There are many solutions for boosting sales on your preferred channels. All of those strategies can be pretty effective in the right hands. But all good long-term plans eventually go beyond offering on a single channel. Multi-channel retailing is one of the later steps you should take when expanding your store. Whether you have an Amazon storefront or brick-and-mortar store, you should never settle with what you have.
Below, we will explore the definitions of what it means to be “multi-channel.” We will also detail some tricks you can use to grow your business on multiple platforms.
1. What is Multi-Channel Retailing?
To be a multi-channel retailer means you offer products on more than one storefront. That means your product appears on platforms like Walmart, Amazon, Shopify, and your physical location.
More commonly, businesses tend to pursue multi-channel marketing. Marketing involves advertising on multiple platforms like social media, Amazon PPC, and Google Ads. Choosing multiple channels just means you do it in more than one way.
The Value in Being a Multi-Channel Retailer
The value behind becoming a multi-channel retailer comes back to customer experience. You can’t just limit yourself to a small number of channels. Instead, you need to diversify your offerings.
This diversification improves your customer service because you can tailor it to various needs. For example, physical stores appeal more to people who like to touch and feel their products. Online stores appeal more to people who enjoy the convenience of not leaving their homes.
Adding options to the customer journey comes with excellent benefits. These benefits include the potential for a seamless experience between multiple sales channels.
This change isn’t going to happen overnight. Instead, you need to focus on building your retail experience with one store before expanding to others. Cross-channeling, or the process of going between different channels, requires the ability to delegate duties.
Before we get too far into these talents, we need to understand how multi-channel compares to another common buzzword: Omni-channel.
Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel Sales - How Do They Compare?
When discussing omni-channel vs. multi-channel retailing, neither is better. The significant difference is that omni-channel works as a single sales funnel, resulting in spillover of inventory counts and channels.
Multi-channel is different because it divides the customer channels into separate sections. That means Amazon inventory, Walmart inventory, and your physical store inventory aren’t grouped together..
If you use Amazon and prefer an Omni-channel style, you need to be a Fulfillment by Merchant (FMB) Seller. You will handle all logistics and the physical storage of your inventory. That way, you have complete control of your stock and sales, resulting in easier tracking between channels.
Multi-channel sellers do best as fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Sellers. This way, you can take the logistics of control and storage out of your hands. It’s best to let others handle the fulfillment.
No option is really “better,” than the other. Choosing omnichannel vs. multi-channel battle depends on your own preferences. However, new sellers will want to make things as simple as possible and start with a single store: Amazon.
2. Why Amazon is the Best Place To Start
In a perfect world, you could start anywhere to learn the basics. But Amazon Multi-channel retailing is your best start. There are a few reasons for this:
Amazon Has the Lowest Barriers of Entry
Many Amazon stores are run by ambitious individuals who will eventually take advantage of the Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) program. All that is needed is a valid address and a general plan to get started.
The Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment Program is a Great Start
Amazon MCF is the ultimate starting point for newbies to handle multiple digital channels. Your inventory management is still with Amazon, meaning you don’t have to worry about split inventory management.
The Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment program is easy to confuse with omni-channel. However, when comparing omni-channel vs. multi-channel, the different storefronts are what make them different.
Amazon Also Provides Access to Multiple Marketing Channels
Amazon has mass ownership of multiple websites. As a result, their advertising options are already multi-channel among various digital options.
That means you don’t necessarily have to rely on only Amazon ads when going through their advertising platform. There is also a separate Amazon Advertising Solution for those who want to expand beyond the regular sponsored ads.
3. Five Top Ways To Boost Sales Using Multi-Channel Retailing
Once you find you are ready for multi-channeling, you can move on and open a secondary store. But how do you effectively use that secondary store to boost those additional channels? We have five tips below.
Use Multiple Online Channels To Establish Brand Awareness
Having multiple channels is an excellent way for you to increase brand awareness. That brand awareness will draw more sales between your different channels.
Under multi-channel marketing, you can announce the addition of a new listing on Walmart. That Walmart listing will gain attention, and allow more customers to make purchases. When you start getting more purchases, your product gets more exposure.
With enough reviews and purchases, Walmart will expose your product to an entirely new target audience. Through the strategic placement of product inserts, you can draw people to go to your social media pages.
Exposure to those pages has approval for most platforms, including Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment. It is that exposure that allows you to sell directly to your customers over doing so through anyone else’s platform.
Why Would You Want To Sell Directly To Customers?
You might think that it is more of a headache to sell directly to customers. However, you’ll find that unrestricted phrases and tactics take the pressure off.
Ideally, you’ll want to use your social media platform and email list to make announcements, share blogs, and build your social clout. Sites like Amazon and Walmart are fantastic at getting the word out, but you don’t want to play by their rules all the time.
