There’s a lot to be said about a brand that has built a strong business from a single website. But even for the most successful brands, there’s still plenty to be gained from selling on third-party channels like Amazon, Walmart Marketplace and Google.
In a recent interview with AMZ Advisers, our CEO Daniel Sugarman shares his thoughts on the power of multichannel selling. Keep reading for key highlights or watch the full interview below.
Why You Need To Sell on Multiple Channels
There’s no sugarcoating it anymore: to survive in ecommerce, you need to be selling on multiple channels. Buyers are hopping from site to site in search of the best value, and are becoming increasingly brand agnostic. That said, there are other clear advantages of multichannel selling like:
- Increased sales - With a multichannel approach, you can get your brand in front of large, established audiences that lend to new revenue streams. In fact, a whopping 92% of sellers saw at least 17% growth in their website sales within a year of expanding to a new channel, according to a Zentail study.
- Diversified sales mix - You've heard the saying, "Don't put your eggs all in one basket." This is especially true in ecommerce, where anything can change overnight. Amazon could pull the plug on one of its services (or your account) for various reasons. Your listing could get unpublished. A pandemic could completely change buying behaviors. Selling on multiple channels provides a safety net so that your business isn’t at risk of shutting down if something happens with any single channel.
- Brand expansion - If your brand is only accessing a portion of the market, then chances are you’re not growing as fast or as quickly as you could be. And even if you’re not selling on Amazon or other marketplaces, your competitors probably are. In a world where cheaper alternatives are cropping up all over the place, it’s best that you don’t get left behind by remaining isolated in a corner.
When Is the Right Time To Go Multichannel?
When you’re just getting your feet wet with ecommerce, it’s best to start small and expand gradually.
"In my experience, it makes sense to grow your brand on one channel—to get one channel really right and to really understand how to make sales happen online—[rather than launch to a bunch of channels right off the bat],” says Sugarman.
Since each brand is different, it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact moment when your brand should go multichannel. But Sugarman suggests hitting $1 million in revenue on a single channel before branching out. You should also understand what your long-term goals are before expanding. Ask yourself, is ecommerce just a side gig for you intended to earn extra money? Or is it a long-term endeavor—the beginnings of a brand that you want to actually invest in and grow?
Marketplaces like Amazon are one of the few places where both casual and serious sellers can be profitable, at least in the short term. But ultimately, those who thrive and become part of the top 1% are in it for more than fast cash.
What Platforms Should You Pay Attention To?
Amazon is often one of the first channels that sellers think of and sometimes, it’s the only channel they bother to invest in.
However, channels like Walmart and eBay shouldn’t go ignored. As the number two and three biggest online platforms in the U.S. respectively, they offer several advantages even over Amazon. Each marketplace appeals to a unique buyer persona and has taken steps to groom a loyal following (for example: WFS and Walmart+, or eBay’s evolution from a C2C to a B2C site).
"Facebook and Google can be really big in the long term,” adds Sugarman, “especially since they sort of own all of the advertising on the internet that's not on Amazon."
Same applies to niche marketplaces like Etsy and Pinterest.
The channels you ultimately choose to sell on depends on your category and target audience. Meanwhile, remember to treat each channel as its own domain. Investigate their competitive landscapes. Understand what makes their users tick. Don’t simply copy and paste your strategy from one channel to another—take the time to actually learn the ins and outs of each channel.
One of the Biggest Mistakes: Branching Out Too Soon
Numerous challenges inherently come with managing multiple sales channels at once—and branching out too soon can do more harm than good.
Sellers who jump the gun usually don’t have enough resources. Whether they’re strapped on cash, lack a strong logistics solution or don’t have enough time to dedicate to new channels, some may get frustrated before they’ve even given multichannel a fair chance.
Oftentimes, sellers may try to dip their toes in the water by making one or two products available on a new channel. They’ll take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to their listings instead of putting in the same level of work that they did for their first channel. Instead of paying close attention to marketplace SEO, optimizing their listings and/or analyzing helpful data, like product reviews, they’ll do the bare minimum to get launched.
They won’t get the results they expected to see in the short time that they’re on the channel (i.e., they’ll simply see that 99% of their sales still comes from the original channel) and call it quits. This then becomes a vicious cycle. They’ll invest less and less into multichannel success and wonder why other channels never worked out.
