Multichannel commerce benefits and best practices

Multichannel commerce is so ingrained into our daily shopping habits that you might not recognize its own ecommerce strategy. Multichannel allows businesses to grow awareness and capture new audiences beyond traditional sales channels (your website or brick-and-mortar store). 

In the U.S., ecommerce revenue is expected to grow from $925.36 billion in 2023 to $1,415.78 billion in 2027, according to Statista. With such consistent year-over-year growth, it makes sense for merchants to consider a multichannel strategy in the next phase of their road map.

This article will cover:

  • What is multichannel commerce?
  • Which channels should you include in  your multichannel strategy?
  • Three ways to benefit from multichannel commerce
  • Three best practices to help you build on your success

What is multichannel commerce?

Multichannel commerce is a selling strategy that generates revenue for your business by selling products or services on multiple channels or platforms. In your day-to-day business, this would mean offering a catalog of products on a marketplace like Amazon, social platforms like TikTok, and search engines like Google, in addition to your online store.

How is multichannel commerce different from omnichannel commerce?

Multichannel and omnichannel are often used interchangeably (and are sometimes used as buzzwords), but they have significantly different approaches and should be used in tandem for the best possible results.

Selling products vs. providing experiences

While multichannel is a product-centric strategy, omnichannel focuses on providing a seamless experience for customers and prospects regardless of where they’re interacting with your business. 

With an omnichannel strategy, businesses pay special attention to the consistency of their brand’s presence — colors, logos, messaging, brand voice, customer interactions — to garner trust and build loyalty with their audience.

In short, multichannel is about selling your product or service on different channels and omnichannel is about providing a consistent customer experience on every channel.

Which channels should you include in your multichannel strategy?

While an all-encompassing multichannel strategy sounds appealing, most businesses don’t have the capacity to pursue them all. Consider the following types of channels:

  • Ecommerce website
  • Brick-and-mortar store(s)
  • Mobile app
  • Marketplaces
  • Search engine shopping results (like Google Shopping)
  • Social media platforms
  • Third-party retailers

It can be tempting to launch your business on every channel to match or beat your competitors — but we recommend ramping up slowly. Build up to consistent sales on your website first, where it’s easiest to control your customer experience and sales process. 

Then, focus on brand consistency as you choose your first channels to expand with. Consumers have come to expect a single brand experience from the businesses they interact with, regardless of the platform. You can’t always control the page experience when selling on other channels. So, it’s important to provide your brand experience in other areas, such as product imagery, names, and descriptions; customer service; shipping; and support.

The best number of channels for your multichannel ecommerce strategy should be determined by at least a few factors:

  • What is your budget? Consider the cost and ROI of launching each channel: A mobile app is going to be much more expensive than bringing your products to a social media platform. However, a social platform will retain a percentage of your sales in perpetuity, while an app is an owned channel. Each channel has its associated short- and long-term costs.
  • What resources do you have available? Resources — both technological and human — are required for launching and maintaining new sales channels. For each channel, you’ll need to interface with a new company; provide customer support; market your products; manage inventory and fulfillment needs; and ensure compliance with all the accompanying taxes, fees, and regulations.
  • Where does your target audience spend their time? Your channel choices should align with where your target customers spend their time: scrolling social media, searching Amazon for the best deals, comparison shopping on Google. Think about the buying habits of people you already sell to and choose channels that reduce the friction between awareness and purchase. You might also consider where your target audience is comfortable transacting: Some people feel comfortable entering their card information on social media platforms while others don’t; some people like to comparison shop on Google while others prefer marketplaces.

Three ways to benefit from multichannel commerce

The benefits of a multichannel ecommerce strategy are far-reaching: Multichannel broadens awareness by reaching more customers, provides a more convenient shopping experience, and creates more opportunities to sell.

1. Meet customers where they already spend time online

One of the keys to a successful multichannel strategy is meeting your target audience where they already shop. Offering products across multiple channels increases the likelihood a customer will find your product and make a purchase. Two channels that see significant traffic from almost all audiences are marketplaces and social media.