Here are some examples of things you can do on your social media sites:
- Create direct announcements of sales of your products
- Announce the new release of your product multiple times
- Create blogs and social media posts to share with consumers
- Establish contests and events to grow your product base
Third-party sites rarely allow you to engage with your customers effectively. While Amazon and Walmart are great sites that give you a strong foundation of selling, engaging with your consumers beyond the sale is better.
Your Product Can Excel on Other Sales Channels
When you decide upon secondary platforms, you’ll want to do some research to find out what platforms work might work best for you.
In some cases, you’ll find that your product ends up being better suited for finding success there than the initial platform. For example, those who participate in Amazon Multi-Channel retailing might find their homemade birdhouses do better on Etsy.
This scenario makes some assumptions about what works on Etsy, but the point is this: find out what works. Do some research on different online marketplaces to see what they lack. Find out if their audience for that item is big enough to meet your goals and list your product there.
Examples of Other Channels To Consider for Your Product
- Amazon - We’ve already mentioned the usefulness of Amazon Multi-Channel Retailing.The only items that struggle here are fresh foods (assuming you aren’t near a Whole Foods).
- Etsy - Etsy is fantastic for crafty individuals who like making homemade items. Vendor fees are a bit high, but those who can find and meet a trend for custom items can easily find a home here.
- eBay - eBay has an incredibly generous return policy (180 days) that makes it great for customers. It’s also great for sellers who want an international target. It also has an easy-to-use interface, but isn’t well-known by professional shoppers.
- Walmart - Walmart Marketplace is quickly becoming more approachable for individual sellers. They also have unique fulfillment centers similar to Amazon’s. However, the barriers to entry are still a bit higher than Amazon’s.
- Newegg - Newegg is best known for computer part aficionados. However, those who sell any sort of electronics are welcome. If you are a techie that wants to get into the field, this is a great place to go.
- Shopify - Shopify already coordinates with Amazon and Walmart through unique storefronts. They are a great way to help you establish your eCommerce website and easily integrate with existing marketplaces.
There are many other marketplaces and listing sites. These marketplaces only scratch the surface.
Don’t be afraid to try on a few until you find something that meets the right fit. Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick it out on a platform that you find difficult to use or doesn’t work for you in some way.
Create a Different Strategy for Each Selling Channel
Amazon Multi-Channel Retailing is entirely different from using Walmart, Newegg, or other marketplaces. While there will always be some crossover, you can’t rely on old methods for new places. Your cross-channeling efforts need you to evolve.
By creating a different strategy for each channel, you’ll understand the unique factors of each track. For example, Walmart doesn’t require you to share listings with other people. Instead, you keep the listing all to yourself.
Instead of focusing on being the most competitive on a listing, you focus on being competitive for search terms. Quality of customer experience, shipping, and other factors are also important.
There will always be standard metrics across the board with eCommerce. Each site will still have you focus on different things.
Areas of Focus for Each eCommerce Site
|Site||Focus Areas When Selling|
|Amazon||Winning the buy box, Amazon SEO, the Brand Registry, FBA Selling|
|Walmart||Two-Day delivery, competitive pricing, attribute selection|
|eBay||Keyword-drive search, eye-catching photos, have a quick shipment time|
|Etsy||Having beefy content, optimizing your listing for keywords, appropriate categories|
|Shopify||Website building, Google SEO, content creation, website management|
|Newegg||Keyword-driven content, appropriate keywords, using both images and videos|
4. Don’t Forget Multi-Channel Marketing
Having your products listed on multiple platforms is a good start, but i not going to get you anywhere unless you allocate marketing budget for the new platform as well.
Walmart has been beefing up its digital marketing, Amazon’s digital marketing is on point, and almost all marketplaces now allow you to pay for the best positions. But until you establish your brand on these platforms, you will have to pay if you want top billing.
Even after you become a top brand, other sellers will constantly be gunning for your title. You must continue to keep up your marketing campaigns on multiple platforms.
In addition, long-term strategy demands that you provide links to areas outside of your product listing pages.
Why Would I Want To Buy Ads Placed Outside of Product Listings?
If your ultimate goal is to boost sales, why would you want to pay for ads that point away from your sales? To understand why it’s essential to look at modern sales funnel strategies.
Sales funnels guide your customer where you want them to go, encouraging the customer to provide their information. Many sales funnels start by offering you a “free” item in exchange for your email address and name.
Check out more on DataHawk's Sales Reporting tool in the video below:
Some people are willing to trade that information in exchange for the item. It can be a book, or anything that provides value to the customer.
Even when they don't buy the item, they have still clicked on your website and expressed interest. Ads can then re-target customers over the following few weeks until a response is made.
