You want to be where the customers are. And while in an ideal world, every potential customer would dutifully flock to your eCommerce site, that’s simply not realistic. That’s where multichannel selling comes in.
Multichannel selling is, simply enough, the process of selling your products through multiple sales channels. That can include your own eCommerce store, online retailers, major and niche marketplaces, auction sites, and more.
There are a number of clear benefits to multichannel selling:
- Sell where your customers already shop.
- Reach new markets without much of an upfront investment.
- Build brand awareness and expand product visibility.
- And, of course, sell more products to bring in more revenue.
But not every sales channel is right for every product—and each sales channel comes with its own set of rules and challenges. That means you have to do some research and legwork before you dive in.
In this article, we dive into some of the challenges you’ll face when you jump into multichannel selling, and the solutions to those issues. We also look at the questions you need to ask yourself when you’re choosing the right marketplaces for your business, and take a quick look at some of the major marketplaces you’ll definitely want to consider.
There are undeniably some big challenges you’ll face as you venture into other marketplaces. Here are some of the big ones you should be aware of.
When you’re selling on someone else’s platform, you can’t tailor the entire sales experience like you can on your own eCommerce site. That’s why it’s vital to stay consistent with the elements you can control. Use your logo, colors, and other branding elements when and where you can. Write copy that’s consistent with your brand’s voice and image.
You can’t control the entire customer experience on an external marketplace. So control what you can, and offer to help out with the rest—even if it means walking someone through, say, adding an item to their cart at Walmart or making a return through Amazon.
Overall, make sure you’re providing the same high quality customer service for sales that come in via marketplace sites that you do for sales on your own site.
Analytics and data
It’s hard to make data-driven decisions when you don’t have access to all of the data. Each platform will give you different numbers, but some things are consistent across all of them—including, obviously, sales. Use the data you can access in order to make decisions and run tests on how and what to sell on those channels.
Inventory management is crucial in cases where another platform is doing fulfillment for you, like Fulfillment by Amazon—but it’s also important when you’re doing the fulfillment yourself. After all, you don’t want people to buy your product on a third-party site, only to get a message from you that it’s actually out of stock. That’s a lost sale, a lost customer, and a ding to your reputation on that marketplace. Keep a careful, vigilant eye on your inventory to avoid that scenario.
Juggling multiple sales channels
Managing a number of sales channels requires juggling a lot of different things. You’ll feel like you’re constantly creating and updating listings, managing orders, handling customer service issues, tracking inventory, and processing returns. Good organization and planning is a must.
Using a third-party listing tool like Sellbery can mitigate many of the big challenges for multichannel sales by incorporating things like automatically synchronized product listings, and unified order and inventory data between a wide array of marketplaces (like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, and Walmart) and your online store.
There are a number of factors you’ll need to weigh as you’re deciding where to list your products for sell. Here are five of the most important ones for you to research:
1. Where do your products fit?
Not every marketplace is right for every seller. For instance, if you’re selling electronics, you probably aren’t a great fit on Etsy. If you’re selling info products and coaching services, that’s not a natural fit for eBay.
2. Can you stand out from the competition?
The major marketplaces are rife with competition. Will you be able to hold your own and stand out? There are a number of ways to do so: Unique products, niche products, better prices, and more. If you can’t figure out any real way to stand out in a marketplace, it may not be right for you.
3. Are your direct competitors selling there?
While it’s crucial to figure out how you can stand out in a marketplace, sometimes you need to be in a marketplace simply to reaffirm your position as a player in a specific market. If you sell organic clothing and your key competitors are all on eBay, you should be on eBay too—that way, your customers and potential customers know you’re serious about the market. And, in addition, you don’t want your competitors to have a leg up on you by having free run of a marketplace.
4. Where do your customers shop?
Since the goal with eCommerce is connect with your ideal customers, where do they shop? You can use your buyer personas to find the marketplace that suits them the best, and set up there first.
5. What are the fees?
When you sell on other channels, there are going to be fees. Each marketplace has its own fee structure which you need to be aware of before you dive in; you need to make sure your margins are good enough to sell on those platforms without just breaking even, or possibly taking a loss.
There are lots of marketplaces online (at least 150 by one count) but most people will initially gravitate toward the giants of the industry. Here’s a quick look at four of those, and a little preview of what to expect when you begin selling with them.
Amazon is as synonymous with online sales as any company and, at some point, virtually every business debates whether or not to sell with them. There are definitely strong pros and cons; Amazon has the biggest eCommerce market share by far and it’s definitely where the customers are, but the competition drives prices way down and the fees can really pile up.
While eBay’s roots are in auctions, it has since become a viable sales hub for businesses selling products at fixed prices as well. There are a lot of little fees with eBay though, ones that add up considerably, as well as a lot of pressure to offer significantly discounted prices.
Walmart is a bit different than Amazon and eBay in that they don’t just let anyone sell in their marketplace. Walmart is looking for a track record of online sales that demonstrates good customer service, fast fulfillment, and unique products. On the bright side, if you do get in, there’s no monthly subscription fee; Walmart only charges referral fees on your sales.
Etsy is extremely popular but isn’t for all products—it’s mainly for homemade, unique, and sometimes bespoke products. Selling on Etsy also comes with a number of fees similar to those you’d encounter on eBay, including listing fees, a commission on sales, and PayPal credit card processing.
Multichannel selling is the process of selling your products in multiple places online, including your own eCommerce store, online retailers, major and niche marketplaces, auction sites, and more.
There are some key benefits to doing so. You’ll be where your customers shop, expand your brand’s footprint without much of an upfront investment, and bring in more revenue. But there are also some challenges that come with selling on someone else’s platform, including keeping your brand consistent, providing a strong customer experience, dealing with limited data, inventory management, and organizing all of your efforts across multiple sites.
That’s why it’s important to pick the right online marketplaces for your business. The five big things to consider as you’re picking marketplaces are:
- Where do your products fit? Some products that make sense on Etsy, for example, wouldn’t make sense on Rakuten, and vice versa.
- Can you stand out from the competition? Is there something you can do to differentiate your products in a marketplace where people seem to already be selling everything?
- Are your direct competitors selling there? That might initially scare you off, but ultimately, it should make you want to be in that marketplace. After all, if you’re a real player in your space, your customers need to see you alongside your key competitors.
- Where do your customers shop? The best marketplaces for you are the ones where your target customers already spend their time and money.
- What are the fees? Each marketplace has its own fee structure. Make sure you know the ins and outs in advance so you don’t wind up losing money on your multichannel ventures.