Reach power shoppers on marketplaces

According to Digital Commerce 360, 54% of global ecommerce sales come from marketplaces. Convenience and product availability combined with low prices draw many consumers to marketplace shopping. But for merchants, this means high competition on marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, or Zalando. Make your marketplace choice based on your audience’s interests and demographics and consider product ads that focus on your ideal customer. (Hint: 76% of consumers surveyed reported shopping on Amazon in the past year.)

Create shoppable posts on social media

If your audience is younger, social media platforms may be a better option. Shoppable posts not only reach folks where they’re scrolling, but provide opportunities for mass sharing — the digital era’s version of word-of-mouth marketing. It also helps that people age 44 and younger average over two hours every day on social media according to Review42

Learn more about shoppable posts from WooCommerce.

2. Understand your customers better with a broader data set

More channels means more data. Many channels, like social and marketplaces, will provide you with data on how consumers interact with your posts and products and often break data summaries down by demographic factors like age, gender, or location, and behavioral factors like interests and purchase intent. 

Analyze your data to build a complete profile of your target audience. Use your audience profile to make decisions about which products to sell on each channel, ad spend, or your next channel launch.

For example, let’s say you want to understand your customer’s journey from discovery to purchase. Your WooCommerce store analytics might show that 64% of your site traffic is on mobile devices, and Instagram is a significant traffic source. Your Instagram account insights can then show your audience’s age range, top locations, types of content they interacted with, and what they tapped on when viewing your profile. If you have shoppable posts set up, you can compare engagement on those posts with link clicks to your website to understand how comfortable your audience feels with shopping directly on Instagram. If post engagement is high, but orders via Instagram are low, your audience may prefer shopping on your website. In that case, they may need to see a post or product several times before making the decision to purchase.

3. Build brand awareness and trust

Multichannel is great for spreading brand awareness, but your presence on a channel is only part of the effort. Research from SproutSocial shows that 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them, and 76% will buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor. When you think of the internet as an extension of your community, this makes sense: Humans are generally more loyal to those they feel connected to.

To build connections with your audience, it’s important to maintain a consistent and authentic brand voice across all of your channels. Dan-O’s Seasoning, a WooCommerce merchant, does a great job with this on their TikTok account: Their content features their founder, Dan, creating easy recipes with their product line. These posts promote the product, but are authentic to Dan’s personality and provide information their target audience values. They’ve built their audience over time and their consistent messaging has paid off.

Online shoppers don’t typically buy on their first brand interaction — it takes a few encounters for them to compare options, remember your brand, and make a purchase decision.

Three best practices for your multichannel strategy

1. Prioritize, measure, and optimize for success

As we mentioned above, you shouldn’t tackle every channel at once. Understand where your target audiences spend their time and prioritize selling on those platforms when you launch your strategy.

When considering your multichannel selling goals, also think about how you’d like to track performance against those goals. We recommend measuring performance consistently across each channel so you can understand where your investments have the most impact on revenue. 

Use these learnings to decide whether you want to adopt new channels or invest more into your current channels.

2. Manage your channels all in one place

One of the main challenges of multichannel selling is managing it all. Some ecommerce platforms — like WooCommerce — allow you to manage your channels directly from your website dashboard.

Aggregating everything in one place will come in handy as you grow, especially when working through channel launches, syncing products, listing management, inventory management, order tracking, shipping, reporting, and invoicing.

3. Stay compliant as you sell to new markets

In the excitement of reaching new customers in new places, tax compliance can quickly become a significant challenge. We recommend a tax solution that integrates directly with your store (like Avalara AvaTax integrates with Woo) so each sale, regardless of which channel it’s on, has the appropriate country, state, province, and local taxes.

If you’re selling online, it’s critical to have a multichannel strategy

Retailers can be found on every channel, and for good reason: Multichannel results in more sales. If you’re considering a multichannel ecommerce strategy or you’re looking to expand your channel reach, learn more about multichannel integrations on WooCommerce.

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