There once was a time when people said, “To make it as a D2C brand, you should only be selling on your own website.”
Now, it’s said that “if you can’t beat Amazon, join them.” And indeed, data shows that having a strong multichannel ecommerce strategy is critical to success in today’s online world. A whopping 92% of sellers reported growth in their webstore sales within one year of launching to a new marketplace, with 25% having tripled their sales during that period.
In another study, sellers with three or more total sales channels were found to have grown their GMV 37% or more during the coronavirus pandemic, compared to single-channel merchants whose sales were down from pre-pandemic levels.
With all that said, it’s important for your business to establish a strong multichannel strategy. While balancing multiple channels at once can feel like a daunting task, it can be manageable (and highly rewarding!) if you set the right foundation. Check out the tips below for guidance on how to get started.
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Tip 1: Define the Purpose of Each Channel
Avoid taking a spray-and-pray approach to multichannel selling. Study the individual value of each channel as you would if you were researching a new customer segment to market to. Third-party marketplaces tend to offer a variety of different benefits, including:
- Access to New, Niche Audiences: While monthly visitor counts may vary wildly between channels, marketplaces attract specific buyer personas that regularly return to make purchases on their sites. This means that you have prime grounds to test certain products or campaigns geared toward those specific audiences.
- Customer Loyalty and Trust: Buyers tend to be extremely loyal to their favorite marketplaces because of the customer service that they’re received in the past. They’ve grown to trust the marketplace itself rather than a particular brand, so they’re more willing to try products that they’ve never heard of. (One survey revealed that 65% of shoppers would feel comfortable purchasing from unknown brands on marketplaces.) This offers newer brands a way to compete with larger household brands.
- Domain Authority: Marketplaces like Amazon.com have already established domain authority on search engines like Google. This means that if a consumer googles a product like yours, they will likely see an Amazon listing before any branded webpage. By selling on those channels, you can boost your chances of appearing high on Google search results. Note that most marketplaces additionally invest in advertising or email campaigns that help to get the word out about brands and products on their site.
- Unique Ranking Algorithms and UI/UX: Marketplaces level the playing field for brands of all sizes. They vet and rank merchants in their own ways, providing you the opportunity to outrank bigger brands through things like faster shipping, better prices or simply a higher quality listing. If you see clear opportunities like this, you should seize them.
Using the considerations above, identify what each marketplace can bring to the table. Think beyond “more sales” and hone in on specific reasons to invest in those channels from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective.
Tip 2: Centralize Your Catalog Data and Inventory
It’s easy to become disorganized or exhausted when you’re listing the same products to multiple places. Too many merchants waste time manually uploading their SKUs, then logging into each individual channel to create, edit or monitor listings as needed.
Over time, these merchants wind up with scattered, inconsistent data. For instance, while their Amazon listings may be up to snuff with the latest item specs and sexiest copywriting, their eBay listings may lack the same level of detail. This then disrupts their ability to land a sale on eBay, as well as fulfill orders without any defects because warehouse employees aren’t receiving the most up-to-date data.
Things get even more complicated when you try to manage inventory by hand. Your listed quantities will never be entirely accurate, and you could easily oversell if one channel starts selling like hotcakes one day.
The best way to handle inventory and catalog data is by centralizing this data inside a multichannel selling platform. You can choose to use a platform that solely manages one function or the other, or find one that tackles both.At the end of the day, you want a reliable solution that can keep your data organized and simplify your work.
As an example, one long-time Zentail user now manages over 31,000 multichannel listings in one place.
“Product upload is simple. I can upload 400 SKUs in less than 30 minutes with images, descriptions and categories all completed,” he said. “Last year, we were [also] overselling once or twice a week. We didn’t experience that this year at all.”
Tip 3: Prioritize Listing Quality
The importance of listing quality cannot be stressed enough. Your listings are what set the tone for the rest of the customer experience. Cutting corners when it comes to listing does your business a huge disservice. But with limited time (and frankly, too much to do), it can be tempting to duplicate your listings across channels, and slap up the minimally required product data.
This practice poses several problems:
- Marketplaces may notice that you’re duplicating content from another site and unpublish your listings
- You may stifle your chances of ranking, since each channel has its own ranking criteria and content guidelines
- You could be excluded from filtered search results, which use the advanced attributes of your listing (like material, use case or special features) to determine whether or not it belongs on those pages
- Conversion rates could be impacted if buyers aren’t seeing enough information or persuasive copy about your product
- You could put yourself at risk of negative product reviews if buyers feel that your product doesn’t match the description, pictures or other details that you provide in your listing
- You may face listing errors if your data isn’t formatted according to a channel’s requirements
Consider a listing automation tool that can cut down the amount of repetitive and manual work for you. The best tools will automatically map your data to each channel, mitigating listing errors. They will also help you identify advanced attributes to include in your listing, in addition to an easy way to customize listings on the fly.
