The 2023 Guide to Multichannel Retail
Anna Navolokova, Marketing Manager in Multi-Programming Solutions • 10 min read
How many ways do you have to sell your products? Maybe one or two - at a real store or a website. That might not be enough nowadays. Suppose you vend high-quality, customized goods but have only a brick-and-mortar channel and some social advertisements to reach your client. It may cause a profit loss. On the other hand, today’s customers purchase via internet shops, social platforms, mobile applications, and (still) at a physical store. So providing multichannel online sales may embrace a larger target audience and ensure sales growth.
Thus, a customer can try your stuff at a land-based branch and buy it at your online shop later. Nevertheless, a multichannel retail system is also essential if you sell online. Clients can conveniently find you, connecting through an Instagram store’s profile and linking to your shop for a wider assortment list. So with a multichannel occupation, you will always be at the right place - where your client is.
Let’s dive deeper into the topic - learn how to set up multichannel e-commerce selling and use its advantage wisely.
Table of Contents
Who are multichannel merchants, and how do they differ from omnichannel?
Many vendors use several channels to offer their products to customers. Thereby, they arrange a multichannel sales strategy involving, for instance, a land-based store, branded website, and a marketplace account on Etsy, Shopify, or something else.
Who can provide decentralized multichannel retailing? There are no restrictions on the business size. Even small vendors can run numerous online shops or social platforms to popularize their stuff. So you may own a physical store and make its online copy on Shopify, create an Instagram page and customize each channel differently.
People often mix up concepts of multichannel and omnichannel selling. Although they are similar, there is a significant difference between them. While the multichannel retail definition circles around product and its selling across several channels, the omnichannel goes deeper and represents a seamless customer experience through all the integrations. All the connected devices, platforms, and websites will use unified messaging and visualization methods. With such an approach, you will find your clients anywhere and make relevant propositions.
So what is multichannel e-commerce in short? It’s a selling system where merchants propose different ways to buy a product (or relative ones), analyze what channel works best, and upgrade its performance. Omnichannel sales analyze customer behavior while interacting through all channels simultaneously. Thus, sellers determine what approaches are effective with their target audience.
Let’s look at Amazon's work as a pro in omnichannel sales. The company has a website and app that synchronizes all user data, including their baskets and purchases. Cross-channel retailing allows Amazon to recognize clients and propose relative products. Seems like the marketplace knows its customers as good friends.
Facing the differences in omnichannel vs. multichannel retail, you may ask: what is better? If you want to improve customers’ experience, then omnichannel selling will be right for you. But, on the other hand, you should choose a multichannel option if you’re aiming to grow your customer base first.
Pros and cons of multichannel selling
Beginners or small business owners should use media trading platforms to build a solid backbone for future enlargement. The main advantages of multichannel retailing are the following:
- Reaching customers where they are: you can significantly grow the number of active buyers for your goods. One online store is a good idea, but with two or three ways to satisfy a client’s demand, you will raise the chances of being noticed and standing out from the crowd.
- Covering buyer's journey. People don’t buy an item at first glance, as usual. They want to see more variants, compare prices, and read reviews. So, with multichannel sales, you can repeat your products’ advertisements and make your brand recognizable.
- Widening markets’ presence. Brick-and-mortar shops, apps, and marketplaces - they all have a special type of customer. With such retailing, you’ll get clients from various social groups and age categories.
- Using huge e-commerce platforms authority. Amazon, Shopify, or Etsy represent your products to millions of potential clients. Their reputation drives the customers’ attention to your store.
Operating different selling flows is beneficial for e-commerce business owners. But at the same time, it comes with some difficulties you should be aware of. Issues with multichannel retailing include:
- Channels’ management. It can be quite difficult to manage even one sale flow for beginners as their mix doubles your efforts. You should organize order fulfillment through several platforms or websites.
- Inventory control. It would be better to take care of your stock if you have a land-based shop and a marketplace profile. Prevent overselling and signs “out of stock”. This issue can undermine your shop’s reputation.
- Different marketing strategies. While realizing multichannel retailing ideas, you can’t use the same approach to reach clients. Each marketplace has its public. What advertisements work for one may not attract visitors in the other marketplace.
- Lack of customers experiences control. Retail sales channels strategy should include the task of improving users’ service. You should process orders from all the channels as quickly as possible, make in-time delivery, update prices, and list stock balances in real-time.
Nevertheless, all these challenges in multichannel retailing can be handled with automated software. We’ll discuss it later. But first, let’s clear out how to begin using multiple streams to improve your sales.
Where to start?
Now, when you understand the benefits of multichannel retailing, we’ll find how to launch it with a minimum risk. Here are a few steps you should follow to succeed:
- Select the right channels. You don’t have to sell everywhere you find. Start with adding one more variant. If you own a brick-and-mortar shop, then expand on a marketplace like Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. Already have an account there? Then create a shopping cart on Shopify orWooCommerce.
