What is Multichannel Selling?
Multi-channel selling is exactly what it sounds like – offering products to customers across a variety of different sales channels. Rather than simply relying exclusively on your brick and mortar store, or even your ecommerce website for sales, you look for multiple ways to reach your audience.
An effective multichannel sales strategy involves thinking about the specific purchasing preferences of your target audience, and adapting your efforts accordingly. For instance, if you know your target audience spends mot of their time online, you’ll likely focus most of your attention on digital sales channels, such as marketplaces, online stores, and social media.
If your customers like to shop in-person, you may consider building a retail store, selling at craft fairs, or exploring partnerships with supermarkets and other major retailers.
Good multichannel selling isn’t just about leveraging as many different channels as possible. To be truly successful, business leaders need to understand exactly who they’re trying to reach.
What are the Different Sales Channels?
To successfully launch a multichannel sales strategy, you first need to understand which channels are available to today’s store owners or retailers. There are numerous different channels available for sales today. However, most options fall into two specific categories: physical spaces, and digital spaces. Let’s take a closer look at the solutions.
Physical sales channels
Physical sales channels are perhaps the most traditional option for companies looking to build a connection with in-person customers. Ever since the dawn of retail, business leaders have connected with customers through physical stores, and marketplaces.
The most common physical sales channels include:
- Owned brick-and-mortar stores: Perhaps the most common solution for offline selling is to purchase your own store where you can sell products “off the shelf” for your target audience. Many brands have their own physical spaces which they can brand according to their specific needs. They often use point of sale technology and require an investment in retail staff.
- Temporary stores: Pop-up shops and temporary physical spaces are usually leveraged by companies who want to interact with offline customers through one-off events. They involve using a temporary space for selling products typically delivered to customers online.
- Multi brand stores: Supermarkets and other larger stores can partner with smaller retailers for sales opportunities. For instance, large companies like Walmart and Target can sell products from arrange of retailers, as well as offering products under their own label.
- Marketplaces and fairs: Farmers markets, fairs, and other event-style sales opportunities often appeal to craft companies and smaller brands looking to connect with a niche audience. They’re similar to temporary stores, however they’re often utilized on a more consistent basis. Some business leaders will attend fairs on a weekly or monthly basis.
Online or digital sales channels
Online spaces are perhaps the most commonly utilized in omnichannel and multichannel selling. In today’s highly digitized ecosystem, online channels can be an excellent places to generate brand awareness and increase sales among a larger, distributed audience. Some online companies will sell both in the physical and digital world, while others focus entirely on online channels.
The most common online options for multichannel retail include:
- Ecommerce websites: Perhaps the most commonly leveraged channel for reaching potential customers is a dedicated ecommerce website. Today’s small businesses and entrepreneurs can quickly sett up an ecommerce website that syncs with their brick and mortar store, as well as other different channels throughout the web. Ecommerce websites require companies to invest in payment processing tools and logistics companies to ship items to customers.
- Online marketplaces: An online marketplace is similar to an ecommerce store; however, it hosts the products of multiple different brands in one location. Options like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy provide business leaders with an excellent way to showcase their product listings to a huge range of engaged customers at once. These platforms require business leaders to take charge of their own order fulfilment strategies in most cases. However, the leaders of the platform may handle things like disputes and refunds on your behalf.
- Mobile native marketplaces and apps: Many of today’s customers prefer to shop for products directly through their smartphone. In fact, around 40% of ecommerce sales are generated through mobile devices. Online retailers can create their own mobile apps, which showcase product listings, deals, and other business details. However, it’s also possible for an ecommerce business to list items on a mobile marketplace, where customers interested in online shopping can find items from various different companies at once.
- Social media marketplaces: Social media solutions have become an increasingly popular way for companies to reach their target audience. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and many other social solutions now have their own shopping solutions designed to streamline the path to purchase for customers. Some platforms will allow users to buy products directly from a social media feed, while others will require you to link your online storefront to your profile, so you can generate online sales.
Top Benefits of Multi-channel Selling
Perhaps the most significant benefit of investing in multichannel sales, is that it allows you to connect with your customers across a range of different platforms, rather than relying on just one single strategy for revenue.
