After selling online for a few years, after seeing some success you will eventually arrive at a crossroads:
Which path do you take now toward increasing your revenue?
In the world of eCommerce, there are a lot of options for how you want to expand and grow your business.
Some of the options you have include things like:
- Add new products to your product line.
- Advertise and market more to increase sales.
- Take your products to other channels
Out of the examples above, one of the fastest ways you can increase revenue is to expand the channels where you sell your products.
This is called multi-channel eCommerce but can be called other names like omnichannel selling.
What is multi-channel eCommerce?
Multi-channel eCommerce is when you sell your product line across different channels online in order to increase revenue.
While the idea is pretty straightforward, everyone’s approach to expanding to more channels will be a little bit different.
Why go multi-channel?
This is an obvious one, but it’s valid. Once you’ve done everything you can with your current product line on whichever channel you are selling, it’s time to take it to the next level.
Since exploring new channels opens you up to customers you normally didn’t have access to before, you are increasing your potential for revenue by huge amounts.
For example, 25% of all money spent on eCommerce goes toward third-party sellers on Amazon (that means sellers like you).
If you have an eCommerce store and don’t yet sell on Amazon, expanding to FBA could increase your revenue by 50%, which can be absolutely huge.
Access to huge customer bases
Playing off the previous point of more revenue, expanding channels gives you access to customers you previously did not have access to.
Marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy have great conversion rates, and their audiences are huge.
Also, if you weren’t selling on Amazon and people search for your brand there, it is possible you’re missing out on easy sales that other sellers are taking advantage of.
The more places your products live, the stronger your brand becomes. There’s a reason retail brands do so well online, and it’s because they take up mindshare and people have seen them in the stores they frequent.
Having your product line across multiple channels has a similar effect over time.
How to go multi-channel
Expand your product line internationally
If you sell on your own eCommerce website you might not offer international shipping, you can adjust your site’s shipping policy to include it, and also work on your international SEO to start appearing on search engines in other countries.
If you want to expand internationally on Amazon, they have a lot of marketplaces in other countries that function much like the US and require you to send inventory to those countries.
Once you get your products in Amazon’s international FBA warehouses, it functions identically to the US, but now you have access to potentially millions of new customers.
Enter different online marketplaces
If you run your own independent eCommerce business, then you can expand into marketplaces that have audiences you might not have been able to reach normally.
With marketplaces, the two dominant players are obviously Amazon and Etsy.
While you can sell almost anything on Amazon, Etsy is limited to “handmade” products, however, they seem to play pretty loose with that terminology. You’re best off seeing if your products are a match with Etsy by browsing the site and seeing if people offer similar products to your own.
There are smaller and up-and-coming marketplaces you could also expand to.
The most obvious of these trending marketplaces is Walmart, which is trying hard to be an alternative to Amazon FBA.
Beyond that, platforms like Instagram have Instagram Shopping where potential customers can purchase your products directly on Instagram.
Facebook has a similar offering called Facebook Shops where you can similarly have people checkout and purchase products directly on Facebook.
And as always there’s the classic eBay, a once-huge player in the eCommerce world that still has relevance for certain niches.
Create a standalone online eCommerce store
It’s possible that you have started your eCommerce business on a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, and have not yet created your own standalone online store.
If you are seeing success on marketplaces and believe your product line can do well on its own, there are a lot of resources available to get you started.
For choosing a platform, two of the most popular eCommerce store software choices are Shopify; and WooCommerce.
Shopify; is a popular option for its ease of use, affordable plans, and tons of support through communities, resources, apps, and a plethora of specialists that can help with any aspect of your store.
WooCommerce is a plugin for Wordpress-based sites that gives your site eCommerce capabilities.
When you’re creating your own eCommerce site, it comes with its own set of unique challenges, as you don’t really have access to any specific audience, you have to earn 100% of customers either through marketing or advertising.
You need to develop an SEO strategy to bring in customers organically and find creative ways to advertise that bring in qualified potential customers that intend to make a purchase.
Challenges of Multi-Channel eCommerce
Like anything, attempting to increase your revenue for your business brings on challenges.
