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Commerce & Sales Channels

Ware2Go’s Complete Guide on Why Multichannel Selling Matters

Commerce & Sales Channels
June 28, 2024
18 min read
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Explore multichannel selling with Ware2Go’s guide. Get tips on increasing sales through multiple channels, the pros and cons, and strategies for growth.

Multichannel selling generated over $575 billion in 2023 — an increase of over $84 billion from the previous year. You’re probably already doing it, but not all businesses are making the most out of their multichannel sales. 

A multichannel selling strategy has become increasingly important for businesses looking to reach a wider customer base and increase sales. 

That’s why this guide unpacks each channel’s unique characteristics and why today’s merchants need to sell where their customers are already shopping.

If you want more advice on how to win customers for life, check out our guide here.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of multichannel selling, why companies must adopt this approach, and some actionable advice for those looking to get the most out of their multichannel approach.

What Is Multichannel Selling?

Multichannel selling is selling goods on multiple sales channels at once. With the rapid growth of eCommerce and digital sales channels, a multichannel sales strategy has never been simpler to launch and manage. 

Multichannel merchants may sell on their own eCommerce website, multiple marketplaces (from Amazon to Walmart Marketplace), wholesale or B2B channels, and social media.

Consumers aren’t loyal to a single marketplace. Many consumers have subscriptions to multiple marketplaces, and 89% report comparing products on 2 or more marketplaces before making a purchase. The most popular of these marketplaces are Amazon, Walmart, and Target. 

However, 63% of customers indicated that they would rather purchase directly from a retailer’s site if price and shipping were comparable to marketplace listings. However, marketplaces have plenty of other advantages, like visibility, that we’ll discuss later. 

That means that consumers are multichannel shoppers, and you’ll want to sell on every channel possible to reach them.

What Is the Difference between Multichannel and Omnichannel Selling?

Multichannel and omnichannel selling are terms often used interchangeably, and they are, in fact, very closely related. While multichannel selling is the practice of selling products across multiple sales channels, omnichannel selling is a way of doing multichannel selling that makes the multichannel experience seamless.

For example, multichannel selling might involve buying a product online or in-store. An omnichannel approach would let you make the purchase online and then pick it up in the store instead of waiting for it to be shipped to your house.

Omnichannel selling is key to building brand equity and consistently creating the same customer experience regardless of where they make their final purchase. It’s enabled by a cohesive marketing plan, responsive customer service, and streamlined omnichannel fulfillment.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Multichannel Selling?

A multichannel sales strategy accelerates growth. In fact, McKinsey reports that online US retail sales rose by 40% in 2021, and growth seems set to continue.

However, there are some disadvantages, especially for fast-growing brands. Expanding to multiple sales channels can complicate operations from sales and marketing to inventory management to fulfillment and delivery.

It’s also important to monitor and measure the most profitable channels to ensure you’re not pouring time and resources into unprofitable channels. In fact, not fully understanding your landed costs and contribution margin for individual channels can eat up profitability on other channels.

Advantages of Multichannel Selling

Ahead, we’ll discuss 3 major advantages of multichannel selling for merchants of all sizes, even if faster-growing companies face specific challenges. There’s still plenty to gain.

Multichannel selling advantages and disadvantages list

1. Increased Brand Awareness

Your best customers aren’t always looking for you, so you have to meet them where they already shop. 

Even the best marketer can only drive so much traffic through a single sales channel, and whether your current primary channel is a brick-and-mortar store, an online marketplace, or your own eCommerce site, adding additional sales channels will expose shoppers to your brand in multiple stages of the buyer journey. That increases general brand awareness, drives more traffic to all of your channels, and grows your market presence.

2. Opportunities to Avoid Channel Interruptions and Decreased Risk of Downtime

Adopting a multichannel selling strategy can also help avoid the issues that can arise when relying on just one channel.

A single channel can face interruptions for any number of reasons, like security breaches, backend failures, or a misunderstanding of a marketplace’s rules. With multichannel selling, you get the opportunity to continue your operations even if you face issues on a single sales channel.

By creating a web of multiple sales channels, you create the opportunity to keep operating even when competitors may face difficulties with a certain channel. Diversifying your sales channels lets you build a more resilient sales funnel.