The more touchpoints you can leverage for sales, the more likely you are to reach a wider audience of potential buyers. This means multichannel selling can effectively increase your revenue and lead to new opportunities. Some of the biggest benefits of multichannel or omnichannel retail include:
- Access to new customers: We’re living in a world brimming with different types of consumers, who prefer to shop in different ways. Some buyers will look to purchase products directly from a website or an in-person store. Others will look for the best price and solution across various different channels. The more you invest in new methods for customers to reach you both online and in-person, the more sales you’ll generate.
- Competitive advantage: Customers are increasingly looking for business leaders with a commitment to delivering exceptional customer service. This means not only providing a simple shopping experience, but also ensuring you can reach your customers across all channels. Investing in additional strategies to serve your customers can give you a competitive advantage over businesses who only have a single sales channels.
- Better marketing: Certain solutions for online and offline selling will not only improve your chances of attracting new customers, they’ll also give you access to “free” marketing opportunities. For instance, marketplaces like Amazon will promote products from various different retailers to an already engaged audience. Additionally, investing in more touchpoints for sales will give you more opportunities for customers to see and recognize your brand.
- Reduced risk: A lot of newer retailers will rely heavily on a single sales channel, particularly if they’ve seen major results from the first solution they invest in. However, the ecommerce market can change in a short space of time. This could mean if your existing solution stops working as effectively as it once did, you end up missing out on crucial customers. You can even work with other professionals for order fulfilment and manufacturing within an omnichannel strategies, which reduce your risk of out-of-stock notifications.
Further reading 📚
What are the Challenges of Multichannel Selling?
For the most part, omnichannel or multichannel selling is an excellent strategy for companies looking to strengthen their chances of increased sales and revenue. However, there are some potential downsides to this strategy too. For instance, it can be difficult to determine where you should be selling at first. If you attempt to stretch yourself too thin across too many channels, you could risk becoming overwhelmed by possible orders.
Similarly, it can be difficult to maintain a consistent level of quality across every channel, particularly if you’re working with various different fulfilment experts. The more channels you add to your strategy, the more complicated it becomes to keep everything in order. Other potential challenges include:
- Staying compliant: Most omnichannel strategies involve working with third-party marketplaces, each of which has its own rules and regulations for sellers to follow. It’s important to ensure you’re staying up-to-date with the requirements for merchants on all of the channels you use, so you can avoid any fines and issues.
- Fulfilment: Aside from catering to various regulations and shipping expectations, you’ll also need to think carefully about which fulfilment methods you’re going to be using for each channel. For instance, a lot of companies selling on Amazon (around 90%), use Amazon FBA because it allows them to leverage Amazon prime.
- Inventory management: Working with multiple channels means dealing with more complex inventory management practices. Poor management of inventory can lead to overselling and out-of-stock items, which can cause problems with customer trust. To avoid problems, you’ll need to ensure you’re using an inventory management system capable of keeping up with evolving orders and changes in inventory requirements.
Top tips for Multi-channel selling
Ultimately, multichannel selling is an excellent way to boost sales and revenue. However, like most business models and strategies, it does require leaders to invest in the right strategies to reduce the risk of costly errors and mistakes. Before you get started, here are some top tips to help you.
1. Evaluate channels carefully
When you’re first getting started with multichannel selling, it can be tempting to invest in every channel you discover, as soon as they start to become popular. However, this approach, sometimes referred to “spray and pray” can lead to significant cost issues and lost revenue.
Instead of just constantly adding new channels to your plan, do your research and select the platforms that make the most sense for your business. Think about the niche you’re selling in, your target audience, and the rules and regulations you’ll need to follow on each channel. Evaluate the potential ROI of each channel before diving in.
2. Always optimize for mobile
No matter which channels you’re considering using to increase your sales, it’s always crucial to recognize the importance of mobile. Increasingly, customers are becoming more drawn to sales strategies which focus on putting mobile first. Think about how you can adapt your sales strategies to adhere to customers using their mobile for sales.
This could mean you select website themes and templates which are already mobile optimized. You could look at marketplaces which have their own mobile solution too. Always ensure your pages and checkouts load quickly and effectively on mobile screens.
Although the rules and regulations of each channel and marketplace may force you to adapt your listing and pricing strategy slightly, lack of consistency can cause significant damage to your brand. It’s worth making sure you’re offering the same pricing (For the most part), and showcasing a consistent brand image across all channels.
Maintain similar product descriptions and images across all online channels, and remember to think carefully about how you price your products when you’re selling offline too. If your products seem to be completely different depending on where you sell, this could lead to a loss of trust.