- Learn your clients. Users expect you to satisfy their demands. So make your product attractive, proceeding from customers’ experience. Analyze trends and bestsellers, read reviews, and fix shortcomings to represent perfect stuff. Don’t forget about your content. Detailed product descriptions and high-quality photos will highlight your listings, among others.
- Make a ground for future scaling. Do your best to manage orders and fulfillment on one selling platform and be ready to add one more channel. As your sales will grow, you should be prepared in terms of human and technological resources. If you perfectly manage your existing channels, you may try print-on-demand to Canada and further expand sales worldwide.
- Stay consistent. Having a brand’s presence on multiple e-commerce platforms, you should think of control over your products’ performance. Your content, prices’ strategies, and logos should stay the same (if possible). If you realize print on demand product ideas, you’ll become recognizable with ease. Provide a high level of service on each channel. These recommendations will help to make a good client impression of your brand.
Let’s return to the right channel’s issue. We have some advice on how to define what means “right” in your unique case.
Which channels are worth engaging for multichannel sales
While it’s hard for you to predict where the customer will make his purchase (impulsive or thoughtful), it’s crucial to present your product on multiple trading platforms. So, here is a list of the best e-commerce sales channels to provide your all-encompassing presence:
- Own website. Set up a personal online shop and customize it to your liking. Use outbound sales channels to express your store: make products’ catalogs and digital advertisements. Provide your unique brand in every tiny detail: from an outstanding design to personalized packing. Shopify gives a hosted domain and integrated tools to manage your store easily.
- E-commerce marketplaces. Create a multichannel selling on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy. Listing your products on such giant platforms will give you access to hundreds of suppliers, international trading, and multimillion potential buyers. You’ll be able to realize, for example, Amazon POD t-shirts and use market services like storage, packing, and shipping your orders for additional fees. Digital platforms like Etsy connect you with the direct customer, so you can sell your handmade goods at low risk and costs. With the dropshipping strategies for Etsy, you may get rid of goods’ stocks and control the order’s fulfillment from the side.
- Social platforms. Many business people use social media as one of the inbound sales channels to advertise and sell their products. You can create an account on Facebook or TikTok, place listings, and add links to your website for purchasing. Some networks, like Instagram, also allow buying stuff right from the profile, which is very convenient for customers.
- Brick-and-mortar shop. This channel requires investments for space rent, staff salaries, utility bills, etc. Conservative land-based branches are still popular among clients. They may find your product at an online store and then go to the real one for fitting and purchasing. A physical shop is a good idea for manufacturers. They can vend products or make showrooms right near their production lines.
Vending on several platforms is challenging, but you can make it simpler with a special multichannel e-commerce management software.
The best multichannel management software
When it comes to the question of how to organize multichannel sales successfully, using Shopify will be a wise decision. An e-commerce platform provides a lot of opportunities to widen your business. First, it allows you to create your own website. Second, it integrates with Amazon play market, eBay, Etsy, etc., making your multichannel trading possible. Third, Shopify supports integration with tools for business automation.
The best multichannel retail software provides the following features:
- Automate bulk listing process on all connected channels. This function reduces the time for placing new products’ attributes: description, price, and photos.
- Collect orders from several sources. You don’t have to log in and out of your market profiles to check whether a new order appears. This process will be done automatically with multichannel order management software.
- Inventory management. This feature protects you from stock shortages. When you sell goods from multiple channels, there is a vital need for inventory control. So multichannel inventory management software monitors your stock and helps to prepare for holidays and seasonal orders growth.
- Analytics. A program creates reports about your channels’ profitability, showing you information about purchase volume, income, etc.
- Shipping label printing. It would help if you created your brand’s recognition, so automated printing will streamline these operations whether you have 100 or 1000 orders.
There are dozens of software for marketing and sales channels. Some solutions include all the features described above: Shopify plus, Zoho Commerce, Shipping Easy, and eSwap.
Also, if you have an idea to start a print business, an integrated solution like PodZa may come to help. It easily runs on Shopify or Etsy base and allows using different types of sales channels in print on demand.
Creating a multichannel selling business is challenging, but the result is worth it. With a wise management strategy and helpful integrated software, you can popularize your brand not only among local audiences but internationally.
Different ways to reach people will grow your customer base and increase profit. You will reduce your operational costs and build loyal relations with clients. With your presence and consistency on marketplaces and social media platforms, you’ll find your audience anywhere it is. You don’t have to connect several selling channels at once. Take one step at a time, analyzing your customer behavior and service level. Then, make changes and add another platform.
Moreover, with solid multichannel selling, you’ll be able to go into the omnichannel business, distributing a business-to-everyone (B2E) e-commerce model.