Never in history have selling practices changed so rapidly. Retailers, especially small businesses, can feel like they’re playing whack-a-mole with ecommerce trends. So why should anyone invest time and money into multi-channel selling when they already have so much on their plate?
What Is Multi-channel Selling?
"Why should I care when I have to deal with all of THIS?"
“Multi-channel selling” refers to selling through multiple platforms and/or media. Although it can apply to selling both offline and online, we’re going to focus on how it applies specifically to ecommerce.
An ecommerce “channel” can be any website you sell through. It could be your own site, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Craigslist, Facebook, etc. So the most direct definition is, “Selling on more than one website.”
What Makes It So Great?
“Is it better than this donut?”
Selling on multiple channels is the fastest way to grow your ecommerce business. The biggest reasons for it are:
- Reach: If you only sell on one website, you can only sell to the people who buy there. Each new channel you add has the potential to expose your products to new customers—sometimes millions of them.
- Competitive edge: If you sell through channels your competitors don’t use, you’ll have first-mover advantage.
- Sales: A study of Amazon sellers showed that higher-earning businesses were more likely to be selling on almost any given channel in addition to Amazon. To oversimplify, the more channels a business sells on, the higher the revenues. ROI is practically a given.
Each channel also has its own unique advantages. For example, Amazon has the largest audience of any Western ecommerce site, and selling on your own website means you don’t have to pay any marketplace fees. Learning these advantages will help you maximize your profits.
What Difficulties Should I Expect?
Coffee spills are absolutely inevitable.
Multi-channel selling isn’t all champagne and caviar. Here are the most common bumps in the road:
Divided Customer Service
Marketplaces like eBay generally have their own customer service systems. When selling multi-channel, you have to log in to each of these and manage them separately. This becomes a big problem as your customer base grows. You have to:
- Switch between windows frequently.
- Deal with subpar support tools.
- Face frustrating problems like eBay’s limitation of one user login per account—a major issue when you need to field a whole customer service team.
Luckily, multi-channel customer service integration is possible for eBay and Amazon sellers, and it’s also easy to connect your own online store to the same platform. This massive workload reduction makes multi-channel selling far more profitable.
Each channel you use will have its own binding terms and conditions. This goes even if you build your own website, as you at least have to deal with a webhost—though their conditions are rarely any stricter than “Don’t break the law.”
However, some terms can get pretty serious. For example, you might be tempted to promote your website to your Amazon buyers, but that’s a major no-no. You’ll have to pay close attention to a wide variety of rules that will grow with each new channel you add.
Inventory management, shipping, and all the other details of running an ecommerce operation become much more complex when you’re dealing with several channels rather than one. These issues can easily cause dreaded problems like out-of-stock cancellations.
A variety of multi-channel software solutions can resolve these problems by letting you control crucial functions like inventory management for all of your channels from a single interface. Just about every facet of eBay and Amazon can be integrated, and there are plenty of solutions for other channels like Etsy, Rakuten, Walmart and Jet as well.
Which Channels Should I Sell On?
See our article on the best places to sell online for our top recommended channels (based on which are the most profitable for sellers) and what you need to know about selling on each one.
Multi-channel selling is challenging, but ecommerce businesses can’t ignore it. The sooner you take advantage of it, the sooner you’ll start making more money—so what are you waiting for?