What’s Multichannel Retailing and How to Use It to Increase Your Sales
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay dominate the commerce world. While brick and mortar stores’ growth flatlined over 2020, the ecommerce industry grew by 32%.
As an online business owner, you need to “meet people where they are, not push them where you want them to be”, as a successful marketer Meghan Keaney Anderson wrote. The concept illustrates a simple ecommerce strategy that’ll help you reach more customers—multichannel retailing.
In this blog post, we’ll focus on how to increase your revenue by selling on multiple platforms and what online sales channels can best support your marketing strategy. But most importantly, we’re going to dive deep into multichannel retailing.
What’s multichannel retailing
Multichannel retailing, or multichannel selling, is the strategy of selling your products on more than one channel to reach a larger audience.
The more space you carve out for your products online, the more potential sales you’re gaining. Plus, the sooner you start with multichannel retailing, the more potential revenue you’ll get in the future.
Understanding multichannel retailing
There are countless potential combinations of sales channels to use for your business. A common multichannel selling example would be having a main store with Shopify, a secondary set-up on an online marketplace like Etsy, and a buy button on your Facebook page.
Selling on multiple platforms brings many advantages that on their own are insufficient, but put together, pave the road for the final goal: increasing your sales.
Why you should sell on multiple channels
Sticking to one sales channel limits how many people discover and buy from you. Luckily, multichannel retailing can help you solve this problem by:
- Increasing customer reach. You can have a beautifully designed website and offer top-notch quality products. But if nobody stumbles upon your store, you’ll have a hard time making sales. If you sell your products on your website and also list them on several marketplaces, your brand and product reach can increase significantly.
- Offering a convenient shopping experience. People are creatures of habit. If they’re used to shopping on Amazon, placing an order on eBay or Etsy might seem like too much work. By being where your customers are, you’re making their shopping experience easy and more pleasant.
- Helping you understand your audience better. Selling on multiple sales channels gives you a chance to gather more information about your customers and their shopping habits. You can later use this knowledge to craft a more targeted marketing campaign.
- Multiplying sales during peak spending days. Doing multichannel retailing on peak days like Black Friday, Christmas, or Boxing Day is like hitting a double-word score in Scrabble—add more channels to multiply your sales.
Marketplaces and ecommerce platforms: allies, not rivals
Ecommerce marketplaces and ecommerce platforms share a goal: to support sales.
Although they might’ve been designed to be rivals, marketplaces and ecommerce platforms offer benefits that, if combined, can tackle each other’s weaknesses.
Having a marketplace and an ecommerce platform at the same time builds the foundation for a holistic marketing strategy:
- Identifying and targeting your niche with an ecommerce platform is challenging, but if you choose the suitable marketplace for your products, you’ll have millions of people who are already looking for your items.
- One thing is to identify and target your niche, and a completely different thing is to get them to buy your products. On marketplaces, especially the most renowned ones, you’ll have to compete with other sellers that offer similar products to yours. When you own an online store, visitors will only see your products.
- Ecommerce platforms allow you to personalize your store, add your logo, etc. On the flip side, marketplaces are often rigid when it comes to branding. Amazon, for example, doesn’t allow you to display your logo on your store page.
- With an online store, you can use tools to create more comprehensive marketing strategies, such as email marketing tools, SEO tools, etc. Marketplaces, on the other hand, tend to offer more limited options to reach people outside of their platform.
Things to look out for when doing multichannel selling
Selling on several different channels can help you generate more sales. But with new sales channels come a few extra challenges you need to be aware of:
- Rules and restrictions. Each marketplace has its own rules you must comply with. Sometimes this means you can’t brand your store the way you’d like, or you might not be able to sell the products you want.
- Inventory. Managing inventory can get difficult when selling on various channels. You have to make sure you have enough products for each, and that you can deliver every order on time. If you’re selling Printful products, you don’t need to worry about inventory.
