Multichannel e-commerce strategy revolves around selling your products on multiple platforms, including e-commerce websites, online marketplaces, social commerce channels and more. The strategy has evolved as e-commerce websites have become easier to build and as the online consumer market has splintered from the Amazon/eBay duopoly to a rich market of specialized online shopping websites.
From online marketplaces to social “inspiration” shopping, multichannel selling strategy is central to growing an e-commerce brand today. Recent studies show that brands selling on even two separate channels see a 190% jump in revenue. In the same survey, 64% of companies said that multichannel e-commerce helped them up customer loyalty, too.
Customers come out ahead with greater choices where they can buy, thereby improving their direct experience with each brand; and brands come out ahead with more sales. This synergy isn’t automatic, however. With just a little strategy and organization, the following multichannel e-commerce techniques can be deftly rolled out for the benefit of brands and consumers at once.
Nonetheless, listing products on multiple channels comes with logistical challenges that can cripple an e-commerce initiative. To avoid that kind of stagnation, follow along with these multichannel e-commerce techniques.
Start by Prioritizing Your Channels
Not all e-commerce channels are created equal. Instead of being tempted by the idea of ranking today’s channels from “best” to “worst,” however, it’s important to recognize that many channels simply have different benefits. For example, each selling channel has unique quirks like specific payment terms and inventory control. The deciding factor when choosing channels comes down to what works best for your brand.
When considering which channels you want to use, ask the following questions:
- Is your target audience “hanging out” there?
- Is the volume of users within your target audience enough to make it worth your while?
- Can you maintain consistent branding there?
- Is order fulfillment cost-effective on this platform?
- Do the margins and payment terms work for you (and for your customers)?
Once you figure out which channels are viable, it’s time to prioritize. You can launch on multiple channels at once or do so one-by-one. Either way, decide which you’ll launch to first, and read through the following techniques with those channels in mind.
Centralize Product Data and Optimize for Each Sales Channel
One of the biggest organizational roadblocks to multichannel e-commerce is the aggregation and optimization of product data. Running from software to software and channel to channel to retrieve and update product data (from SKUs and descriptions to product photos and videos) is a waste of time and pretty much guarantees that there will be errors.
Fortunately, centralized data management software has been a market response to the new multichannel e-commerce requirements.
Specifically, product information management software (PIM) like Amber Engine, InRiver, Akeneo or Pimcore were designed to keep product data flowing back to one foundation, no matter the number of channels you’re on. For example:
- ERPs (used for inventory and operations) are not designed to store multiple versions of product data or enriched product data like photos. PIM pulls information in from an ERP to expand on that core product data and organize the versions and media that product listings need.
- Brands also need a place with product data aggregated to better optimize product listings and ads. Cutting-edge PIMs offer that secure place while layering AI-powered insights into competitors’ listings right on top of product data so brands can make quick and clear strategy adjustments.
- And, most importantly, PIMs have unlocked today’s multichannel strategy by enabling the simple export of selected products or product categories to a template ready to load to new channels. This makes launching and updating product data on multiple channels feasible. Managing these details manually would take months for a brand with thousands of SKUs.
Your storage place (or, in the case of e-commerce, your PIM) needs to enable the aggregation and optimization of all product data—both essential and enriched. From there, your software enables you to organize and store that data so that a new launch to yet another selling channel can be as simple as exporting data tagged for that destination.
The PIM acts as your single source of truth for interdepartmental collaborations, too. Product data otherwise risks corruption as spreadsheets are passed between product development, marketing and fulfillment teams.
Use Your PIM for Further Optimizations
Even once you’ve optimized product data for multiple channels, just joining marketplaces doesn’t mean sales will magically happen. Testing and further optimizing will still be required on everything from product descriptions to ad copy and product photos.
Use your PIM to organize these optimizations and you’ll more easily drive multichannel results. Each channel will generate different trends over time, meaning you’ll start to see different segments of product data veer into more defined lanes with greater data feedback from each channel. Using a PIM also frees up time and resources for your brand to create more engaging product media and content. Tapping back into consumers’ desire to browse and “get inspired” will push higher conversions and brand loyalty, too.
Keep reading for specific tips to kickstart your page conversions with world-class copywriting, and you’ll enter the field of multiple e-commerce channels with a greater stake in the game.
