Consumer shopping patterns continue to change. Today’s buyers no longer head to a single place to look for products. Instead, they use multiple channels to find the items they want. Some customers will head to a physical store to preview a product before buying it online.
Others will start their research on one online channel and finish their purchase on another.
As more customers search for and purchase products through a variety of channels, it is increasingly important for ecommerce businesses to embrace a multichannel selling strategy. In this post, we’ll look at the important sales channels for today’s businesses and how you can manage these channels efficiently.
What is multichannel selling?
Multichannel selling is the process of selling your products across multiple sales channels. The goal is to make products available through every medium where a customer would want to buy them. This gives consumers the choice to complete their purchase through their preferred channel.
Let’s take a look at the different sales channels that typically go into a multichannel strategy.
D2C ecommerce sites
Direct-to-consumer ecommerce websites are the foundation of a brand’s online presence. Built on top of shopping cart platforms like WooCommerce, these sites allow companies to list their products which customers can then purchase.
D2C sites offer unique benefits when compared to other digital channels. This is because having your own site gives you complete control over the customer experience. You can add whatever features you want and can apply the designs that match your branding.
Ecommerce sites also have the advantage of data collection. When you sell through your own site, you can track every action that users take on your site. You can use these insights to create a highly personalized experience and promotional offers for each visitor.
Plus, you get customer information with each order.
You can use this to remarket to customers through email campaigns and other methods.
Compare this to online marketplaces. With these, you don’t get access to any customer data. You can’t see shopper browsing behavior and you don’t get customer contact information after a sale.
After your own ecommerce site, online marketplaces are the most common way to branch to other sales channels. These marketplaces offer shoppers a simple buying experience and a centralized platform to buy items from multiple sellers and in multiple categories.
Online marketplaces can be a good way to tap into a ready-made audience of people searching for your products. It is possible to get traffic and purchases on online markets without having to invest heavily in marketing costs.
Marketplaces are also great for getting in front of people early in their buyer’s journey.
Research from eMarketer, shows that almost half of consumers start their product search on a marketplace like Amazon or eBay.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon is head and shoulders above other marketplaces when it comes to popularity. It is a good place to sell items in pretty much every category. Plus, there are numerous resources to help sellers manage their business. The best example is the Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) logistics service that third-party sellers can use for storing and shipping their products.
There are several other quality marketplaces for ecommerce sellers. Whether they are worth adding to your channel mix will depend on your target audience. Some examples are Walmart, eBay, Etsy, and Wayfair.
Comparison shopping engines
Comparison shopping engines are websites that compile products from multiple ecommerce sites. They allow customers to shop and look at items side-by-side to find the products that meet their needs. Because price and convenience are some of the biggest factors impacting buying decisions, these platforms are becoming more popular for consumers to discover products.
The most popular comparison shopping engine is Google Shopping.
The search function works like the normal Google, only the results feature a grid of individual products, similar to a collection page layout on an ecommerce site. With each product, shoppers can see its images, price, variants, and descriptions.
Comparison shopping engines work by uploading a data feed with your product details. Your items then appear alongside products from other sellers for customers to browse.
Social media channels
Since their inception, social media platforms have been one of the most effective ways for ecommerce companies to market their business and drive visitors to their websites. Now, many of these platforms have added commerce functionality.
This allows users to discover, browse, and buy products without having to leave the social media site.
For example, with a Facebook Shop you can essentially create a storefront on your business page. Listing products through these channels also help to streamline your advertising as you can automatically add your items to Dynamic Product Ads and other campaigns.
While in-person shopping is not as popular as it used to be, nearly half of all consumers still prefer traditional shopping over buying online. Because of this, selling through a physical store can still prove a valuable way to reach your target customers.
Now it goes without saying that standing up a physical shop will take considerably more effort than adding your product to an online marketplace or social media channel. However, you don’t necessarily need to operate your own brick-and-mortar store to reach in-person shoppers.
Instead, you can partner with big-box retailers like Target, Walmart, or Home Depot to get your products stocked on their shelves.
If you do have your own brick-and-mortar store, you can blend your offline and online channels to provide an even better customer experience. For example, you can offer buy online pick up in store for your ecommerce shoppers or you can send customers a digital discount code that can be redeemed in-store.
Benefits of multichannel selling
Extending your business to multiple channels may sound like a burdensome effort but there are many reasons to adopt the strategy. Here are some of the biggest benefits to selling multichannel:
Reach a larger audience
When you sell strictly through your own site, the only people who you’ll attract to your store are those that already know about your business. You can attempt to drive new visitors to the site through marketing and advertising.
But this will take time (and money) as people will need multiple interactions with your business before ultimately becoming a customer.