- Fees. Many marketplaces will require you to pay fees. These can range from monthly subscriptions to a percentage of each sale.
- Setting up and keeping track. Every marketplace is different. So setting up on each, understanding how it works, and maintaining it can take quite a bit of your time.
- Taxes. Managing your taxes can get complicated as you’ll have to pull and juggle data from each sales channel.
You can overcome these obstacles. You just need patience and an extra hand from tools that are specifically designed to minimize the downsides of multichannel retailing: multichannel retailing software.
These tools will help you to:
- Automate product listings so you can set up product data and descriptions in one place and then push it to your different sales channels
- Keep track of your inventory throughout many platforms in case you’re working with stock
Which marketplace is right for your products?
First and foremost, you need to understand each marketplace. Do your research and compile a list of ecommerce marketplaces with these points in mind:
- Product. Take into consideration the types of products that are sold on each marketplace and whether your products are suitable for each specific marketplace or not.
- Target audience. You’ll want to be where your ideal customers are, so sell on the marketplaces where you’re more likely to find your buyers.
- Regulations and fees. Pick the marketplaces with fees you can afford and with regulations you can comply with.
- Competition. You’ll want to sell where your products fit the audience, but also where they can stand out and your prices can compete.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular platforms you should start selling on.
Amazon is an online marketplace giant that has over 310 million active customers and welcomes over 197 million unique visitors every month. Amazon holds 41.1% of all the US ecommerce market and 7.7% of all retail sales.
According to the Amazon Advertising Report, 74% of US consumers start searching for a product on Amazon.
How to succeed on Amazon
Amazon is the place to get the best prices online, so competing in this marketplace by only offering low prices can get difficult.
If you want to be able to compete on Amazon, you need to carefully follow their seller guidelines and pay attention to:
- SEO. To sell, first, you need to get your products in front of people. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique that’ll help you make your products more searchable. Be sure to give your products a title that follows Amazon instructions. A comprehensive product description is also key for appearing in more searches.
- Metrics. If you’re a brand owner, be sure to join Amazon Brand Analytics. Use it to identify your best-selling products, or find out how your customers feel about their purchases.
- Pricing. On Amazon, choosing competitive prices for your products can also get you more search appearances.
- Amazon Prime. Customers subscribed to Amazon Prime buy more. Offering your products under Prime means offering perks like free shipping, and that can be a definitive purchase factor.
Selling on Amazon has a cost. The platform charges you two fees, one flat and one variable per every item you sell. The exact amount depends on the type of product sold and whether you have an Individual or Professional plan.
- Guide to selling on Amazon
- Amazon’s page for sellers
- Amazon seller FAQ
- How to Sell T-Shirts on Amazon: From $0 to $1,000 a Month
Etsy is a marketplace that specializes in handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies. It’s a go-to place for 90 million online shoppers who are looking for unique products that aren’t available in big-name retail stores.
Setting up a store on Etsy is free and there are no monthly subscription fees. However, you’ll be charged a fee for listing the item, plus 5% of the total item costs (plus postage) on every sale.
How to succeed on Etsy
On Etsy, you might be able to price your products higher because people expect to pay more for personalized items or handmade items.
- Upload high-quality product .jpg images (both mockups and lifestyle)
- Write creative and accurate product descriptions
- Make your products searchable, following Etsy’s SEO principles that include things like relevance, postage fees, recency, etc.
- The Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search
- Etsy Seller Handbook
- 10 Best Etsy Seller Apps to Help Grow Your Store
- Etsy SEO: 5 Must-Do Steps to Help You Get Found on Etsy
- Etsy fees and profit calculator
eBay is another marketplace giant. Today, it has around 19 million sellers with over 1.7 billion live listings. According to their stats, there were 159 million active buyers over the second quarter of 2021, being only beaten by Amazon in this statistic.
