Do you feel like doing business on one e-commerce platform is not enough for you? Then multi channel e-commerce is definitely your way! As 81% of shoppers are comparing the products in different shops before making a purchase. Plus companies which adopted multi channel strategy retain 89% of their customers.
But hold on for a sec, there is a little pitfall which might increase as your business expands. You, probably, already have noticed that managing your store on one platform isn’t the easiest job to do. And now multiply that amount of work on every single platform you’re going to expand to. Plus add efforts if those are completely different platforms like Etsy and Shopify.
And if you’ve already tried multi channel e-commerce then you’re, probably, looking for the ways to alleviate the way how it’s done. Good news is that we have a decision for you! So confidently skip first few paragraphs and find your solution. As for the rest let’s first clarify what multi channel e-commerce is and why do you need it so much?
What multi channel e-commerce is?
“Multichanneling” means that you are running your business through multiple channels. Duh… But, if seriously, it is just selling your products through numerous channels on various e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, own sites and even offline. Simple as that.
Want to know more on how multi channel e-commerce may benefit you?
This tendency arose at the end of the last decade, alongside with the rise of the e-commerce business. For lots of people and companies, it all have started as a part of promotion campaigns. Everyone was trying to expand their presence on every platform possible, besides their own site and/or brick-and-mortar store. But, it appeared that brick-and-mortar stores which gone online were making 28% more revenue, without hiring any additional staff. And here we are today when already established online retail businesses are seeking for the ways to expand even further.
Possible channels to work with
Currently, the exact number of possible trade channels might require its own article to list them all, so we will focus only on the main ones:
- E-commerce platforms: those can be divided to hosted and self-hosted solutions. In the first case the platform takes care of all the back-end issues. Shopify and BigCommerce might be the best examples here. Self-hosted solutions only provide you with means to set-up your site properly. Woocommerce and Magento are the most popular here.
- Marketplaces: here like on the regular marketplace you rent a stall which is exposed to all the customers who are visiting this platform. A great option, considering that 52% of buyers usually start their search from Amazon! Few more examples here can be Ebay and Etsy.
- Social media: relatively new option. Starting 2014 Twitter introduced its buy button, then Pinterest and Facebook followed. But in the end of 2016 Facebook gone even farther and relaunched its Marketplace. This option works both ways: it can drive traffic to your main store and be a comprehensive store itself.
- Comparison shopping engines: a great way to get a targeted audience. The most known player here is Google Shopping, which also advertises your products through regular Google search. Other notable players here are Shopzilla and Nextag.
Pros of multi channel e-commerce
Those are numerous. And the best part is that it is only going to get better and bigger. As more and more users will adopt it in the future, the more sophisticated this way of conducting business will get. Better strategies will appear, superior pieces of software will be produced, overall process will get smoother. And that will bring more revenue. Those aren’t just a futile words. Globally 53% of internet users have made a purchase online, which is near 1 billion people worldwide. And according to Forrester’s Web-Influenced Retail Forecast about e-commerce in the U.S. annual average growth will make 9.32% till 2020. BTW, we have already brought some pros towards future of multi channel e-commerce in our article 7 Reasons Why Omnichannel Ecommerce is the Future of Retail.
That is a way to go! But let’s get to the current state with current pros:
- Bigger exposure to the market. More presence on different platforms – more chances that people will find you and will recognize your brand. Simple as that.
- You are where your customer is. Lots of people are loyal to the platforms on which they find things, and to particular sellers. That’s especially notable on marketplace platforms. Be agile, meet your customer where he is! You won’t win their loyalty if you won’t reach them at all.
- Diversifying your channels for different products and audience. Some platforms are specified for particular audience and/or products. Like Etsy. So if you are selling chainsaws and fancy, colorful pillows it might be better to sell pillows on Etsy and chainsaws somewhere on Amazon. Because there your product will find his buyer faster and with a bigger precision.
- Better analytic possibilities. Lots of platforms provide their own analytic tools which you are just ought to use. Plus if you have diversified your channels, you’ll have a better understanding of your audience and its needs. Get more info from every single transaction.
- You are not relying solely on one channel. Don’t lose your customers, listings and income if suddenly, for example, Amazon decides to shut down your store.
Challenges and concerns
The biggest challenge you might face while multichanneling and it is the biggest concern as well – control. By expanding your business to one more channel you almost double necessary efforts to maintain it. Here are some problems which left unnoticed, might become a huge pain in the ass:
- Having all products properly listed on every channel at once.
- Keeping an eye on overstock/understock in inventory.
- Managing orders and shipments on every single channel.
- Serving customers and staying in touch with them on every platform.
Every single one of these can become a really frustrating obstacle which can slow down your business, harm it or even destroy it at all. You’ll have to cope with an influx in demand, which will inevitably happen. If you decide to deal with it manually, I’m afraid, you’ll have to spend your life near your keyboard managing every single issue. And even in that case, it is not guaranteed that you’ll get the job done.
You can hire someone to help you out. But, obviously, your ROI (return on investment) will drop and now you’ll have to control your employees as well. This isn’t a bad idea at all, considering that eventually, you’ll have to hire a staff anyway. But combined with the decision which I’m going to propose it will be way more effective and cheaper.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is quite simple and pretty obvious if you have already conducted some research on it. Comprehensive ERP (enterprise resource planning) system will significantly cut necessary efforts to run multi channel store. It will also drastically improve the efficiency of your business. We have already covered in detail what profit ERP might bring to your business in ERP Benefits: Adopt Today, Acquire Tomorrow. Go ahead, you’ll find a ton of useful and inspiring info over there which will persuade you to adopt ERP as fast as possible.
Of course, the logical concern here might be: All those ERP systems are so expensive and have so much excessive functionality, I’m not sure if those aren’t too much for my small retail business. Stop! You’re making wrong assumptions. Why would you need giant decisions from Oracle or Microsoft if there is a lot of smaller ERPs? Those are usually way cheaper, cost less in the case of implementation and are more convenient in usage. Even more, these smaller ERPs are in many cases completely customizable to completely fit the way how YOU run YOUR business. And, sure thing, we have covered all the issues of such decision for you in detail in our material ERP for Small Businesses: Nurturing the Growth.
We are always here to help you with your multi channel e-commerce store!
And, do you remember that problem with dealing with your customers? There is, of course, a solution to that too. A proper CRM (customers relationship management) system is what you need. It will keep all your contacts in one place, automate the routine process of dealing with them and will help with some insights on them. To find out furthermore why CRM can be so beneficial, please read our article 7 Essential Metrics for Customer Relationship Management.
So the best case scenario now would be if ERP and CRM were combined, it would cost a really fair price and would possess really great customization possibilities. We might have a solution for you. Why don’t you give a try to EasyERP? It has all mentioned features, plus a lot more on the top. And it is completely free for the Basic plan which is more than great for you to start! So go ahead and try it!