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Small businesses often start by selling products through a single channel. As growth gains momentum, many employ a multi-channel sales strategy, using more than one platform to generate revenue. The approach leverages online marketplaces and social media opportunities, complementing offline outlets such as retail stores, in some cases.

Among the many advantages of multi-channel sales, the tactic increases brand recognition, enhances customer experience, and creates opportunities to connect with buyers in places where they are already active.

Get Smart About Online Marketplaces

Consumers don’t shop the way they once did. A report from BigCommerce confirms shoppers from several age groups regularly patronize multiple sales channels. The survey of American shoppers breaks down this way:

  • 74% patronize large retailers
  • 54% shop at ecommerce marketplaces
  • 44% utilize web stores
  • 36% support category specific retailers online

Data from the report shows your customers and potential customers are active on various channels, spending money in diverse virtual and brick-and-mortar environments. The biggest takeaway from the study may be the apparent evidence that loyalty to a particular channel has diminished. That means a single-channel approach simply doesn’t align with modern consumer activity; if you’re not reaching buyers on multiple channels, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.

Marketplaces to Consider

Sprout Funding logoSuccessful online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon have changed the retail landscape forever. Internet Retailer estimates more than half of total 2018 online sales can be attributed to online marketplaces like those run by the global giants and others. Almost two trillion dollars was spent in the top 100 global online marketplaces in 2018, and gross sales were up 23 percent last year, compared to 2017 totals. Logging growth and sales figures of such magnitude, it’s clear you can’t turn your back on multi-channel opportunities.

Although there’s plenty of competition, you can still leverage marketplaces for online sales. For example, research by Bazaarvoice indicates Amazon’s biggest day may also present opportunities for smaller fish. Although Amazon Prime Day is aimed at paid subscribers, offering exclusive savings for Prime members, consumers visit lots of websites on Prime Day, doing research and exploring ratings and reviews published on other sites. According to Bazaarvoice, three out of four Prime Day shoppers plan to visit other sites before making Amazon purchases; you can’t afford to be on the sidelines.

When you’re ready to make a marketplace statement, the top channels for marketing goods include several household names.

  • Amazon charges a monthly fee for a selling account, plus an additional 15 % on each sale. The marketplace is the largest in the US, with 95 million Amazon Prime users.
  • User accounts are free on eBay, which charges insertion fees and a percentage of each sale, as well as payment processing fees. The world’s largest marketplace, eBay offers access to 160 million global patrons.
  • Etsy, a rising vintage and handmade sales marketplace boasts more than 30 million US buyers. The Etsy marketplace has approachable selling terms. Sellers pay a flat fee for each listing and 5 percent of sales, plus payment processing charges.
  • Home, beauty, and fashion are popular sales categories on Jet, offering a collection of curated products for urban markets. Sellers’ fees range from 6-15 percent of each sale.
  • Smallish sellers may not be approved for Walmart’s marketplace, but those that make the cut pay around 15 % of each sale to the retailing titan.

Connecting With Consumers at the Right Time

Making consumer connections and ultimately closing sales, requires insight into the buying cycle. The more you understand about when, why, and how buyers make purchasing decisions, the more likely you are to connect with customers at the right time.

Prospective customers are probably not ready to make buying commitments the first time they come across your product – even if it solves their problem. Most buyers can afford to wait, because they know fast shipping options will put the product in their hands within a day or two of pulling the trigger on a purchase. Rather than rush in, they explore social media and other channels for more information and feedback about your products.

Ideally, your social media presence, part of a well-conceived multi-channel sales strategy, is there to great curious consumers at this stage of the buying cycle (you hope to encounter them later, too, when they’re ready to close the sale).

Whether a customer found an image on Pinterest or came your way via an Instagram influencer, your multi-channel approach helped you connect at crucial points during the buyer’s decision-making sequence. And by staying visible across multiple channels, you also accommodated your customer’s device preference, catering to the many mobile options available to modern consumers.

What are the Pitfalls?

Once you commit to cast a wider net, conducting a multi-channel sales strategy, it’s important to refine your approach. Investment is required when selling on several channels, so you need your efforts to pay off. In addition to account fees, you’ll expend resources publishing, pricing, and optimizing your listings. And because you’re working across multiple organizations, rules, policies, and backend platforms are distinct to each channel.

For lasting success, resist the urge to spread yourself too thin. Selling on the wrong channels is like spinning your wheels, so it’s better to carefully evaluate each opportunity and cater your sales strategy to a well-defined niche. Infrastructure concerns may also arise from rapid expansion across multiple channels; minimize risk by scaling at a manageable pace.

With consumers spreading their interest and investment across various channels, forward-looking entrepreneurs can’t afford to lag behind this dramatic marketplace migration. If you’re not yet making the most of diverse modern sales and marketing opportunities, it may be time for you to embrace the benefits of a well-executing multi-channel sales strategy.

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