How to succeed on eBay
eBay is growing year on year. Follow these guidelines to take advantage of eBay’s potential:
- Pricing. Customers on eBay really care about pricing. Competitive pricing will also help you rank high on the listings.
- SEO. To make sure people find you, write product descriptions that are comprehensive and include the keywords people might use to search for your goods.
- Trust. Scams are very common on eBay. That’s why you need to make sure you generate trust with your buyers in every selling point: give information about you (your name, photos… . . .), showcase customer reviews, etc.
eBay has more store branding options than Amazon. You can modify your store aesthetic, for example, by adding a header photo.
eBay has three types of fees you should be aware of:
- A monthly subscription fee
- An insertion fee when you create a listing
- A final value fee when your item is sold
Storenvy is a unique ecommerce marketplace that offers two options to start selling, a storefront and a social marketplace. Storenvy positions itself as a place where indie brands can find their home and encounter buyers who are interested in one-of-a-kind products.
How to succeed on Storenvy
If you want to start selling on Storenvy, you’ll first need to decide whether you want to sell on their marketplace or to open your own store, considering what option suits your goals better. Keep in mind:
- If you decide to build your own store, be sure to design an appealing storefront that really catches the eye.
- Customer reviews are crucial to building trust in your products and your brand, so be sure to make them visible to potential buyers.
- Accurate product descriptions and tags are essential to make your goods searchable.
Which ecommerce platforms you should choose to sell online
Do your research and choose the ecommerce platform that best suits your preferences and goals.
Although factors such as your target audience, products, or potential competition aren’t decisive as with marketplaces, there are points you need to take into consideration when choosing an ecommerce platform:
- Pricing. Some platforms are more expensive than others. Set clear goals for your business and see what platforms offer more value for your money.
- Technical aspects. Things like payment methods, tax calculations, or inventory management are crucial to your business. Finding a platform that does the heavy lifting for you is a big plus.
- Ease of use. It’s important that the platform is intuitive and easy to use.
- Integrations. There are no all-in-one multichannel online selling platforms, so the more help you can get from third-party agents that offer ecommerce solutions, the better.
- Scalability. If your goal is to scale up your brand, you need a platform that can support its growth.
If you want to tap into the benefits of multichannel ecommerce selling, building an ecommerce store is the perfect way to connect with your customers on a more personal level and grow your brand awareness.
Popular ecommerce platforms to build your store on
There’s a long list of ecommerce builders available. Let’s have a look at the most popular ones:
Shopify is a platform that gives you all the necessary tools to build an ecommerce store. It’s used by over 170 million people in 175 countries, generating a total revenue of $2,929.5 million in 2020, being only surpassed by Amazon within the ecommerce industry.
Shopify is a hosted platform. That means they help you with the heavy lifting of your store set up. When using Spotify, you can benefit from all this:
- Hosting, allowing you to be viewed on the internet
- SSL certificate to keep your internet connection secure
- Payment setup
- Taxes calculation
- Stock management
- Dropshipping integrations
The platform itself is very intuitive and offers 100+ free templates to design your store as you see fit. Another perk of using Shopify is its exhaustive app store, which offers a long list of tools you need to boost your ecommerce business, from SEO to email automation.
The price of having a store with Shopify varies depending on what features you want to have access to. But for starting a small store the basic plan of $29/month should do the trick.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that adds ecommerce features to your existing WordPress website. This plugin is used by over 4.4 million websites worldwide, and it’s been downloaded by 28% of ecommerce store owners.
The WooCommerce plugin is free, but it doesn’t include a hosting partner and SSL certificate. Plus, you’ll need to take care of the setup and maintenance of the website. Luckily, Printful offers solutions to tackle both the hosting and the website setup disadvantages.
