There’s a common misconception that if you’ve cracked the code of one ecommerce marketplace, then you’ve cracked the code of most other marketplaces. After all, every marketplace strives to be like Amazon, right?
Well, let’s not jump the gun here. More often than not, Amazon sellers are disillusioned by other marketplaces and the complexities they present. While Amazon’s marketplace is far from perfect, it is leaps and bounds more developed than sites like eBay and Walmart.com.
This realization can be a shocker, and some Amazon sellers even struggle more than less-experienced sellers on these smaller marketplaces. The root of the issue is rarely a matter of competency. It’s often a matter of balancing the lessons learned from Amazon while casting aside personal biases and assumptions. The best multichannel ecommerce sellers know how to strike this balance and steer clear of common pitfalls.
The Perks of Selling on Multiple Channels
Despite the challenges, multichannel selling is a worthwhile pursuit. In fact, it’s almost always wise to expand to other marketplaces in order to avoid relying on a single source of sales. Case in point: during the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of sellers got the rug pulled out from underneath them when Amazon suddenly announced that it would temporarily disable its FBA services for “non-essential” product categories.
Amazon holds the majority of power in any seller-marketplace relationship and can, unfortunately, disrupt your cash flow overnight. To keep more control in your hands and to avoid any devastating surprises, you’ll want to reduce your reliance on Amazon by investing in other sales channels.
Additional perks include:
- Increased brand exposure - While Amazon’s monthly visitor count may dwarf traffic on other sites, you can still gain hundreds of thousands of new impressions on your product listings, which is nothing to scoff at.
- More sales - With increased impressions come more opportunities to land a sale. Amazon sellers who start selling multichannel through Zentail see, on average, 20% revenue growth as a result of greater brand visibility and profit margins.
- Exposure to new markets - Each marketplace caters to a unique buyer persona, which means that you have the opportunity to test various products, campaigns or strategies in front of new audiences.
- Less competition - On other channels like Walmart, there are fewer sellers vying for the same audience. Sellers are also vetted before they’re able to sell on the marketplace. On Walmart in particular, each seller gets 13x more exposure than on Amazon due to less competition.
- Increased brand control - By being present on marketplaces, you can better monitor for unruly resellers or take a competitive stance. Several marketplaces offer their own version of Brand Registry as well, offering extra protections to legitimate brands that are selling on their sites.
Why Amazon Sellers Struggle to Go Multichannel
With the above being said, you’ll need to be aware of the reasons why Amazon sellers get frustrated on non-Amazon channels. Prepare for these challenges ahead of time and establish the right habits, processes and automations to keep your brand ahead.
They Cut Corners with Listing
When sellers are short on time, one of the first things to slip is the product listing. This is problematic, considering how a high-quality listing means everything to the customer experience and sales performance. Yet, many Amazon sellers take a copy-and-paste approach to listings. Or, they use cheaper multichannel solutions that support this malpractice under the guise of “greater efficiency.”
More sophisticated solutions understand that this approach is dangerous. No two channels share identical taxonomies or listing requirements, so treating all listings the same means undercutting your ranking ability and putting yourself at risk of costly listing errors.
Some channels, like Walmart, may also penalize you for duplicating content. This is a violation of the channel’s content policy, which requires you to provide unique content for your title, description and other parts of your Walmart listing.
In other cases, Amazon sellers may haphazardly upload their products to a second marketplace. Rather than taking the time to provide advanced attributes or item specs, they’ll only upload what’s necessary to publish a listing. This results in low-quality listings that are excluded from filtered results pages, not optimized for marketplace SEO and ultimately aren’t discoverable by a large audience.
Their Time Is Tied up with Their Cash Cow
An ever-present issue in ecommerce is that time is limited. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that sellers need to prioritize the channel that’s already working well for them and will (understandably) devote any available hours to keeping their cash cow running smoothly.
But this often translates to minimal time given to secondary sales channels. While at the start of your multichannel pursuit, you may have eagerly set aside several hours to get your new accounts launched, you may quickly fall into the habit of doing just the bare minimum to keep your account active.
Unfortunately, replicating success on another channel isn’t as easy as rinsing and repeating your Amazon strategy. Every marketplace has its own requirements, ranking algorithms, UI/UX and other quirks that you need to take the time to learn. Hitting the jackpot requires playing to each marketplace’s strengths—or tapping someone who can do this for you.
