If you're new to the world of multichannel e-commerce, the options, marketplaces, and terminology used might seem daunting and confusing. However, chances are you're not as uninformed as you think, and will only need a bit of information to help guide you along the way. If you're looking to develop a multichannel e-commerce strategy for your business, but have no idea where to start, here's a quick rundown of the rise of multichannel e-commerce, why it's important, and what you need to get started.
What is the History of Multichannel E-Commerce?
E-commerce as we know it began with a Sting album. On August 11th, 1994, a man named Phil Brandenberger logged into his work computer and purchased Ten Summoners' Tales by Sting for $12.48 using his credit card. It was the first ever secure online retail transaction, made possible by the advent of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology earlier that year.
In the 24 years since, e-commerce has developed into a multibillion-dollar industry anchored by giant marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. Competition between these marketplaces has existed since the early days of e-commerce, and smart retail businesses have used this to their advantage—by selling on multiple sites simultaneously. Numerous retailers also operate their own online shops hosted on their websites, and many maintain offline sales presences through brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, some sell through Facebook and other social media platforms.
Why Should I Consider Getting Into Multichannel E-commerce?
From increased product visibility and broader brand awareness to reduced risk through diversification, there are a number of reasons to consider expanding your retail business into more channels. In a nutshell, more channels mean more potential customers, which means more potential sales.
But here are five more reasons you may not have considered:
- Building a multichannel e-commerce business is easier and cheaper than ever. Our friends at BigCommerce estimate that the cost of launching an e-commerce site is less than $1,000.
- More consumers are shopping across multiple channels. Industry analysts believe these multichannel shoppers spend 3 times more than single-channel shoppers.
- Multichannel e-commerce is attracting massive, international investments. Companies such as Amazon and Walmart are investing billions of dollars in their e-commerce platforms in an effort to continue scaling on a global level.
- E-commerce technology is improving every day. Today's sellers have a wide range of digital solutions and tools to choose from. With SellerActive, for instance, you can set up dynamic, algorithmic repricing, so your listings automatically adapt to market conditions in real-time. This software can also provide you with detailed reports about your products and inventory, so you can make strategic decisions informed by trends and gaps in your sales.
- The market isn't saturated—yet. In contrast to offline retail, sellers of all sizes can find a niche and start generating profit relatively fast. In fact, we've found that, in many cases, small companies may have a competitive advantage over large-scale stores unable to quickly shift their strategy and product focus.
What Do I Need to Do to Get Started?
Every business is unique. Your company may be best suited for one or two channels or as many as possible. Some online businesses do well selling on eBay, but find it difficult to consistently win the Buy Box on Amazon, for instance. Others, due to their particular niche, generate 80–90% of sales through their online stores, only using other marketplaces to supplement their income.
Whatever route you take, the ideal approach is to start with your business and customer base and build your strategy around your audience. Here are a few questions to ask yourself, adapted from a recent .STORE interview, featuring SellerActive's own Tom Pittman:
Consider Whether Your Business Can Handle Multiple Channels
Take stock of your business infrastructure, and ask yourself:
- Will your current infrastructure be able to support selling on multiple sales channels?
- How will you manage inventory to meet the demand?
- What mix of technology and personnel will you employ to operate your critical business operations, such as shipping, order management, picking and packing, and inventory management?
Evaluate Your Channel Options
Channel evaluation is critical. Before expanding into a new channel, be sure to evaluate whether that channel makes fiscal sense for your company, and whether or not it’s a good fit for your products, business and fulfillment model, and go-to-market strategy.
- What channels will you sell on?
- What are their fee structures, and what types of products make the best fit?
- Will you be able to efficiently control inventory management and fulfill orders on these online channels?
Develop a Selling and Fulfillment Approach
Think about your fulfillment model, and ask:
- Does expanding to multiple sales channels make sense with your fulfillment model?
- To what extent will you be able to effectively fulfill your orders, on time?
- What percentage of your inventory will you fulfill yourself or drop-ship? Will you leverage a third-party service, such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)?
Choose the Right Partners and Tools
You don't need to build a multichannel e-commerce business alone. With the right seller software and fulfillment and management partners, you can boost your sales, increase your profits, streamline your operations, and maximize your business's chances of success in this exciting market. To see how SellerActive can help you get started, schedule a demo with us today. We also provide a free 14-day trial of SellerActive to get started.