Always deliver excellent customer experiences
Customer service is perhaps the most important thing you can focus on when developing any sales strategy. More than anything else, customers will determine whether they’re going to be loyal to your brand and your products based on the experiences you can offer. If you fail to deliver an excellent level of service, your customers will start looking for solutions elsewhere.
With this in mind, think about how you can serve your customers effectively across all channels. Even if a marketplace or third-party retailer offers to handle most of the customer service on your behalf, you should still be ensuring they live up to your expectations. Pay attention to customer reviews and comments, so you can adapt your strategy according to your customer’s needs.
Best Practices for Multi-Channel Selling
Outside of the tips above, there are also some key best practices you should be considering if you’re planning on diving into the world of multichannel selling:
- Take it slow: Don’t dive into a multitude of different channels straight away. Focus on one core channel to begin with, such as your ecommerce site. As you begin to grow, add other channels one at a time, so you can monitor their success. Make sure you have the right resources to deliver consistent service across all online channels, social media platforms, and offline environments, to preserve your brand.
- Know your customers: Take the time to think carefully about your buyer’s journey. Ask yourself where your customers prefer to shop, and how you can give them the best possible experience. When working on your omnichannel strategy, focus on putting customer experience and satisfaction first. Deliver a streamlined and convenient shopping cart online, optimize your google shopping strategies with SEO, and always listen to customer feedback.
- Develop a marketing strategy: Your multichannel selling strategy should be accompanied by a compelling marketing plan which appeals to your customer base. Experiment with a range of different strategies, such as email and social media marketing, Google ads, and even influencer marketing and partnerships. The more you invest in marketing, the more your potential audience will grow.
- Pay close attention to inventory management: Make sure you can sync your in-store and online inventory so you’re never dealing with unnecessary out-of-stock issues. Tools like Shopify will allow you to track your sales across all channels at once. You’ll need to select an ecommerce platform which can provide behind-the-scenes insights into all of your sales, orders, and partnerships in one place. Keep track of your product data.
- Automate repetitive tasks: Automation can be extremely helpful for business leaders looking to expand across an omnichannel or multichannel sales strategies. You can automate things like order tracking and inventory management to take some of the work off your shoulders. There are even automation solutions which make it easier to upload consistent product descriptions and pricing structures to each channel you use.
Who should consider multi-channel selling
Multichannel marketing and selling can be an excellent way to increase your revenue and sales. However, you will need to ensure you have the right tools in place to automate time-consuming tasks, and track essential data in real-time. If you invest in the right order management solutions, and access ecommerce platforms and marketplaces with the correct functionality, you’re more likely to grow.
Multichannel sales strategies can improve your chances of competing with bigger retailers, and ensure you have the foundations you need in place for growth. If you want to increase your sales and revenue and connect with more customers, multichannel selling could be the ideal strategy.
What is an example of multichannel selling?
An example of multichannel selling might be a clothing retailer who sells their products on their online store, through offline boutiques, and even across marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy. Another example could be a SaaS company selling both on their own website and social media.
What is a multichannel product?
A multichannel product is any item you can sell across multiple different channels. For instance, you might sell furniture or home décor across marketplaces, your own website, social media, and even via offline channels like supermarkets.
What are the benefits of omnichannel sales?
The biggest benefit of multichannel selling is the ability to reach a wider selection of customers across a range of different channels. You can improve your sales and revenue by connecting with audiences in a range of different spaces. You’ll also benefit from improved brand recognition and competitiveness.
What are the benefits of multichannel selling for customers?
Customers benefit from omnichannel selling because they’re able to access all of the products they love across different channels. Customers can shop however they choose, rather than having to seek out a product from a specific environment.
How can you define multichannel selling?
Multichannel selling is simply selling products and solutions across a range of different channels, rather than being overly reliant on a single avenue. You might sell across marketplaces, via offline fairs, and even through your own website.
Why do retailers use multiple sales channels?
Most retailers invest in omnichannel and multichannel selling to increase their revenue and audience reach. The more channels you have to work with, the more sales you’re likely to make. Omnichannel selling also allows retailers to stay competitive. It ensures you’re not missing out on sales opportunities other brands may be taking advantage of.
What is the difference between single channel and multi-channel selling?
With a single channel strategy, you focus on exclusively selling to customers on one channel only. You might focus simply on selling items through a physical store, or through your own website. Multichannel selling allows you to sell items across a range of different environments, increasing your chances of sales.