One of the biggest challenges in eCommerce is establishing and growing your presence across multiple channels simultaneously. Many sellers start out simply: a few listings on a third-party marketplace or a DIY eCommerce site to get the ball rolling. From there, expanding to new marketplaces and bolstering your B2B and/or B2C offerings introduces enticing new revenue streams.
While an omnichannel approach provides the greatest opportunities for sales conversions, it also comes with its own host of challenges. There are several crucial considerations and strategies that will improve your chances to become a multichannel success story.
1. Invest Time in Understanding Your Customers
Before you can implement any eCommerce marketing strategy, you need to know your audience. Your brand, your merchandise, and your online presence all must be tailored to the prospective customers that have the most interest in what your business has to offer — regardless of what channels they use to find your products.
Ultimately, it is essential to understand the journey of an eCommerce buyer — from awareness to purchase — and ensure that you are positioned to capture the most profitable leads. Consider the fact that shoppers may come to your products from any variety of sources including organic searches, third-party marketplaces, social media posts, blog articles, paid advertisements, email marketing campaigns, or (ideally) as returning customers. Start by honing in on the keywords and gateways that draw people to your brand through these various entry points. From there, the key is effectively distinguishing between the patterns of behavior that lead to sales and those that don’t. Doing so can give you the key information necessary to steer your marketing efforts.
Simply put, the more you learn about your customers, the better prepared you can be to adapt your listings to the customers you are trying to attract and convert. As times, tastes, and customer behaviors evolve, both your catalog and your marketing approaches should as well. The best eCommerce businesses are those that are the most agile and responsive when it comes to their customers.
2. Establish a Customer-Friendly Online Shop
Third-party marketplaces are customarily where eCommerce businesses start; onboarding is simple and there are treasure troves of established customers ready to reach. While many online businesses — including many of the world’s leading brands — remain active and profitable on these channels, there is real value in expanding an eCommerce brand reliant on third-party sales platforms into a thriving first-party business.
One of the most important steps in this process is creating your eCommerce website. To begin with, you need a site that attracts your ideal customers - whether they are B2B, B2C, or both. This means search engine optimization (SEO) tasks like keyword optimization, focused metadata crafting, and internal/external link building must be priorities.
Of course, attracting customers to your site won’t mean much if they can’t find what they need once they get there. An attractive and functional user interface (UX) is vital. Visual appeal, responsive design, speed, and simplicity will make sure customers get the most out of their shopping experience and are more likely to come back to shop again.
From there, there are a whole host of other considerations to account for: shopping cart integration, security, and PCI compliance to name a few. Thankfully, platforms like Shift4Shop help streamline and simplify the process of building and maintaining the ideal eCommerce site for your business.
Diversifying your eCommerce reach with a blend of both third-party marketplace listings and first-party website sales helps to maximize conversion potential and to set your business up for ongoing growth and profitability.
3. Maintain a Deliberate and Focused Catalog Specific to Each Channel
Once you have a potential customer’s attention (whether it is on a marketplace or your own eCommerce site), the last thing you want to do is risk them moving on because they aren’t being shown the merchandise best matched to their intentions. Ideally, a customer should be able to search for the product they are looking for — either via a traditional search engine or a marketplace search box — and land on the perfect product in three clicks or less. Just like with website SEO, ensuring your catalog contains the right keywords and descriptions is important.
Whether you are still in the beginning stages of unifying your branding approach or looking to evaluate your existing catalogs, use customer data as your guide. Knowing that oftentimes specific SKUs are better suited for specific channels than others, routinely audit which products are and aren’t selling across your active marketplaces. Removing clutter increases the speed and likelihood that a shopper finds the perfect product without having to sift through the merchandise they have no interest in. Pay attention to the search terms that bring buyers to your highest performing product listings. Apply what works to those that are underperforming. In extreme cases, consider removing stagnant listings and products altogether.
It’s worth mentioning that while focused catalogs tailored to your customers are important, large catalogs aren’t a deal-breaker — as long as there is both an intentionality and purpose to the products you feature across the channels where you sell.
The more mindful and deliberate you are with what you are selling and where, the more likely the list of products you sell will be different across your sales channels. Even so, the most important thing to remember from a marketing perspective is that even though your catalogs may vary site-to-site, keeping a steady brand focus matters; the consistency in presentation and branding should remain throughout your entire eCommerce presence. Your keywords, logos, color schemes, image styles, and messaging tone should evoke a commonality and familiarity for shoppers wherever they encounter your products. Be just as purposeful in how you present your products as you are in choosing which ones to feature.
4. Curate a Reliable, Consistent End-to-End Shopping Experience
Getting your eCommerce catalogs up and running is a big step, but it is only the beginning. You need to be sure that your business is offering consistent fulfillment reliability and performance across all of the channels where you sell.
Customers need to associate your brand with a positive, hassle-free shopping experience.
While it’s important that the online purchasing process is intuitive and convenient for customers, it is crucial that your fulfillment is reliable as well. Even if you successfully match a shopper to their perfect product, logistical issues and shipping delays can negatively impact customer satisfaction. What’s worse, repeat fulfillment complaints could result in account suspensions and even terminations on some marketplaces.
An omnichannel inventory management platform like Sellercloud can help streamline all aspects of your fulfillment process. What’s more, centralizing your warehousing, shipping, order tracking, returns, and operational workflows can help you avoid the types of logistical errors that cost your eCommerce business time and money.
5. Prioritize Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
The value of both understanding and showing appreciation for your customers is something that can never be understated. Cultivating positive, responsive relationships with customers is one of the key factors in growing a multichannel eCommerce brand. Not only do high satisfaction marks lead to more positive feedback, they bolster the chances of repeat purchases - the Holy Grail of online sales. Satisfied marketplace customers can simultaneously become your best marketing allies and the fuel to grow and drive your direct B2C and/or B2B sales presence.
Whether it is through email marketing, social media, or simply making direct contact, it is almost always more cost effective and generally better business to invest in retaining customers than actively pursuing new ones. The loyalty of a repeat buyer not only helps your bottom line, but it also can produce the types of testimonials and word-of-mouth endorsements that lead to organic growth.
In time, the goal is to have repeat customers begin shopping specifically for your brand and your specific products. Rather than searching marketplaces and comparison shopping, the aim is for shoppers to increasingly seek out your eCommerce site directly.
The only way to achieve these high-value growth goals is with a well-defined, purposeful CRM plan. As important as marketing is, remarketing is a must.
As with all things eCommerce, strategy is key. Make purposeful and intentional decisions about your omnichannel approach to marketing, so that you can focus on scaling your business by attracting the right customers across the full breadth of your company’s digital reach.