WooCommerce is a good choice for those who have an existing website, possibly a blog, and want to transform it into an ecommerce store. Some of the advantages of WooCommerce are:
- It connects you with 58,000+ WordPress plugins
- It gives you access to all the integrations that WordPress offers
- It helps you automate your shipping rates
- It calculates taxes
- It offers inventory management
With WooCommerce, you have a lot of room to brand your ecommerce store, as you have access to a long list of free themes offered by WordPress.
Squarespace is a website builder that started offering ecommerce solutions in 2013, and in 2021 they were the most-used ecommerce software platform, with a market share of 23.51%.
Squarespace is the perfect platform for designers, artists, and photographers. As it was originally created as a website builder, Squarespace offers unparalleled customization tools, helping you build a stunning website.
While Squarespace still holds some technical disadvantages compared to its competitors—it has very few payment options—it’s quickly catching up, and offers some of the best attributes on the market:
- It supports the sale of all product types: physical, digital, and service products
- Creative and original ways to showcase your products
- Free domain and SSL certificate when signing up for annual services
- Inventory management
- Great blogging options, more intuitive than in WooCommerce
Squarespace offers three different plans for ecommerce—they range from $26 to $54— and each one is more comprehensive than the other.
How to connect your Printful account to an online sales channel
Once you’ve found a platform that suits your needs, make sure to check whether it’s on the list of Printful ecommerce integrations. We have tutorials for each and every integration we offer, including:
- Amazon—a great choice if you already have an online store and want to sell on another channel
- eBay—great if you’re looking for an additional selling channel
- Etsy—a trusted, well-known marketplace that’s ideal for creatives looking to reach a large audience
- Storenvy—a ready-made marketplace with a focus on social sharing
- Big Cartel—an easy-to-use platform that focuses on artists
- BigCommerce— a platform with a great set of built-in tools
- Ecwid—supports sales on multiple platforms including Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Shopping
- Gumroad—add a “buy” button to any webpage
- Magento—an open-source platform with powerful features
- Nuvemshop–leading ecommerce website builder in Latin America
- Prestashop—a free, open-source (you can download it and modify it in any way you want) ecommerce platform
- Shipstation–connect with marketplaces like Walmart and Yahoo
- Shopify—an easy-to-use platform, perfect for any business
- Squarespace—a design-oriented platform known for minimal, and fully responsive website themes
- Webflow–create custom ecommerce websites with no coding
- Weebly—an ideal platform for small to midsize businesses with little to no technical experience
- Wix—a platform that makes creating beautiful and professional online stores easy
- WooCommerce—a free plugin for WordPress blogs, suited for developers and large retailers
If you’d like to sell on a marketplace that doesn’t integrate with Printful, don’t worry. You can still use Printful by manually submitting the orders you receive. Take a look at this video for more info on placing manual orders.
Social media platforms and the “buy button”
When they appeared in 2014, social media buy buttons were thought to revolutionize the ecommerce world. It didn’t happen straight away, but we’re seeing it happening now.
In 2020, GfK’s survey showed that 18% of US consumers have shopped online by using the “buy button” on social media, compared to 13% in 2019. That number rises to 37% for 15-22-year-olds.
Social ecommerce is bound to become a pivotal part of the online shopping experience. It’s expected that in 2021 US social commerce sales will rise by 35.8% to $36.62 billion. Now’s the chance to get it on the ground floor.
Add social media buy buttons to your Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook posts, but don’t turn your profiles into a marketplace. Rely on your other sales channels and use the buy button only when it adds value to the customer, like on time-sensitive offers or exclusive discounts.
Expand your horizons and give in to multichannel retailing
Multichannel retailing is a part of ecommerce that can’t be overlooked. Join several marketplaces or start selling on your favorite social media platforms by adding buy buttons to your profiles and posts.
Adopting a multichannel retailing strategy may be a challenge, but as you can see, there are ways to maximize its benefits and minimize its potential drawbacks. So pick your sales channels wisely and be sure you can handle the increase in sales.
Do you have any multichannel retailing tips? Share in the comments!
This article was originally published in April 2016; it has since been updated.