Today’s internet user flits about here and there, rapidly moving between websites and devices. Not only do their smartphones give them stable high-speed internet access on a 24/7 basis, but they also have an indulgent level of retail choice: countless stores and merchants seeking their custom, with almost any product available from numerous sources.
This makes it incredibly difficult to thrive in ecommerce. You’re just one store of many, and relying on shoppers visiting your store might not be enough. That’s where multichannel retail comes in: making your products available through various channels, with each one giving you fresh chances to pick up some purchases.
But it isn’t as easy as it might sound. Plenty of businesses have tried to adopt multichannel tactics but encountered some major issues in the process. If you’re determined to make the most of your online store, you need to avoid these 5 rookie multichannel retail mistakes:
There’s a reason why we’re talking about multichannel retail instead of omnichannel. You can’t realistically be everywhere, and if you tried to get your products in every possible channel, you’d face an almighty struggle trying to handle the situation. What’s more, some channels are never going to return the kind of profit you’d need to justify them.
Most worrying, though, is the prospect of damaging the perceived value of your brand. You should aspire to being perceived as a quality brand, and not every marketplace is suitable for that — you could even make an argument that offering your products through the Amazon marketplace could undermine the value of your own ecommerce site.
Think carefully about every channel you could use, and disregard every option that doesn’t offer clear long-term ROI with little to no damage to your brand.
Maximizing the potential of an ecommerce business is all about analytics: gauging performance, altering the strategy, making changes, then testing again. Lather, rinse, repeat. And given that (as noted) different channels invariably target different parts of the sales funnel, it’s impossible to form a cohesive impression of how things are going if there are any holes in your analytics.
Not only do you need to ensure that every channel is fully configured for tracking goals (most likely in Google Analytics), but you also need to connect them whenever useful to push people through the sales funnel. You’re not typically going to earn a sale through the first impression.
For instance, someone just learning about your brand on Instagram might not be ready to buy, but they might be interested in learning more about your style — so include links in your Instagram posts, helping people find you on Twitter (or wherever) and keeping them in your sales funnel for as long as possible.
How do you write sales content? Some brands use the same materials for everything they do, simply cutting them down or expanding them as needed to meet changing format requirements. This is a huge error, because every channel requires a unique approach. Take the content that you have on your ecommerce site’s product pages — would it fit on Pinterest?
Social media in particular not only asks for specific image sizes and content lengths, but also reaches people at different points in the sales funnel. Anyone who’s visited your site likely has some idea of what you’re selling, but someone who sees your post on Facebook might find your brand totally unfamiliar, needing the content to slowly nudge them towards converting instead of cutting right to the chase.
So cater your text, tone and imagery to each individual channel, bearing in mind whatever limitations are placed on it. That should optimize your overall return.
Selling online is fantastically valuable, but it isn’t the only way to bring in revenue. Consider the importance of going against the grain. Now that almost everything is sold online, traditional retail can feel special again — and when you’re competing in an online market with slim profit margins and big brands with the infrastructure to stay ahead, it can help you keep up.
This isn’t to say that you should maintain a full-time brick-and-mortar store, because that’s an expense that you likely can’t (and shouldn’t) sustain.
Instead, look for more ephemeral ways to pick up more offline sales: for instance, hype up and host a pop-up shop, strike a deal with an existing store to have some of your items stocked year-round, and/or make your products available at relevant industry events. It’s easier than ever before to digitally preview products, so it isn’t too much of an issue if you have far too large a range to take everything with you.
Multichannel retail is complicated. It takes the essential challenge of online retail and ramps it up, requiring you to keep track of orders across distinct systems and ensure that everything continues to run smoothly. Key to the whole thing, then, is having the right systems in place to keep everything in line.
Armed with the right software, you’ll find it much easier to navigate the awkward path of moving into multichannel retail. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do things manually — make the necessary early investment to keep costs down in the long term.
Multichannel retail is a necessity if you want your business to stay competitive, but you need to take it seriously and be keenly aware of the mistakes we’ve looked at here. Work to avoid these pitfalls, and you’ll have a much greater chance of succeeding.
For more information on starting your own ecommerce business, don’t forget to check out my guides or blog for the latest news, tips and advice.