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How to start growing beyond your shopping cart into a multichannel ecommerce business

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The key to ecommerce success isn’t rocket science, but it’s something that both early-stage sellers and larger “comfortable” brands tend to ignore until their sales have plateaued — or completely dropped off. To be successful online, you must diversify your sales channels and sell on multiple channels. 

Whether that means going beyond your web store or diversifying past Amazon, it’s crucial for your brand to establish a strong multichannel ecommerce strategy to get ahead of the competition. 

Nowadays there’s a plethora of public marketplaces at your disposal: eBay, Walmart, Google Express, Instagram and Facebook, to name a few. Here’s how they can add value to your online business and pay dividends in the long run. 

Lower your reliance on one ecommerce platform

You mitigate risks when you diversify your channels. Aside from opening up more revenue streams, you safeguard your business from crises like a suspension.  

Suspension and similar events happen every day for reasons that may or may not be your fault. It might be because of poor seller performance, policy changes, fraudulent or planted reviews, customer complaints, One Vendor repercussions, or others.

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History shows that even multimillion-dollar companies can be affected overnight by a sudden account suspension. Once suspended, getting reinstated can be difficult, and some platforms may offer little insight as to why you were suspended in the first place. 

Needless to say, you never want to be without at least one sales outlet. When one goes down, the others should stay up. When listing to multiple sites, you also reduce the likelihood of losing sales to competitors after a customer bounces off your site. For example, say that a customer finds a hat that they like on your site. Out of curiosity, they venture to Amazon.com where they have Prime shipping. Your hat isn’t listed there, but there are several other hats that look similar and are available for next-day delivery. Just like that, you lose a sale. 

A recent survey by Episerver revealed that 92 percent of consumers who visit a brand’s site for the first time aren’t there to make a purchase. Rather, 45 percent are searching for a product or service, and 26 percent are comparing prices and other variables. 

You have two options at this point: to idle around until your buyer comes back; or follow him/her to the next site. The barrier to entry on established marketplaces is low—and those marketplaces will even do the hard work for you. They will promote your products, index them on Google, and personalize search results to the individual user.

You can additionally tap into self-service branding tools, such as Amazon Enhanced Brand Content, which lets you spruce up your ASINs with custom imagery and text. 

Why you shouldn't hedge all your bets on one platform

Many sellers make the mistake of going “multichannel” by simply listing to Amazon.com. You can also imagine how many people are wooed over by Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and the promise of convenient, stress-free fulfillment.

But as the most advanced ecommerce sellers will tell you, neither Amazon nor FBA should ever be your end-all-be-all. Neither FBA nor tenure nor Vendor Central status will exempt you from account suspension. 

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You do yourself a disservice by relying entirely on Amazon for mission-critical processes, too. While it could make a great extension of your store, it should never dictate the overall health of your business or supply chain.  

Get your ecommerce brand in front of an established audience

Did you know that 52 percent of product searches now start on Amazon? And 65 percent of consumers surveyed by DigitalCommerce360 said they felt comfortable purchasing from merchants they’ve never heard of before on marketplaces.

The bottom line is that users trust today’s well-known marketplaces. Those marketplaces have groomed a reputation and an audience that regularly comes back to their sites for reliable product reviews, special deals, fast shipping and other benefits. 

Even sites that don’t attract as many monthly users as Amazon have the advantage of niche audiences. This provides fertile ground for testing new products, a strategy that Kellogg’s took when launching its on-the go smoothie, Joyböl. Kellogg’s limited its launch to Amazon Fresh, Walmart and Boxed to get early feedback from its intended consumers.

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Moreover, the Walmart.com’s of the world (and even Amazon now, a la Kohl’s) have brick-and-mortar extensions for offering more convenient return options and customer services.That, in turn, gives buyers more of an incentive to buy from your brand — provided that you’re on these marketplaces.

Marketplaces have already done what would usually take a brand years of experimentation, resources, and money to achieve.. By selling on these marketplaces, you gain a guaranteed audience or, at least, a guaranteed chance of getting in front of people who are ready to buy. In ecommerce, that’s often half the battle. 

Be where your competitors are

Sales channel diversification is as much of a defensive play as it is an offensive one. Your consumers are already shopping on marketplaces and seeing your competitors there, so it’s important to list at least a portion of your catalog before your competitors woo your customers. Once listed, you can look into algorithmic repricers like Zentail’s Amazon and Walmart repricers or reporting tools to keep your prices competitive (while maximizing profits).

It’s important to note that marketplaces come with their own ranking algorithms. If you can optimize your product listings, provide faster shipping, and maintain higher seller metrics, you could be cruising at the top of search results and/or buy boxes. 

You can pick off competitors organically or combat them through paid promotions. For example, Amazon has Sponsored Products. eBay has Promoted Listings. Google’s got Shopping ads. Each marketplace has a variety of advertising options that you can use to give your high-value SKUs a lift. 

First and foremost, you need to establish a presence where your customers are going to evaluate different products. Then, you can finalize the sale and reduce churn by providing superior on-site and off-site experiences—for which your marketplace will duly reward you.

How to prepare for multichannel with the right software

If I could leave you with one last piece of advice, it’s this: invest in the right ecommerce software.

Going multichannel has extraordinary benefits — if you’re well-equipped to handle listings, inventory, and orders across multiple channels. While you may be able to get away with managing one additional channel by hand, every new channel you add will complicate your operations. 

Every channel has unique requirements, user experiences and quirks. By partnering with the right software and a team of experts who know these differences, you can save yourself months of heartache.

About Zentail

Zentail is a five-star, industry-leading solution for listing automation and multichannel management. It has earned its reputation as a true commerce operating system with its unparalleled capabilities, clean interface and reliable integrations into today’s top marketplaces. Manage your catalog from one spot and rest easy knowing that you won’t oversell or lose sight over any component of your operations. 

Zentail is also a trusted partner of Brex. Earn up to a $5,000 credit towards your Zentail contract when you sign up with Brex. Learn more about this offer

Photo credit: Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

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