To be successful in today’s retail, it’s just a matter of how many sales channels you can sell in, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Not only must retailers sell across multiple channels, but they must also create a consistent experience for each customer touchpoint. Customers don’t see or shop by channel, they see every interaction with your brand as one in the same.
Creating that type of experience is tough. To help you become a better multichannel seller, we compiled 5 things that all successful multichannel merchants do. These tips will help you build a solid foundation for your multichannel business.
What All Successful Multichannel Merchants Do
While many sellers try to undertake a multichannel selling strategy, only a few of them succeed. However, retailers can overcome its challenges by setting their multichannel business up for success by focusing on these 5 key areas. Doing so, will help you meet customer expectations in the long run.
Take a look at what all successful multichannel merchants do.
1. Understand the Difference Between Multichannel and Omnichannel
Multichannel and omnichannel are two words that get thrown around a lot in the industry. Even worse, the two strategies are used interchangeably. However, they couldn’t be more different. Knowing the difference between the two will help you become a true multichannel seller.
Omnichannel retail “strategy” insists that you be everywhere–all possible channels like mobile, web, etc. Some of the ideas and concepts that omnichannel enthusiasts present are correct and useful. But, attempting to use “omnichannel” as the basis of your strategy will lead you down the wrong path.
The reality is – you can’t be everywhere. And, you shouldn’t be everywhere!
Multichannel, on the other hand, focuses on only selling where your customers are. It’s up to you to understand their needs. Then, it’s about building a business that specifically addresses today’s challenges in retail.
A multichannel strategy goes beyond omnichannel. Not only does it encompass selling across multiple channels, but also includes what goes on “behind the scenes” to meet operational requirements to make it happen.
2. Pick the Right Sales Channels
As we alluded to above, successful multichannel merchants only choose to sell in sales channels that make sense for their customers. It takes thoughtful consideration and strategy to consider what channels have potential for long term profitability.
As an Amazon seller, you might be ready to break out to your own branded site. Maybe you’re an eCommerce seller looking to open your first physical store. You can even be a B2B merchant considering selling direct to consumers.
Being a multichannel seller doesn’t mean selling across as many sales channels as possible just for the sake of expansion. It’s difficult to add this many channels at once, as each one brings its own complexities and challenges.
Undertake one channel at a time. If you need help evaluating what channels will make the most sense for your business, check out this useful guide to help you explore new channel opportunities.
3. Choose Systems for Multichannel Selling Capabilities
After choosing a new channel, you must choose which system to manage that channel. You’ll quickly find out that there’s loads of platforms to choose from. You have your pick of eCommerce, POS, marketplaces, shipping software, and more.
When choosing new software, be aware that some systems are better equipped for multichannel than others. You want a scalable platform that can easily integrate with both current and new platforms as you grow.
Picking the right systems is crucial to your success. You must be able to handle complex multichannel capabilities like drop shipping, order fulfillment from multiple suppliers, and much more. Don’t be tempted to buy simple plug-ins and add-ons to your current platforms instead of investing in a robust platform. As you grow, you’ll need the advanced functionality.
It’s also possible that you’ll need to update your existing systems to better support new multichannel processes. This could mean leaving behind any legacy, on-premise eCommerce, POS, and ERP platforms for cloud-based, SaaS ones.
If you’re not sure what systems you need, download this Multichannel Implementer’s Guide to help you evaluate eCommerce, POS, and ERP systems for multichannel selling.
4. Automate Business Processes in Real-Time
Successful multichannel merchants understand that selling across multiple channels is complex. If you want to ensure a consistent experience at every customer touchpoint, then you must centralize how you manage your channels, technologies, processes and people. There are certain operational requirements that must happen “behind the scenes” to consolidate and manage data from multiple sales channels.
Enter multichannel integration.
Multichannel integration allows you to connect all your retail systems so you have a central location to manage orders, inventory, products, customers, and shipping/tracking data. This enables you to update inventory levels across channels, fulfill orders quicker, and create consistent product listings. Through integration, these processes are automated in real-time so that you always have a single source of truth to make data-driven decisions.
Customers don’t shop “by channel” so why would you manage your business that way? If you separate your lines of business, you’ll create disparate experiences for both yourself and your customers.
Successful multichannel merchants use integration platforms like nChannel that take the complexity out of multichannel selling.
5. Make Customer Experience their #1 Priority
Any decisions you make must always focus on one thing.
That thing, or rather who, is your customers!
Your customers are smart. They’ll shop with merchants who anticipate their needs and provide the best experience. It’s no longer about who has the lowest price or the highest quality product. And if you don’t provide the right experience, technology makes it even easier for them to switch to other brands who meet their expectations.
As you build out your multichannel strategy, make sure your customers and their experience is always your #1 priority. If it is, then you’ll make the right decisions.
Multichannel Can Be for Anyone
When starting a multichannel strategy, it’s inspiring to look at what the top retail brands are doing. It’s also overwhelming. You might feel like their level of success is unattainable and that you don’t have access to the same resources.
But know this, you don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement a multichannel strategy that allows you to compete (and win!). You just need the right vision and willingness to invest in the right channels and technology.
About The Author & Company
This article was written by Jillian Hufford, nChannel’s Marketing Analyst. Using both her writing and analytic skills, she assists the Marketing and Sales teams. Jillian performs competitor market research, provides analysis of key sales metrics, and writes informative posts on multichannel commerce trends. She holds a BA in Marketing from Otterbein University.
nChannel provides the simplest integration software to automate multichannel processes such as online item listing, complex order fulfillment, drop ship, inventory synchronization, accounting and CRM integration.