"We've definitely seen people who...expected complete magic in making a new channel work," says Sugarman. “You wouldn't expect that on Amazon and you shouldn’t expect that on these other marketplaces.”
“There’s a large segment of sellers that are looking to diversify and go multichannel [in the cheapest way possible],” he adds, “and that is when horror stories happen.”
Sellers who aren’t prepared for multichannel selling can face a host of operational issues, such as:
- Overselling because inventory isn’t properly synced across channels
- Breaking price parity while pricing items for each channel
- Problems fulfilling and shipping orders on time
- Failure to provide top-notch customer support
The above operational issues can ruin your relationship with customers in addition to the marketplace itself. On Amazon especially, you risk permanent account suspension if you let these issues get out of hand. Hence why you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and have the resources available before diving headfirst into multichannel selling.
Tips for Multichannel Success
If you’re looking to sell on multiple channels, here are a few tips to keep in mind, according to Sugarman.
Poor inventory planning is a trillion-dollar issue. And for some, the issue runs deeper than they realize. On one hand, when you run out of inventory, the opportunity cost is high; the people who would’ve bought your products simply aren’t able to because you’re out of stock.
On the other hand, overstocking can also hinder your growth. Say you want to sell a new, trending product. However, you can't because you don’t have the capital or warehouse space to afford the extra inventory. That’s a missed opportunity you don’t want to experience.
The trick is to find the sweet spot: the middle ground between having too many or too few products. To that end, automation can help. It can help you collect the data you need from each channel and work outside of traditional 30, 60 or 90-day forecasting windows. With the right multichannel inventory solution, you can view things like lead times, sales history, sales velocity and more in real time. You can avoid human errors in your calculations and make quick, yet informed decisions on your inventory.
It goes without saying that the more channels you sell on, the more data you have to manage. Whether you’re dealing with product data, sales data or trends data, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
This is another area where automation can help. A multichannel solution can consolidate your data into one place and help you stay on top of new opportunities. The best systems will provide real-time reports and recommend ways to improve your performance on each channel. They should also help you stay on top of any errors (like listing errors) and suggest ways to make your data more compatible or complete.
There are several things you have to get absolutely right in terms of your listings if you want to be a top seller:
- Beautiful listings - Put time into creating eye-catching imagery and persuasive descriptions that are unique to each channel. Take advantage of things that help with branding like EBC. Remember that customers want (and need) as much information as possible to make up for what they can’t see or touch. You need to instill confidence in them and make a strong impression the minute your buyers land on your listing.
- Compliance - You must be compliant with the requirements of each channel or else you risk suppression (or permanent account suspension). Know how to properly format and categorize your listings so that they receive maximum exposure. Don’t assume that marketplaces share the same policies or rank your listings in the same way.
- Positive reviews - Needless to say reviews carry a lot of influence online. You’ll want to proactively earn positive reviews by making sure your shipping, fulfillment and customer service are exceptional. Along the same lines, make sure your listings accurately represent your products. Address FAQs up front and help your customers fully visualize what they’re about to purchase.
- Accurate inventory - Making sure your listed quantities are correct 100% of the time. Take measures to avoid overselling or having to cancel orders that are already placed. A high ODR can affect your standing with marketplaces and/or lead to negative customer reviews.
How Zentail Can Help
“Zentail is the only system in the world that makes it really easy to have high-quality listings [by] adjusting your data and getting it exactly right on all these different sales channels,” says Sugarman, who built initially helped to build the platform’s technology when he, himself, was a seller in need of an easier solution for listing to multiple channels.
The secret sauce includes SMART Types, a patented tool that adapts product data to a marketplace’s complex rules and taxonomy. Using SMART Types, Zentail users can instantly categorize their products to multiple channels and avoid listing errors that stem from improperly formatted data.
Zentail is consistently rated five stars for its ease of use, customer support and trove of other valuable tools. It aims to simplify everything from catalog management to inventory management and even purchasing. Users can see how much of which item to buy in real time, plus create POs inside the system, in order to keep up with the demand of ecommerce.
The end goal is to help sellers navigate the complex world of online selling—or more specifically, multichannel ecommerce.