Offering freebies is a great way to grow your email list or draw people on to your site to complete desired actions. The more people you have on your social media and email lists, the more potential sales you can make.
Not everyone will want to buy from you, but a small percentage of people might. As long as your brand continues to provide value (instead of just asking for sales), you’ll draw an audience.
Focus on Customer Experience and Inventory Management
The last tip you can have goes back to the simplest of concepts. You can’t sell without products in stock, and you won’t sell without happy customers.
The two concepts are not unique to cross-channeling, and you already receive constant reminders of that if you pay attention to your dashboard.
But when you work between multiple platforms with multiple sets of inventory, you need to be extra vigilant. The only way to keep these stores functional is if you have a working system.
Be sure that all of your notifications are ready well before stockouts occur. Most marketplaces have access to notification systems.
Many Amazon Sellers use our product monitoring tool. If you aren’t already doing so, you should seriously consider using our Amazon Seller dashboard. Rather than going back and forth between multiple places to get all the information you need, our dashboard has product notifications, automation, and market fluctuations all in one place.
Ultimately, your goal should be to delegate and automate as many of these tasks as possible.
Why Would I Need To Delegate and Automate My Business?
A good business should be able to run without you. If you need to be there to approve everything, you are the bottleneck. As a business owner, you can’t afford to be the biggest problem in your business.
That’s why you need to delegate tasks and automate simple procedures. For example, checking on your inventory every day is a low-level activity. Consider hiring someone with inventory management skills to help you out.
If your fulfillment process is handled by third parties (FBA, Amazon Marketplace, etc.), hire a virtual assistant to check up on these things for you.
If you trust them, they can also order new stock to be shipped directly to warehouses. If you can focus more on big-picture activities as a multi-channel retailer, that’s less time-wasting for you and your staff.
5. Tips for Leveraging Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF)
When comparing omni-channel vs. multi-channel selling, Amazon might stretch the rules a bit on inventory management. Still, having multiple storefronts whose inventory comes from a single managed inventory source is a huge time saver. That’s why it’s good for you to learn how to use Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment.
Here are some tips you can take home:
Utilize Multi-Channel Listing Software
Accessing Seller Central as an MCF seller will reveal additional access to third-party applications. Those apps that fall under multi-channel software can make things easier on you.
Treat It Like A Standard Amazon Sale
Amazon still handles Amazon MCF. As a result, be sure to familiarize yourself with the TOS. The Amazon Seller Central Guide provides you some handy information on getting started.
Here are some of the most critical aspects of this guide:
- Amazon provides a specific fee calculator to MCF sellers.
- MCF orders are still provided in Amazon-branded packaging, but you can choose to request a “blank box” by putting in a request.
- Amazon allows you to ship with Amazon Logistics for a 5% surcharge. You can choose to exclude MCF from shipping with Amazon Logistics.
- Amazon MCF has more restrictions than FBA on getting reimbursed for lost or damaged goods.
- Amazon cannot reimburse you for MCF fulfillment fees.
From this, you can see that Amazon still has a bit of a preference for FBA sellers.
Be Extra Careful When Tracking Inventory
MCF means that you have multiple storefronts where inventory appears. If you manage to gain success on your off-site endeavors, that’s great! However, that also means you need to keep a close eye on inventory.
This situation is especially critical during seasons with high sales volume. For example, you don’t want to run out of toys if you specialize in providing products for toddlers. It could tank your ranking on Amazon, making you more reliant on your alternate MCF site.
Do Not Only Rely on Amazon Multi-Channel Retailing
You might think that this is the answer to having multiple channels. While Amazon MCF is a step in the right direction, it is still reliant on Amazon. If your goal genuinely is to diversify, you’ll need to include a third-party option.
Walmart Marketplace will not work with Amazon. Other smaller companies like Newegg or Etsy don’t have the same level of Amazon integration. If you know your niche is needed on other sites, don’t rely solely on Amazon to make your sales.
Be an Amazon Professional Seller
Amazon Professional Sellers have access to additional metrics and customer data. This data can be used on any platform with enough thoughtfulness. However, the amount and quality of information are limited for individual sellers.
Ideally, you’ll want to start by being a professional seller and eventually expand to become part of the Amazon Brand Registry. Each of these programs has the added benefit of brand building and metrics, making you more effective at cross-channeling.
6. What Do I Need To Be A Successful Multi-Channel Retailer?
To be a successful multi-channel retailer, you need to start with a small store. Once you’ve gotten a handle on that, your process needs to be scalable. That means you need to be able to expand it with relative ease.
Many of the tips above will help you boost sales, but delegating and automating is key to scaling your business. Otherwise, expect to scramble a lot and have a higher potential for inventory issues. Ideally, you’ll want as little as possible to do with smaller tasks. Trusting your staff allows you to focus on running an excellent company.
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