Multi-channel selling is no different, and it has its own unique set of considerations, challenges, and difficulties.
Inventory is split
Some marketplaces, like Amazon FBA, require that you send a portion of your inventory to their warehouses so that they may fulfill it and send it to the end customer.
While this is very convenient, if you already sell on your own, then you will have to split your inventory for orders you fulfill and orders Amazon fulfills.
This can end up being complicated, especially if you are selling internationally on FBA, selling in the US on FBA, and selling yourself through your shop and various other marketplaces.
Money is tied in different channels
Payment processors and marketplaces don’t give you money for sales as soon as a customer pays, they pay you in periods.
For example, Amazon pays every 2 weeks and Shopify; pays twice per month.
While this is fine, having money that is sitting on different platforms for weeks at a time can become hard to manage.
Advertising can get very expensive
If there’s one that no seller is a fan of, it’s advertising prices.
Amazon has been turning up its PPC advertising efforts, essentially making it a requirement for all sellers who want to do well on the platform.
Google Ads, something many are familiar with, consistently get more expensive as time moves on.
Then there are non-traditional advertising methods like influencer outreach to promote your products.
If you sell on many platforms, you’ll likely end up having to advertise on each of them, which can lead to huge cost increases.
How to manage selling across multiple marketplaces and channels
Software can do many things, but one of the biggest things it can do is keep you organized and enable you to sell on multiple channels without getting overwhelmed.
There are different kinds of software that can help you in your multi-channel efforts.
Inventory management software
One of the most difficult aspects of multi-channel selling is inventory management. Having inventory in different places makes it hard to predict restock dates.
The best thing to do here is to get sophisticated software that can not only track your inventory across different selling channels but also can give accurate predictions for when restocking and delivery need to take place.
There are many inventory management software options out there, software offerings like Fishbowl can track and manage every facet of inventory management so you are never lost with inventory.
Even if you utilize accounting software, you’ll want to have a bookkeeper and an accountant to help you manage that side of your business, as accounting can get really tricky with a growing eCommerce business.
If you fulfill yourself and also send inventory to marketplaces, shipping software solutions like ShippingEasy and ShipStation do a great job of simplifying the shipping process for eCommerce businesses.
For multi-channel, shipping software can pull in orders from every channel you sell on and print out the appropriate shipping label.
Some even have multi-channel features like inventory management and handling returns.
Focus on inventory management
As we mentioned in the software portion, inventory management is extremely important if you start selling on multiple channels.
It becomes much harder to predict when you will run out of inventory, and sometimes you have to split your inventory where it will be unable to be fulfilled except within its specific channel.
Also, if you sell internationally, you could have products living across the entire world, so that becomes a factor as well.
Be aware of the inventory challenges you’ll be facing when you decide to go multi-channel.
Slow and Steady
Don’t jump into different marketplaces and channels all at once.
Stick only with different channels you know you can do well in, and only keep expanding once you’re comfortable with a new channel you’ve added.
Selling internationally on Amazon FBA, for example, is like starting an entire new seller account, but with even more strict rules that can catch you off guard.
Getting fully integrated selling internationally through Amazon can take many months, and you can’t be distracted by launching multiple channels at once.
Get help and start delegating
If you’re managing a business that’s attempting to sell on a lot of different channels, then other responsibilities you used to handle might begin to slow you down and spread you thin.
There’s a lot of help available online to handle the responsibilities of your business that are on the more simple side.
Things like advertising, listing maintenance, inventory responsibilities, and more can all be handled by virtual assistants that specialize in eCommerce, agencies, and independent contractors.
If you’re worried about someone not doing as good of a job as you for some specific task, create a video guide for everything you do in your business (known as a Standard Operating Procedure or SOP) and use it as a base for training people to work on your business.
Once you have different delegations in place, you can more easily expand your business and focus on growth strategies like multi-channel.
Multi-channel marketing could be your ticket to taking your eCommerce business to the next level.
While it can be difficult to manage, the reward is multiplying your revenue and gaining access to large numbers of potential customers, which can result in taking your business to seven or even eight figures.