Shameless plug: Sellers who use Zentail’s listing automation platform save over 100 hours a month. This is because of Zentail’s ability to handle redundant, tedious and error-prone tasks, such as listing, order routing and inventory tracking. Check out how our multichannel tools can help you to maximize your success on every major marketplace that you sell on.
They Don’t Invest Enough Inventory
Oftentimes, busy or cautious sellers will want to “test the waters” when it comes to new channels. They’ll list just a handful of SKUs—either a few best-selling items from Amazon or the items they’ve been looking to offload because they’re not performing well on Amazon.
They hedge all their bets on a few items, only to be disappointed by the lack of sales over the testing period (which is usually far too short). It’s worth noting that channels may also suppress your listings if you don’t list a large enough quantity, or if products have gone out of stock.
Sellers who list only a handful of products start at a disadvantage; few channels will reward half-invested merchants, especially when there are others who are willing to upload their entire catalogs to the marketplace.
They Lack a Way to Keep Inventory Synced
Needless to say that even if you have enough inventory listed, if you don’t have a system to track—plus reconcile—inventory across channels, then you leave yourself vulnerable to overselling or other order defects.
This is a surefire way to get canned on today’s marketplaces. And unfortunately, many Amazon sellers leave themselves exposed to this by trying to manage inventory by hand. Instead of tapping into a multichannel inventory tool that can sync inventory in real time, they will often list an arbitrary quantity, then routinely update this number as stock grows or shrinks.
They Rely Too Much on FBA
Nearly three-quarters of all Amazon sellers in the U.S. use Amazon FBA for fulfillment. This figure may not be surprising, considering how Amazon requires you to use FBA to be Prime eligible and thereby competitive on its marketplace.
However, multichannel fulfillment through FBA (also known as MCF) currently isn’t accepted by other marketplaces. Some channels explicitly forbid the use of FBA for fulfillment on their channels and do not recognize Amazon Logistics codes as valid tracking numbers.
This can lead to high ODR (late shipments, untrackable shipments, etc.) and suspension if you’re not careful. A better alternative to MCF is a reliable 3PL partner or other channel-specific services, like WFS.
It’s Hard to Understand the ROI of Smaller Channels
The factors above all contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which a seller is only half-invested in making a new channel work and quickly throws in the towel when the channel doesn’t meet expectations.
This “half-in-half-out” approach is propagated by the knowledge that Amazon is king when it comes to size and scale. When sales numbers are overshadowed by their Amazon sales, sellers tend to write off other channels as wasted effort.
In actuality, smaller, niche marketplaces deserve a different set of goals and evaluation criteria. The value of these marketplaces is in their strong, loyal (albeit smaller) followings. Take eBay, for example. eBay largely exists to satisfy the interests of hobbyists and deal hunters, who are characteristically willing to purchase older models of products for a better price.
"You have the ability to segment your focus [on niche marketplaces], and that's something that should be taken into account. Mass merchants aren't the whole pie," Newegg Senior Marketing Manager Gregory Rice pointed out in a recent webinar with Zentail. “You have these customers in these targeted demographics that have this loyalty and this trust that they've built up with the platform [across the years].”
While smaller marketplaces may not be able to offer the same level of sales as Amazon, they offer diversity in both the shoppers you’re able to reach and the types of sales you can make.
Key Takeaways: How to Get Multichannel Right—the First Time
In conclusion, while your experience on Amazon will certainly come in handy at times, you’ll want to prepare yourself for the complexities of multichannel ecommerce. Don’t assume that every channel can be managed exactly like Amazon.
Treat new channels as unique environments and form healthy habits like:
- Understand the value of each channel before you jump in (read: don’t expect Amazon-level sales on most niche marketplaces)
- Identify and play against the unique strengths of these marketplaces
- Prioritize listing quality on each channel by providing advanced attributes and unique copy
- Simplify your work through automation, whether that’s for product listing, inventory management or other key operations
- Find an alternative to FBA in order to fulfill multichannel orders
- Set aside enough time and attention for secondary channels, even considering ways to prime the pump (think: ads, SEO strategy or other forms of promotion)