A multichannel selling strategy has become increasingly important for businesses looking to reach a wider customer base and increase sales. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of multichannel selling and why it’s crucial for companies to adopt this approach.
What Is Multichannel Selling?
Multichannel selling is the practice of 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.
A recent consumer survey revealed that 43% of consumers enrolled in a new marketplace enrolled in a new subscription service in the last 2 years. Consumers, however, are not loyal to a single marketplace. Many of them have subscriptions to multiple marketplaces, and although 61% of consumers have an Amazon Prime membership, 70% indicated that they would rather make a purchase directly from a retailer’s site as opposed to Amazon if they could still get fast, free shipping.
In short, today’s consumers are multichannel shoppers, so merchants must be multichannel sellers in order to reach as many new customers as possible and stay top of mind for their current customers.
What Is the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel Selling?
Multichannel and omnichannel selling are terms that are 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 an approach to multichannel selling that aims to create a seamless and frictionless shopping experience across all channels.
Omnichannel selling is key to building brand equity and consistently creating the same customer expereince regardless of where they make their final purchase. It is 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 merchants who embracing ecommerce as part of a multichannel selling strategy see sales growth two to three times higher than companies without such a strategy. However, there are some disadvantages, especially for SMB’s. 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 channels that are most profitable for you to ensure you’re not pouring time and resources into channels that are not profitable. In fact, not having a full understanding of your landed costs and contribution margin for individual channels can eat up profitability on other channels.
Ahead we’ll discuss three major advantages of multichannel selling and how merchants of all sizes can leverage technology and strategic partnerships to avoid the common pitfalls of multichannel retail.
Increased Brand Awareness
The truth is, your best customers aren’t always looking for you, which means you have to meet them in the places they’re already shopping. 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 to increase general brand awareness, drive more traffic to all of your channels, and grow your market presence.
Casting a wider net with a multichannel selling strategy can also significantly reduce risk for your business by eliminating reliance on a single sales channel. Marketplace forums are rife with stories of sellers being booted for a simple misunderstanding of terms, B2B sales opportunities plummeted as a result of the Coronavirus, and a security breach or backend failure on your eCommerce site could stall sales and quickly turn users away from your storefront.
By creating a web of multiple sales channels, you decrease risk by eliminating a single point of failure in your sales funnel — and all channels, whether digital or traditional, are unique and have their own upsides and downsides. Diversifying your sales channels enables you to capitalize on the best aspects of each channel to compound sales growth.
The Right Place at the Right Time
The new 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 buys make up nearly 40% of money spent online each year, and 54% of shoppers have admitted to spending $100 or more on an impulse buy. 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 all of the time.
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. 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.
eCommerce marketplaces do, however, have some limitations, including:
- Not giving shoppers a fully branded experience in their purchasing experience
- Driving traffic to the marketplace instead of your eCommerce site
- Highly-competitive in specific categories
- Stringent customer service and fulfillment requirements
- Commissions and fees cut into profits
Standing Out on eCommerce Marketplaces
A key to standing out in online marketplaces is to fully optimize the content of your listings with high-quality photos and concise yet specific product descriptions. Photos should accurately reflect the quality of your product to reduce costly returns and negative reviews, and descriptions should be comprehensive and detailed to help your products show up in the most relevant queries. Your strategy should also include an unwavering commitment to winning the buy box with competitive pricing (without negatively impacting your margins) and reliably speedy order fulfillment.
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, will require regular maintenance and attention. You will also be responsible for your marketing strategy, optimizing your SEO, and driving traffic to your site, but you will likely find that this channel to be the cornerstone of your strategy and the key to developing your brand’s personality.
Social Commerce: The Rising Star of Multichannel Selling
The role of social media has quickly evolved from marketing tool to viable sales channel. Interactive shopping experiences on TikTok and Instagram give shoppers immersive and engaging shopping experiences that drove $37 billion in sales in 2021.
While social platforms are an excellent platform to find 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 to an omnichannel strategy. This low-risk sales channel will allow you to take advantage of a reseller’s established loyal customer base and will act as a revenue driver to support your D2C 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 beverage, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, electronics, and personal accessories.
The Distributor Approach
Building a robust wholesale channel through brick and mortar retailers can often be 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, take the following factors into consideration:
- Find a partner 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.
- Do extensive research by going to trade shows, joining a trade organization, or scouring the wholesale directories.
- Find a distributor that has the time, resources, and expertise to not only take on your brand but to fight for it and sell it to as many retailers as possible.
The Grass Roots Approach
Alternatively, you may choose to distribute your product yourself by building relationships at local retailers. It’s often best to start with small boutiques to build a resume of sorts with 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 clearly differentiates your product from your competitors’ and shows how your product is the perfect fit for 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 make sure you get the best return on your investment.
The Online Resale Approach
Online resellers can be another lucrative avenue for your wholesale channel, and can quickly push your products into new markets with little risk by capitalizing on the reach of your reselling partners. You’ll be selling your products to resellers at a steep discount, so you may want to consider having 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 be likely to 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
Because a wholesale channel requires bulk sales that many B2C merchants aren’t accustomed to fulfilling, 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 (B2E)
It’s clear that the established business models of B2B and B2C are a thing of the past and multichannel selling is the only way for merchants to reach their customers where they want to to be met. The present state of commerce is B2E, or Business to Everyone, and the merchants who have adopted this mindset by expanding their sales channels and optimizing their fulfillment to meet consumer expectations are the merchants shaping the future of commerce. The B2E model is omnichannel, integrating all sales channels and simplifying multichannel sales through strategic partnerships, cutting-edge technology, and a distributed network.
To learn more about how Ware2Go is streamlining multiple sales channels and optimizing fulfillment for our merchants, take a look at our solution.