What is multi-channel eCommerce?
Multi-channel eCommerce is essentially the act of making use of multiple online sales channels to reach customers, get noticed by them, and sell your products to them, thus diversifying your sales channels and making it possible for you to reduce your dependence on any single online store or sales channel.
Following a multi-channel strategy would involve making use of your online store as a hub with several sales channels and platforms connected. This makes it possible for you to have your products listed on several sales channels, allowing you to achieve a greater degree of visibility and wider reach as well. Basically, all the places in which your store sells products are channels - your marketplaces, hosted online stores, social media channels, even your brick and mortar store, they’re all channels. To participate in multichannel commerce, you simply have to sell your products in several of these channels at the same time.
Listing your products on a range of sales channels makes it easier and more convenient for your customers to buy from you. It is now possible for them to buy products using the channel of their choice, which also makes it possible for new customers to discover you while browsing through another online marketplace. You can improve your customer acquisition here because customers don’t need to know about your brand or your website or online store in order to buy from you, they can find out about your products on other sales channels that they frequently use and start buying your products over those channels.
How does multi-channel eCommerce work?
Multi-channel eCommerce works by offering your customers a range of channels to pick from during their digital shopping experience. But you need to figure out which channels are going to be the best for your business, and understand how many of them you actually need.
You’d also have to figure out whether your current infrastructure will be able to support the task of selling on several sales channels, and ask yourself how you are going to source your products in time to meet the increase in demand that you’re going to see when you drive sales across more channels.
For things to work well, you would also need to think out the mix of technology and personnel that you would employ in order to operate your critical business operations, like shipping, order management, picking and packing, and inventory management.
You even need to consider the seller fees that individual channels and marketplaces charge. On Amazon, you would have to pay fulfillment fees and other variable fees. On eBay, you have to deal with insertion and final value fees. If you’re selling on Walmart, you would have to pay referral fees.
Multi-channel eCommerce is better than driving your eCommerce business over a single channel, but it still is a very seller-centric way of doing business. The whole objective of multi-channel eCommerce is to get more eyeballs on your products and thus to make it easier for your customers to discover your product on whichever channel they like making purchases from. But it does not involve creating a unified experience for your customers. In multi-channel eCommerce, it is possible for your customers to buy from you over a wide range of channels, but they can’t flow across these channels seamlessly. These channels are not connected with each other, you won’t get a unified experience over them. If a customer moves from one channel to another, they will have to go all the way back to the start of the buying process. They won’t be able to pick up where they left off. The channels are separate from each other in multichannel commerce. If you connect them to create a unified customer experience, you’re engaging in omnichannel eCommerce.
Is multi-channel eCommerce more profitable?
Multi-channel eCommerce can be far more profitable than the traditional single channel eCommerce that most online stores of the past used to participate in. This model makes it possible for you to get your products in front of more customers and increase your discoverability. You’re going to get more brand visibility when you showcase your products on channels that already have a very large number of engaged and active users. Profit margins could certainly vary across channels, just a substantial increase in sales could offset the additional costs that you’d incur.
It’s also profitable because it allows your customers to buy your products over the channels that they are already using, which makes them more likely to make the purchase since they have been making purchases over those channels for a while, which means that they trust those marketplaces and are comfortable with making purchases on those channels.
What are the benefits of multi-channel retailing?
Here are some of the major benefits of multi-channel ecommerce and retailing:
It’s pretty simple - more sales channels leads to greater product discoverability and higher sales. Increasing sales revenue in this manner is the primary reason for adopting a multi-channel eCommerce strategy in the first place.
Top of mind awareness
When a customer sees your product across multiple channels and even sees your marketing messages across a range of channels, your products are going to be right on the top of their minds. As soon as they have a need for a product in your category, yours is going to be the first brand that they think about, which makes it more likely for them to buy from you.
Targeting customers at varying stages in the buying journey
Most customers aren’t going to make a purchase the very first time they see your product. A lot of them prefer to browse, compare alternatives, read reviews, etc. These activities are generally conducted across different channels.
Going multichannels makes it possible for your customers to keep encountering your products at several stages of the buying process, so that they become more familiar with your brand and it is easy for them to make the purchase when they finally become comfortable and convinced about your product’s benefits.
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