Tip 4: Watch Your Prices
Maintaining price parity is essential for staying in the good graces of most marketplaces. This means that your product shouldn’t be found at a significantly lower price (including the price of shipping) on any site, whether as offered by you or a competitor.
While it’s natural to want to equalize your margins across marketplaces due to varying commission fees and services like FBA, breaking price parity can lead to listing suppression—or worse, account suspension.
One way to give your business more pricing flexibility is by reserving certain SKUs for specific sites. For instance, you could sell your high-ticket products on your webstore and low-ticket, out-of-season stock on marketplaces. You could alternatively leverage kits and bundles that package the same SKUs in different ways. While on Amazon you may be selling a single SKU of a product, on Walmart you could be selling a 3-pack at a slightly different per-unit price.
Keep in mind that if you use an automatic repricer for any channel, you’ll want to set your minimum and maximum prices accordingly. Make sure they’re not causing pricing issues when you’re not looking.
Tip 5: Proactively Promote Your SKUs
It’s always a shame to see sellers sitting on their haunches, waiting for buyers to find them. Especially if you’re getting started on a marketplaces for the first time, you’ll want to actively drive visitors to your listings in order to boost your chances of being seen.
Some tactics include advertising on channels. Nearly all of the major marketplaces offer their own version of promoted listings or other paid placements. Some channels like Walmart Marketplace also provide badges (read: special recognition) for sellers who can ship products out quickly or have a history of good customer service. So, you’ll want to see if and how you can qualify for those.
Beyond these tactics, you can tap programs like Amazon Vine to generate reviews. You can further promote your products using your social channels, newsletter and other communications with buyers.
Tip 6: Find a Fast and Reliable Fulfillment Solution—that’s Not FBA
Fast shipping is highly rewarded on marketplaces. And yet, it’s dangerous to rely on Amazon FBA to do the heavy-lifting for you. Even though Amazon offers a multichannel fulfillment option through FBA, most other channels frown upon—or expressly forbid—it’s usage.
Third-party logistics partner (3PL) like ShipBob or Deliverr are good alternatives to FBA. These services offer two-day shipping for most major channels and other advantages, such as transparent pricing, affordable warehousing and advanced reporting.
Some marketplaces offer programs that compete with FBA. Walmart has WFS, Wish has FBW. A few of these are invitation-only and may not offer as many services as FBA, but could be good options for sellers who need more hands-on assistance.
Tip 7: Adopt a Change Management Solution
Ecommerce never stops moving. When marketplaces decide to make changes to their UI or services then you, in turn, will likely be impacted.
One primary example is when Amazon changed its footwear listing requirements. In an effort to improve the user experience on its site, Amazon announced that shoe sellers must adapt their listings to a new sizing standard, plus provide many more details about their products.
When changes like this occur, sellers are often left scrambling to make changes on their own. After all, imagine having thousands—let alone hundreds—of SKUs and having to edit them all! That’s essentially what Amazon sellers had to do if they lacked an automated change management system.
For comparison: Some Amazon sellers had to toil for weeks to make their listing compliant. Others only tweaked their most important ASINs, and let others go unpublished until they could find the time to edit them in the future. Zentail users, on the other hand, simply had to enter a few new pieces of information into Zentail—then let SMART Types handle the rest. SMART Types automatically reformatted sizes according to Amazon’s new standards, ensuring compliance.
Tip 8: Measure Your Performance
A strong multichannel strategy requires having a goal and a way to tell whether or not you’re meeting it. Too often, sellers loosely define their goal as “make more sales.” But as touched on earlier, there’s a lot more to a marketplace than the sheer number of sales it can bring in.
You can analyze a variety of different metrics that track the health of your business:
- Profit margin
- Conversion rate
- Average order value (AOV)
- Return rate
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Customer lifetime value (CLTV)
- Sales price above minimum (SPAM)
Know how these metrics look from platform to platform, with the goal of discovering what could be optimized on each.
The tips above will not only help you to keep your head above water, but to also rise high above the competition. Building a multichannel ecommerce strategy isn’t necessarily common sense, so you’ll want to consult the best guides and experts on the topic before you dive in.
If you want to chat more with one of our own solutions specialists, schedule a call here. We’ll help you identify opportunities to strengthen your multichannel strategy and accelerate your business’ success.