Integrate Your Inventory and Operations
More operational and software integrations are possible today than ever, in general because of the number of specialized software solutions.
Building your multichannel software ecosystem with a plan at the start will make these integrations easier.
When you add more channels to your e-commerce strategy, this will mean more coordination. Order fulfillment will become more complex, making the interdepartmental collaborations between development, inventory, marketing and others that are much more essential.
Integrating your inventory with other operational channels centralizes the most essential information you need for a multiple-channel sales strategy: an accurate count of what product you have on-hand. Around the world, businesses lost $634 billion in 2020 just by frustrating consumers with out-of-stock orders. With the cost of tending to the resulting returns and complaints, the total loss in revenue was in excess of $1.1 trillion.
The functionality of popular e-commerce platforms like Magento 2, Shopify or BigCommerce allows businesses to easily manage, track, and control their inventory. This default functionality can be extended to efficiently manage inventory across multiple channels by integrating special extensions, apps or 3rd party software, like Ecomdash, Skuvalt, or Megaventory.
Ensure a Consistent Brand Voice
With multiple touchpoints before a consumer eventually buys, plus the desired seamlessness of multichannel shopping for today’s consumers, the e-commerce buyer journey has become a thing of wonder. Without even realizing it, a user can tap between a dozen channels and get lost in:
- Clever content
- Personalized ads
- Visually engrossing media
Few consumers will hit the final “buy” button from a brand they don’t trust, however. And if a brand doesn’t have a recognizable “personality” across channels, trust won’t be there.
Managing branding details down to the copy used in product listings is an essential piece of building a trustworthy brand. Listing copy and product data is ultimately the last round of content a consumer views before making a purchase. If product listings don’t match the look and feel of whatever content carried consumers there, they won’t feel as confident in a purchase. Using a PIM to manage product data for listings not only enables these kinds of brand optimizations. It also frees up time to get even more strategic on branding and voice.
Focusing on how your brand “speaks” to consumers is the simplest way to build a recognizable brand to use consistently across channels. This “personality” is more recognizable than your logo.
How to define your brand voice?
Not sure if you have a recognizable brand voice? Take a look at your content and ask: if any of your ads, or blogs, or website copy were shared without the logo and brand colors, would it be recognizably “yours?”
To help define your brand voice, answer these questions:
- What makes your products special?
- What’s special about your buyer experience?
- What else is unique about the way you do business?
- What’s your business culture like?
Equipped with those answers, assign some adjectives to your brand that describe the “personality” those answers uncovered. Is your brand cheeky? Helpful? Empathetic? Energetic?
Then, to ensure the success of your multichannel strategy, make those qualities apparent on every channel.
Create Buying Guides at the Product Level
Every e-commerce channel will define its product categories differently. Perhaps on your e-commerce site you tag and segment one way, while Amazon has a completely different notion of your product categories.
Whatever categories make the most sense to you, organize your product data into product-level buying guides for leads and customers. These guides can be loaded to product pages as PDFs or as enriched-photo resources, not to mention used as lead magnets on other channels.
With these guides, you promote the idea of “full transparency” for the consumers most interested in price comparing. Imagine a product guide with one of your best-selling products featured on page one. You sell it on your e-commerce website, Amazon, and Walmart.com. But you make the most profit when you sell on your website. But Amazon’s shipping options include faster delivery and Walmart.com is slower but has the best end-price for consumers.
So, what do you do? You spell out the benefits for each and give the consumer links to the three unique listings. Making this kind of information available generates trust in your brand while also boosting conversion rates. For example, if a consumer whose top priority is quick shipping finds your e-commerce storefront but won’t buy with the shipping options available, maybe that Amazon listing will get the conversion after all.
These product guides are also superb for upselling and cross-selling. For an added benefit, update them on a monthly or quarterly basis and send them to your customer list.
Multichannel e-commerce strategy isn’t a fad. It’s not a tip. It’s a total evolution of how consumers shop and how brands sell. Several factors accelerated this trend in 2020 (from mobile smartphone use to the COVID-19 pandemic). Now the question isn’t whether brands will adopt a multichannel outlook, but how. Fortunately, e-commerce brands have a long list of SaaS solutions at their beck and call to make specific elements of these techniques more attainable.