of your multichannel performance and optimize for each of your platforms.
Customer engagement software ensures you can respond to customer inquiries quickly across all your platforms from one place, and product listing software streamlines the process of keeping product information up-to-date.
Inventory management software conveniently automates your stock listings across all of your platforms, and marketing software helps your products be seen. Customer feedback software, when used correctly, can encourage customers who’ve had positive interactions with your business to share their experiences.
This a central hub where you can store all of your data related to customer inquiries. And it allows you and your teams to manage customer interactions across all of your platforms and offer support. It’s estimated that one query is made for every eight sales, so this type of software can help you keep up with that traffic.
JivoChat enables communications across many different platforms from a single dashboard, and lets you sync platform data with your CRM. It integrates with many ecommerce platforms, including Shopify.
Product listing software allows you to list all of your products and services across multiple channels. That means you can make as many updates to your listing as you need to, and the updates will automatically push to all platforms — no need to upload a new description on each platform individually. All of your information will be up-to-date, no matter where it is. You can also have integrated product listings across channels and run A/B testing for your service descriptions.
Inventory management software gives you convenient oversight and automated management of all your stock and orders across your platforms. Listings will update automatically when you run out of a product or are at capacity with a service. So you’ll never have to cancel an order, and you can fulfill orders quickly and accurately.
To be most effective at online sales, you need to have some type of marketing plan and the software to execute it. Multichannel ecommerce marketing software makes it easy for your ecommerce business to promote its products across multiple channels such as Google, social media, and email, all from one platform. Marketing on several platforms is more effective than marketing on just one, as it expands the total number of potential customers you can reach. And Invespcro reports that multichannel shoppers spend three times more than single-channel shoppers.
Positive customer experiences are vital for your ecommerce business’s success. This couldn’t be more true if you’re working on platforms such as Amazon or eBay, where negative reviews have the potential to derail your visibility and order numbers for your products. Customer feedback software empowers your business to have specific targeting options. For example, you can choose to send reviews only to customers who’ve expressed satisfaction with your products and services.
You know why you should sell on multiple ecommerce platforms, and we’ve explained the types of software and platforms that support ecommerce efforts. Now it’s time to get familiar with some best practices:
- By choosing channels based on profitability, you’ll avoid spending money where there’s little opportunity to achieve a good ROI
- When you use software that complements your platform, you can adapt your strategy to your customer’s needs
- With an inventory management process, you’ll save time and prevent errors
- Retargeting ads can help remind would-be customers about your products and services and increase the likelihood of a sale
- Engaging with customers across all your channels can encourage them to become loyal to your brand
- Centralizing your analytics data will save you time and help you make smarter business decisions
Before you choose a channel, ask yourself if it makes fiscal sense for your company to be a part of it. Is it a good fit for your products, services, teams, and customers? And for your business strategy? Then consider whether the costs associated with the platform are acceptable. It’s more than likely you’ll have multiple channels that are right for you. But focus on mastering one at a time. Start with what will be the most profitable and explore others later.
Choose a channel that allows you to adapt to your customers’ needs. If something about them changes, would the platform allow you to change how you do business? On Etsy, you may want to highlight the craft that goes into your product. While on eBay, you may want to highlight its value for the cost. On Amazon, you might want to point out how well- or low-stocked you are, or participate in a limited-time sale.
The more channels you run, the more logistical challenges you’ll face, and the more processes you’ll need when stocks become low or demand is high. This is where you’ll need good inventory management. It’s good practice to sync your inventory management across all of your platforms from one place. You’ll save time and reduce the likelihood of errors that alienate customers and detract from your revenue.
Roughly 97% of online shoppers leave an ecommerce store without making a purchase. That’s when retargeting comes in handy. It shows people online ads for the products they’ve previously expressed an interest in, whether that’s through Google Ads or Facebook retargeting. This helps to build trust in your brand and to increase visibility of your products. So it’s worth keeping an eye on the analytics data you build across all of your channels.
Use social media networks to engage with customers and communicate your offers to them. This will help you to enhance customer loyalty. Keep an eye on their behavior and learn what their habits are. With JivoChat’s omnichannel business messenger, you can engage with prospective and current customers across many different channels.
Coordinate your inventory and logistics from a central data management system. This will prevent you from running from channel to channel to get all of your information, which is a waste of time and will make errors more likely along the way. With centralized data, you can make better decisions based on accurate and up-to-date information. For this to work, ensure your CMS can easily integrate across your multiple platforms.
Multichannel ecommerce is growing and shows no signs of slowing down. That’s why it’s more important than ever to join more than one platform. Whether you join an established marketplace, a hosted or self-hosted store, or use a custom search channel, when you find the right platforms for your business, more potential customers will see your products and services. It’s time to make multichannel ecommerce part of your strategy.
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