A guide to multichannel ecommerce – strategies and solutions

Get more digital commerce tips

Tactics to help you streamline and grow your business.

When a customer searches for the right water bottle for daily runs, he or she goes to Google or a marketplace like Amazon. 

Let’s say this customer finds the perfect water bottle — it’s small enough and has the perfect grip, so it’s to carry while running so the customer clicks purchase. Imagine the water bottle came from your company, and now you made a sale. Putting your product in the right sales channel was a key factor in this customer’s decision making process on whether or not to purchase the water bottle from your company. 

It’s because convenience is a priority for 76% of consumers, and almost half (45%) even value that convenience over cost, according to Linnworks research. In fact, 97% of American shoppers have abandoned a purchase over a lack of convenience, according to the National Research Federation. 

It’s hard to get convenience right when you’re selling across multiple channels. In this guide, we’ll discuss multichannel ecommerce and how to improve your strategy. 

How to succeed with multichannel ecommerce

Understand your audience

Part of providing convenience is understanding your audience and where they want to shop, says Iris Schiefer, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager EMEA, BigCommerce, in a recent Linn Academy session on multichannel selling strategies. “In terms of scaling into new channels, it’s really about meeting your audiences where they are,” she says. 

With that being said, technology systems must be connected to get a holistic view of the buyer and their journey.

Marketplaces have grown to be a staple when it comes to the online buying journey. It’s where many shopping journeys begin and where many consumers choose when it comes to online shopping. In 2022, U.S. marketplace ecommerce sales are expected to make up more than 34% of all online sales, reaching $357.26 billion, according to recent research

In addition to marketplaces, social media channels have also become a place where consumers discover new products and even buy them right between scrolling their feed. Many consumers (35%) have made a purchase through social media, according to Linnworks research. Utilizing social media can draw new customers in and help foster good communication with existing customers. 

In the Linn Academy session, Tim Ahlenius, VP Strategic Initiatives, Americaneagle.com points out that you don’t even necessarily have to sell on social media, but it’s still important to have a consistent brand presence.

Create a Seamless Shopping Journey

Schiefer says work to improve store experience and conversion rates. This includes website optimization and page design. Is your call to action clear? Are there detailed descriptions and high-quality images for products? 

She adds it’s important that pages are optimized for mobile as well as desktop, so all users have a positive experience and when it comes to check-out, keep it to one page with minimal steps.

“These are all kinds of smaller subtasks that could make a huge difference to those conversion rates, regardless of the acquisition channel,” she says.

The seamless journey is also about having the product in stock and getting it to the customer in the promised delivery time frame. When you’re managing multiple sales channels, this is where an inventory management system can shine. It helps mitigate any potential issues of saying something is in stock, only to the customer’s disappointment of it not being available. A system also plays a role in providing the most accurate shipping and delivery information possible.

An inventory management system helps highlight if a product is low in stock to alert customers and tailor expectations. 

Rethink Customer Service

Ahlenius from Americaneagle.com says when any issues come up in the buying journey, strong and honest communication and transparency are vital, as well as empowering your customer service team. 

He recounts a recent couch purchase he made himself and how well the customer service team handled it. When it was supposed to be delivered in October and was delayed until January, Ahlenius was notified immediately in September with a personal, non-automated email apologizing and thoroughly explaining the situation. When he followed up with a phone call with questions, the customer service team knew the answers to his questions, and even credited some additional delivery fees.

It’s important to equip the customer service team with the information and the responses to deliver instead of causing further uncertainty for the customer, he says. 

Keep Checkout Simple

Consumers want a seamless check out experience, and 67% (74% in the UK) have abandoned purchases over complicated check-outs, according to Linnworks research. For many consumers, this means keeping the process to a minimal one-page checkout, providing accurate shipping information and having the best payment options available.

Linnworks research also reveals that more than half of consumers report a guest checkout option (56%) and shopping information stored for future visits (54%) rank in the top three convenience criteria.

Guest check-out, along with having shipping details, are at the top of consumers’ convenience check lists, and 81% of shoppers are looking for a frictionless, cross- device online shopping experience. 

Having key payment methods, which could vary depending on the market you’re in, are expected. Almost all (nine out of ten) of shoppers say flexible and seamless payment options will speed up decision making. 

Prioritize Delivery

Not surprisingly, 95% of shoppers say consistent delivery options have major relevance in the online retailers they choose, according to Linnworks research. One of the top reasons for abandoning a cart is not having the right shipment or payment options available, and 61% of shoppers will prioritize brands that offer next day delivery. 

A good experience with delivery begins at checkout with the most accurate shipping costs and anticipated delivery date. This also means clear tracking and communication throughout the delivery process and getting a shipment as fast as possible and definitely when it was said to arrive.