3. Tap into Impulse Purchases

The digital economy allows shoppers to research and compare multiple products and platforms without leaving their couch. But even with this wealth of information at their fingertips, many shoppers are still highly susceptible to impulse shopping. 

In fact, impulse buying makes up nearly the average US consumer spends $151 on impulse purchases every month, and people are more likely to make impulse purchases online than in-store. The only way to capture those impulse sales is to be in the right place at the right time, which, in the case of online shopping, is everywhere.

That means that multichannel selling lets you tap into impulse purchases. It’s like having your candy bar or magazine in every checkout line at a grocery store instead of just the shelf. The more channels you can sell in, the more likely someone is to make a snap decision to buy.

Disadvantages of Multichannel Selling

That’s not to say that everything’s easy with multichannel selling. There’s a reason why not everyone is doing it already!

A warehouse full of boxes

1. Complex Logistics

One of the primary challenges is the increased complexity of managing inventory across multiple platforms. Businesses must ensure they know exactly how many products they can supply and how many they’ve sold on all channels to avoid overselling or stockouts. This often requires sophisticated inventory management systems, which can be costly and complex to implement and maintain.

2. Reduced Brand Consistency

Additionally, multichannel selling can reduce how consistent your brand is. For example, a marketplace may not let you present photos of the quality or size you’re used to or include your logo with all its specifications. 

More importantly, different channels have their customer expectations. If you sell on a marketplace known for cheap, low-quality products, that could be inconsistent with a brand known for premium goods. This inconsistency can confuse customers and weaken brand identity, potentially leading to decreased customer loyalty.

3. Higher Costs of Operating

Another significant disadvantage is the increased operational costs. Managing sales across multiple channels often requires additional resources, such as more customer service staff, specialized marketing strategies for each channel, and enhanced logistics for shipping and handling. 

4. Cannibalization Effect

Another downside of multichannel selling is that customers might buy your products from other sites instead of your own. This can hurt your brand and sales because those other sites will take a share of the profit. To avoid this, make sure your prices, shipping, and customer experience are just as good or better on your own site.

While multichannel selling can help you reach more customers and increase sales, it also brings some challenges that can affect your profits and brand image. You need to carefully balance these drawbacks with the benefits and make sure your business is ready to handle the complexities of selling on multiple channels.

Marketplaces: Start Your Multichannel Selling Journey

Online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart Marketplace are low-cost, low-risk sales channels that expose your products to a large, high-intent customer base. No wonder Amazon’s sales have risen to $574 billion.

Creating product listings on any of these platforms is quick and easy and immediately benefits your online presence through the built-in SEO advantages of listing on a high-traffic website.

Standing out on eCommerce Marketplaces

A key to standing out in online marketplaces is to fully optimize your product listings with high-quality photos and concise yet specific product descriptions. For many product categories, you need to show consumers the differences that set what you’re selling apart. Here are a few ways to highlight what makes yours special:

  • Photography: Photos should accurately reflect your products’s quality to reduce costly returns and negative reviews. To make it really stand out, you can also include a combination of lifestyle and neutral photos of your product, to capture all its best angles.
  • Descriptions: Your product descriptions should be comprehensive but not too lengthy to help your products show up in the most relevant queries. Make sure to use relevant keywords so your product will show up in related searches!
  • Specifications: In addition to describing your product, you should have a list of all the relevant measurements and specifications that your buyers will want to know. Be sure to highlight key features your competitors don’t offer.
  • Pricing: Your pricing can make you stand out in a good or a bad way. Overpricing may exclude some of your intended audience, but underpricing can signal lower quality. Do competitor research to get a feel for where your product’s pricing can compare to theirs.
  • Shipping Times: Reliably speedy order fulfillment can be a major difference-maker for consumers, with the majority expecting delivery in five days or fewer. That’s why three-quarters of sellers say that two-day shipping would make them more competitive.

Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’re covering everything in your eCommerce marketplace listings: 

List of ways to stand out on marketplaces

Web Stores: The Backbone of Multichannel Selling

A web store, often supported by an eCommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, can serve as the online ‘headquarters’ for your business and the backbone of your multichannel selling strategy. It allows you to build a brand presence, determine your own standards for customer service, and have full ownership of your revenue stream.

This sales channel will be a more significant upfront investment of both time and resources, and as technology continues to evolve, it’ll require regular maintenance and attention. But it also gives you control over your marketing strategy, lets you keep all of your profits, and gives you control over developing your brand’s personality.