On the other hand, when you sell through multiple channels — particularly online marketplaces — you have the ability to tap into already established audiences. By making your products available through these customers' preferred channels, you will quickly build trust and loyalty that can lead to them eventually going directly to your site for future orders.
Sell to high paying customers
Multichannel customers put more consideration into their purchases but they also often turn out to be more valuable customers. Research has shown that multichannel consumers spend anywhere from 15% to 35% more per transaction.
They also have a 30% higher lifetime value than one-channel buyers.
By making selling across channels, you can reach these high-paying buyers to increase both your sales and your average order value.
Reach customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey
In most cases, shoppers won’t buy your products the first time they see them. The typical buying journey has several steps as consumers browse potential options, compare prices, read reviews, and take other steps to evaluate their purchase decision.
When you sell multichannel, you can reach customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Consumers early in the process could discover your products through social media or a comparison shopping engine. When they are ready to buy, they can then head to your site or to their preferred online marketplace to complete their order.
Multichannel selling has many advantages but it doesn’t come without its challenges. Below are some of the biggest hurdles you’ll need to overcome to achieve multichannel success.
More complex operations
Naturally, adding new sales channels can increase the complexity of your ecommerce operations. Listing products, managing inventory, fulfilling orders, and answering customer questions across channels can quickly become problematic if you do not have the right systems and processes.
To address the added complexity, you want to invest in the right tools to help streamline your operations. This will allows you to sync and automate data and processes across platforms to reduce manual input and the overall effort needed to manage multiple channels.
When you only sell through one channel, it’s easy to determine what is driving results. Sales attribution is simple, as you know that your only channel is responsible for reaching the customers and convincing them to place an order.
With multichannel selling, sales attribution is more tricky.
If someone first discovers your product on an online marketplace but then buys it from your site, how do you credit the sale? It obviously occurred on your ecommerce site, but it was your marketplace listing that led to product discovery. In this case, you don’t which touchpoint it was that convinced the person to buy
Finding a way to track and accurately attribute sales is important as it ensures that you invest your efforts into the channels and marketing tactics that are most effective.
Going multichannel with WooCommerce
The key to success with multichannel selling is unification between sales channels. This is important from both your and the customer’s perspectives.
According to BRP Consulting’s Real-time Retail, 87% of customers expect a consistent experience across all your sales channels. This means congruent product offerings, product information, pricing, and branding.
For you as a merchant, you need a centralized hub to manage your multichannel business or you’ll quickly drown in the operational complexity as we touched on earlier.
When you use WooCommerce as your ecommerce platform, There are several ways you can set this up.
Plugins let you connect your WooCommerce to external channels, typically through some kind of API.
For example, with the Facebook for WooCommerce extension, you can quickly sync your WooCommerce catalog with your Facebook product. Your products can then be added to your Facebook and Instagram shop for customers to view and purchase.
Plugins can be effective for syncing WooCommerce with other channels but they do have some limitations. This is largely because they must be set up individually. Whether it's Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google Shopping, the best third-party plugins only connect the single channel.
As such, you have to set up a different plugin for each channel.
You also don’t have a centralized place to view and manage sales and order data across platforms. WooCommerce can serve as a repository for syncing inventory and product listings but orders and reviewing analytics must be done on each individual channel.
Multichannel selling platforms
A more effective way to turn WooCommerce into a multichannel selling hub is to use a dedicated multichannel selling platform. These third-party solutions serve as a centralized place for connecting all your sales channels.
You can use them to view inventory and orders and create listings for each specific sales channel.
By integrating WooCommerce with a multichannel solution, you can sync your WooCommerce items to the platform which can then be added to other channels. Any changes that you make to your WooCommerce products will be automatically updated across channels.
One of the best all-around multichannel tools is Sellbrite. It integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce and supports all major sales channels including Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Etsy, and Google Shopping.
Multichannel customer support
Multiple sales channels also means several communication channels between you and your customers. Customers that buy through your shop may message you through email while those that engage with you on social media may message you on the platform.
Like orders and inventory, responding promptly to all these conversations can become a mess if you need to continually hop between platforms to do so. The solution is to use an all-one customer service platform like Reamaze.
Reamaze consolidates all your conversations whether it's from email, Facebook Messenger, or a contact form into a single interface for you to better manage all your customer communications.
The platform also has robust chatbot functionality that you can use to add implement a chatbot on your site to automate many of your customer interactions.
Closing thoughts on multichannel selling
Multichannel selling will remain to be an important part of ecommerce success. Different channels better serve different stages of the buyer’s journey and new platforms continue to emerge.
By building a presence on several channels, you can maximize your reach while providing your customers a great all-around experience.
The best channels will depend on your business goals and the experience you want to give your buyers. However, no matter where you plan to sell, using your WooCommerce store to set up a multichannel hub will allow you to manage all of your channels effectively.