What is Multi Channel eCommerce?

If you work in eCommerce, you’ve probably heard the term “multi channel eCommerce” tossed around before. It’s not a radical -- or even complex -- concept. Multi channel eCommerce is simply the practice of selling products online in more than one place.

Chances are, even if you’ve never experienced multi channel eCommerce from a business perspective, you’ve probably taken advantage of it before.

If you’ve purchased a product via social media platforms, through a third-party seller channel like Amazon, or even an online store, you’ve experienced multi channel eCommerce as a customer.

Channeling a Larger Audience

Channeling a Larger Audience graphic

Every place that your business sells products -- from brick-and-mortar stores to online platforms -- is a channel. 

This means that if you’re managing a local store on Main St., USA, and you’re also selling products via Amazon, you’re running a multi channel business. If you’re a baker who sells your products in your bakery, at the farmer’s market, on your website, via Uber Eats, and through Williams Sonoma, then you’re doing multi channel eCommerce. 

Smart businesses understand that while it’s critical to have your own sales channels, selling on multiple marketplaces exposes your products and brand to the widest audience. While marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba come to mind (and are definitely online marketplace giants) they certainly aren’t the only sources available for eCommerce.

In fact, eCommerce has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, Etsy, Google Shopping, and more niche platforms have sprung up over the years, increasing competition between platforms as well as an opportunity for retailers to use the wide variety of options to their advantage, and sell on multiple sites simultaneously.

buyer’s-journey graphic

Most retailers still maintain their own stores, sites, and social selling, but utilizing a multi channel eCommerce solution via third-party seller platforms can automatically increase your audience. Retailers can take it even a step further with an omnichannel strategy.

Other Advantages To Multi Channel eCommerce

Broader brand awareness aside, there are a number of other advantages to utilizing multiple channels to allow consumers to buy your products.

Reduced Risk

When you execute a multi channel strategy, selling your product in multiple places, you reduce risk via diversification. If your website crashes, your customers can still access and purchase your products online through another platform. If your store needs to close for a remodel or inventory, your website is still available to customers.

Consumers Shop Multi Channel

The average consumer uses two or more touchpoints when considering and purchasing a product. Even more significantly, nearly 50% of consumers regularly use more than four touchpoints. Almost three-quarters of shoppers visit both online and offline stores, making multi channel strategies more critical than ever before.

Furthermore, as the online marketplace becomes more saturated, multi channel advertising becomes increasingly necessary. Targeted ads on Facebook, Google, and even Amazon, among other paid media sources, will allow you to reach your audience more effectively. This also means having your product available in the same places you’re advertising (i.e. if you’re paying for ads on Amazon, your products should probably be listed there).

Save Time & Money

Without a doubt, eCommerce is growing. Companies like Amazon and Walmart are investing significant amounts of money in their own eCommerce platforms. While the average retailer can’t compete with that level of investment, you can piggyback on places like Amazon and Walmart’s innovations, and use their increasingly seamless platforms for your own gain. 

As they scale globally, so can you, provided that you sell your products on their platforms. It’s a far quicker and less expensive way to mass market your products. And the reality is that in today’s market, it’s challenging to grow without utilizing third-party sellers.

It’s Still Early

Thankfully, multi channel eCommerce is still an emerging strategy for many retailers. Hop on the train early, and carve out a niche market for yourself before your competitors do. Smaller companies may actually have more success with this than larger companies, as they can adjust their strategy and go multi channel more quickly. With new multi channel eCommerce software popping up consistently, smaller retailers can switch gears and take advantage of emerging platforms faster than their larger competitors. 

In addition to this competitive advantage, the evolution of multi channel eCommerce means consistent improvements to eCommerce technologies. There are a wide variety of platforms, tools, and software to choose from. You can use eCommerce tech to help you improve your inventory and order management and fulfillment, streamline the user experience, adapt to real-time market conditions, retarget customers based upon what they leave in their shopping carts, and more.

Not all channels are created equal.

Now is the time to create and implement a multi channel eCommerce strategy. Selling products online in more than one place can set up your business to grow without absorbing costs or losing time, reach a wider audience, take advantage of developments in technology, and ultimately outperform competitors.

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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