Social Commerce: The Rising Star of Multichannel Selling

The role of social media has quickly evolved from a marketing tool to a viable sales channel. Interactive shopping experiences on TikTok and Instagram give shoppers immersive and engaging shopping experiences that drove $89 billion in sales in 2022. Overall, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok are the most popular social media sites for social selling.

While social platforms are excellent for finding new customers, it’s equally important to deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels, including social media. Social shoppers have the same expectations around fulfillment and delivery. The key to delivering on those expectations is a fully integrated sales and fulfillment strategy.

Wholesale: Multichannel Selling Meets Omnichannel Strategy

Adding a wholesale channel is an effective strategy to increase sales without increasing marketing spend. Adding a B2B sales channel also evolves your multichannel selling strategy into an omnichannel strategy. 

Omnichannel sales selling products seamlessly across retail stores, your own website, and marketplaces online. But in order to sell at the retail level, you’ll need to add a wholesale channel. Wholesale, as a low-risk sales channel allows you to take advantage of a reseller’s established loyal customer base and acts as a revenue driver to support your direct to Customer channel growth.

While brick-and-mortar retail may be an afterthought to some merchants, the in-store shopping experience will continue to be an integral part of the buyer’s journey, particularly for products like food and beverages, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, electronics, and personal accessories.

Types of wholesale approaches

The Distributor Approach

Building a robust wholesale channel through brick-and-mortar retailers is often time-consuming, especially for small brands. The traditional route is to find a distributor who will shop products around to sell to retail chains. When looking for a retail distributor, consider the following factors:

  • Find a partner 
  • Do extensive research
  • Find a distributor

When you find a partner, you’ll want one who is excited about your product and will advocate for your brand. You don’t want to get shelved with a bunch of other similar brands. Similarly, you want a distributor with the time, resources, and expertise to sell your brand to as many retailers as possible.

Research can seem intimidating. But it isn’t too hard when you start going to trade shows, joining a trade organization, or scouring the wholesale directories.

The Grassroots Approach

Alternatively, you may choose to distribute your product yourself by building relationships with local retailers. It’s often best to start with small boutiques to build a resume successful sales numbers and a history of reliable fulfillment.

The best way to get the attention of a potential retail buyer is to share samples of your products, either through an in-person drop-off or targeted, personalized mailings. It’s important to always be ready to give a succinct and engaging pitch that differentiates your products from your competitors and shows how your product fits their store layout and customer base. 

Again, attending trade shows is a proven way to get your product in front of buyers, and researching to find the best-fit shows will ensure you get the best return on your investment.

The Online Resale Approach

Online resellers can also help by pushing your products into new markets with little risk by capitalizing on the reach of your reselling partners. These partners typically use their own websites or networks or sell on popular marketplaces like Amazon.

You’ll sell your products to resellers at a steep discount, so you may want to consider a minimum order quantity to ensure that wholesale orders will be large enough to offset the discount and drive revenue.

If your products sell well, resellers will likely make regular large-volume orders to keep your items in stock, giving you a consistent revenue stream to support even further growth. 

Wholesale and B2B Fulfillment

If you’re starting with your wholesale channel, you might be fulfilling orders to other businesses for the first time. That can complicate the logistics, so it’s important to have a flexible fulfillment model in place before establishing partnerships with resellers. 

You should have confidence that your fulfillment model can effectively fill large pallet or LTL orders to resellers without falling short of the expectations of your direct-to-consumer customers. It’s also important to have the capability to scale up quickly should your wholesale channel really take off.

The Future Is Omnichannel

It’s clear that the established business models of B2B and B2C are a thing of the past. Multichannel selling is the only way for merchants to reach their customers where they want to be met: Everywhere, all at once.

The present state of commerce is omnichannel. Businesses that adopt this mindset by expanding their sales channels and optimizing their fulfillment to meet consumer expectations are shaping the future of commerce. 

The omnichannel model integrates all sales channels and simplifies multichannel sales through strategic partnerships, cutting-edge technology, and a distributed network. 

But that can be a lot to handle at once. That’s why companies like Ware2Go make omnichannel sales easy. To streamline your sales channels and optimize fulfillment, take a look at our solution.

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