Multichannel Retailing Strategy: The Ultimate Guide

As competition heats up in the world of eCommerce, brands can’t take anything for granted. They need to be where their customers are, providing a winning experience. Today, we’re exploring how a multichannel retailing sales strategy can help your business shape the future.

 

What is multichannel retailing?

When we talk about multichannel retailing, we mean simply making your products available to buy via more than one sales channel. A sales channel could be anything from an Amazon store to your own website or a brick-and-mortar shop.

If people can use it to buy from you, it’s a sales channel. If your business is present on two or more of those, you’re a cross-channel retailer. Many businesses leverage two or three channels, but the advantages of adding more presence can quickly stack up.

 

What are the benefits of multichannel retailing?

Customers are moving towards wanting a unified eCommerce experience, where they enjoy the same level of service no matter where they shop. A multichannel sales strategy moves you closer to this unified status and nets you three big advantages:

More sales and more revenue

A nice straightforward one to start. If you’re present in more places, you give yourself more chances to close more sales with more customers. In the long run, a multichannel seller is overwhelmingly more likely to outperform someone who only sells in one place, even if that place is somewhere massive like Amazon.

Matching your customers’ behavior

The reason that a multichannel sales strategy is such a confident bet is because it accounts for the ways people shop. Only very rarely will someone see one thing in one place and immediately make the decision to buy.

Instead, people browse across multiple channels. Even brick-and-mortar retail sales are usually backed up by online research nowadays. Being on more channels makes you more likely to factor into a person’s decision.

More chances to capture data

eCommerce runs on data. The more channels you use, the more data you can capture. Marketplaces and social media provide their own analytics features, while you can use your own site to capture first-party data. As cookies start being phased out, it’s a good idea to widen your data intake.

 

Overcoming the challenges of multichannel retailing

Of course, nothing worthwhile comes easy or free. The challenges of multichannel commerce are very real, but they’re beatable if your brand has the right strategy in place. Below are the main challenges brands encounter:

Finding the right channels

When brands decide to get into multichannel commerce, there’s always the temptation to dive into every available avenue as quickly as possible. This is a risky play; you need to guarantee your presence on a platform will actually be useful to your target audience.

Expanding into the wrong channels can be costly and time-consuming. Slow down, think about where your demographic is actually shopping and go there.

Upfront setup costs

On a similar note, even if you’re expanding into a handful of carefully-chosen platforms which your audience definitely use, it’s going to cost you. Things need to be set up and optimised, with marketing budget set aside for your new ventures. Plan long-term and be sure that your budget can absorb the setup costs for new channels.

Added logistics and storage

More sales means more deliveries and more stock needed to supply that demand. If you expand into a particularly busy new channel, the speed at which sales pick up might take you by surprise. Some services, like Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) can help by handling logistics for you, but these come at a cost.

Spreading your message wider

The effectiveness of different marketing tactics varies wildly from platform to platform. When you move into a new channel, you need to be sure your message has been properly re-angled towards that channel’s requirements and demographics. Carefully profiling each channel’s typical users will help you adapt your marketing to resonate.

 

The top retailing channels for eCommerce in 2022

As the world recovers from the past couple of years, eCommerce continues its meteoric rise. 2022 is throwing up some surprising innovations, as well as some steady performances from trusted industry players. Here are some eCommerce channels to think about this year:

Amazon

Amazon remains the unquestioned dominant eCommerce marketplace in the US, with a market share greater than the next 10 biggest players combined. It might feel like a no-brainer to sell on Amazon and it probably is.

However, with all that traffic comes stiffer competition. It’s a good idea for your multichannel sales strategy to also cover one or two other big marketplaces.

Walmart

Overtaking eBay in June 2020, Walmart’s eCommerce sales went from $15.7 billion in 2019 to $43 billion in 2021. This rapid growth is underpinned by one of America’s most iconic retail brands, making this a solid option for your multichannel strategy.

Walmart is highly protective of its customers’ eCommerce experience, meaning more compliance requirements to satisfy. But in return, you’re getting a loyal, growing pool of shoppers.

eBay

To many, eBay is still fixed in the mind as the ‘other’ eCommerce platform despite being overtaken by Walmart. If you sell internationally to markets where Walmart isn’t as established, eBay remains a great choice for the multichannel seller.

Even to those selling within the US, eBay’s market share is still as big as Home Depot and Target combined. Plenty of eager customers waiting to meet your products.

Social media

Every year it gets easier and easier for eCommerce brands to sell direct from social media. Instagram and Pinterest, for example, let you tag products in posts which lead customers straight to your store. For multichannel sellers, social media represents a popular option with low entry costs.

You can also tap into influencers within your niche and open up new audiences. Influencer marketing is only set to continue growing in 2022.

Your own website!

Don’t neglect your own web presence among the rush of different alternatives. You’re in charge of the entire experience, with no third-party compliance hoops to jump through. Direct to consumer (DTC) sales grew 45.5% in 2020, and that big pandemic boost is still being felt this year.

This option also lets you capture first-party data to use in your marketing. That’s going to get very useful as we approach the post-cookies ad landscape.

 

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel retailing: What’s the difference?

Multichannel retailing is a nice straightforward term that simply means a brand selling via more than one channel, as we’ve explored. Omnichannel retail is the next step up, where the experience the brand provides is consistent and strategically coordinated across every channel the customer uses.

As long as you’re selling your products in two or more places, you’re doing multichannel retail. To be omnichannel, you need to know and use every channel your target demographic is also using. It takes a deep knowledge of the customer and meticulous attention to how you convey your brand.

But as you might expect, the more advanced tactic gets better results. Brands with strong omnichannel strategies retain about 89% of customers, vs about a third of customers for brands without.

If you’re thinking about going omnichannel in 2022, tools like our Where to Buy solution can help you capture data and track stock between different places.

Final thoughts

Multichannel commerce is quickly becoming non-negotiable. Customers demand it and those who fail to provide will quickly fall behind. By planning for expansion now, you’re giving your business a chance to face the future with confidence.

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