More than half (62%) of consumers are more loyal to a retailer who is honest about delivery costs and timing (56%), and 72% have abandoned a purchased over shipping transparency, according to Linnworks. 

If there’s a bump in delivery, Ahlenius says clearly communicate that. Send an email communicating that we’re doing our best and perhaps even offering a coupon code or discount. “Whatever you could do to maintain that relationship is going to be critical,” he says.

Make Returns a Breeze

In today’s ecommerce world, the post-purchase experience is almost as important as the beginning of the buying journey. Consumers expect simple returns with honest, upfront and accurate information on how the process works. In a recent Linnworks report, it was found that 72% of consumers are influenced by a return policy and 80% want returns to not involve customer service.

Ease of shipment for returns is essential. When applicable, many customers like the option of buying online and returning in store. Many consumers want independence when it comes to returns, with 87% expecting a pre-paid return label and 47% of people more likely to shop with brands offering self-service returns, according to Linnworks. Nine out of ten consumers prioritize a retail site that offers a seamless experience. 

Ahlenius points out that many buyers will purchase multiple sizes when it comes to apparel and shoes. It’s important that customers understand what the different options are when it comes to returns and that sellers make it as easy as possible to return items.

“That customer experience will maintain brand loyalty for you and that transparent communication as well,” he says. 

Further reading: What is omnichannel retail and why is it important?

How can brands set up multiple channels and why?

Launching multiple channels can broaden your audience. Multiple channels, along with the right inventory management, can allow retailers to manage B2C and B2B from a single backend. 

There are many options for marketplaces with new ones launching frequently. The largest ecommerce marketplace is Amazon, with expected 2022 sales of $250 billion, growing more than 18% in 2022, and having 72% share of the market, according to research from eMarketer. Ebay is still the second largest online marketplace despite deceleration, and Etsy is anticipated to grow 17%, reaching $9.2 billion in sales. Walmart Marketplace will reach $7.2 billion this year, also despite deceleration from last year. 

For brick and mortar retailers, setting up multiple ecommerce channels could be the answer when foot traffic is decreasing in store. It can also open up brands and retailers to a second audience. As Ahlenius says, what works for one business may not be the solution for all, so it’s important to consider what works best for you. 

One roadblock sellers can have with enlisting multiple channels is the idea of managing inventory and orders. There’s no doubt that businesses need the correct infrastructure to handle this.

An inventory management system keeps an accurate, up-to-date picture of inventory across all channels. This avoids stockouts, which can ultimately lead to dissatisfied or even lost customers.

The ability for accurate inventory levels also helps avoid stocking too much inventory, which can mean unnecessary spending and additional costs for stocking fees. Not every product sells at the same rate on all channels, so forecasting demand is key to ensure you always carry the correct amount of stock. 

More efficient management of inventory means you can provide transparency of arrival and shipment and availability – vital in a customer experience.

What do businesses need to do for backend processes to scale their business on multiple channels?  

As you can imagine, there is a checklist of what to do on the backend to be able to thrive with multiple channels. Operating in the multichannel space means keeping listings updated, tracking orders and managing all inventory levels, shipment, delivery and returns. This could be a time-consuming process of logging in and out of platforms to list products and use spreadsheets to manage orders, as well as cause errors simply because of human operation. 

An inventory and order management system serves as the centralized hub for distribution and ease of access. To provide the best customer experience, it’s essential to have information easily accessible and automatically accurate.

You should ensure that the experience across channels is consistent from a logistics standpoint. All systems need to share data between each other to avoid excess stock and manage distribution demands effectively.

Strong inventory management is a key part of growth and is the foundation for all other areas of the business. If marketing scales up to promote products but inventory and logistics can’t handle the load, then customers are disappointed and will shop with another brand.  

Partner with right multichannel ecommerce software

Inventory management software helps avoid the risk of overselling or underselling by keeping an up-to-date overview of inventory. An accurate account of inventory means knowing how much inventory to reorder, optimizing product listings and making informed decisions moving forward. 

This software forecasts demand accurately using real-time data. This historical sales data means tracking seasonal trends and peak selling periods and ensuring that any demand is met. 

When it comes to multichannel inventory management, it can also help to create bulk listings to reduce errors and save time. You can even create groups of listings to link similar items together. 

Automation also results in improving fulfillment, shipping and delivery – the most important part of the shopping experience for many. Linnworks software allows for integration with major carrier, 3PL fulfillment centers and FBA to compare the best shipping options available. 

Automated inventory management software, such as Linnworks, can be the solution for efficiently managing multiple channels at once.