Today’s eCommerce sellers are inundated with marketplace options. While Amazon continues to dominate, Walmart.com, eBay, Etsy, Shopify, and your own channels are all viable, valuable places to sell.
Diversifying isn’t just good for sales, it’s also great for savvy sellers looking to ensure all their eggs aren’t in the same Amazon-branded basket in case of account suspension, FBA restrictions, or anything else that might pop up. Many growing sellers are already diversifying their sales channels across their own D2C websites and new marketplaces.
Optimizing your multi-channel strategy can you save money on infrastructure while improving your customers’ buyer experience, boost your search prominence on marketplaces, and generate more revenue.
How to create multi-channel marketplace success
1) Learn how your shoppers search and make it easy to find your products
Each of your sales channels should have a slightly different customer acquisition strategy. For example, your Shopify store could rely on SEO for top-funnel leads, whereas your Walmart.com store could rely heavily on marketplace ads. To find which acquisition methods to invest in, you should understand how your shoppers search and discover items, and what drives their purchases.
For example, your customers could research on social media, get retargeted by Google ads, and then eventually make a purchase on Amazon. If this is your audience’s typical buyer journey, you need to be visible on all of those channels. Here are a few things to look at at this stage.
Stay active on social media for buyer research
Consumers are increasingly using social media for product research, and one in five digital product purchases begins on social media. Facebook shows that 83% of users leverage Facebook and Instagram for discovering new products and services, 81% for researching products and services, and 80% for deciding whether to move forward with a purchase.
Social media channels should be a large part of your cross-channel strategy, even if you aren’t making sales on them. Test out social media ads, sharing value-added content like free eBooks, and building a community.
Third party cookies may be going away on big browsers, but sellers can still leverage them while they last. Many large-scale advertisers like Facebook will likely continue tracking user behavior for ads across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Oculus, and WhatsApp.
Retargeting is a popular staple of big eCommerce brands like Zappos and Kimberly-Clark, a consumer package goods company that saw a 50-60% conversion rate with retargeting. This strategy allows you to remain visible to prospects who’ve shown some interest, so they remember your product long enough to click through and purchase.
Diversify ad spend
While diversification won’t solve all your problems, maintaining visibility across multiple platforms will help your multi-channel strategy. This means splitting ad budgets between channels to maintain a presence on different marketplaces, social media, and possibly Google as well.
However, it’s still important to assess where results are coming in, which means managing ad results in a central place. Start with the Pareto rule and invest 80% of your ad budget into the top 1-2 channels, with 20% of your ad budget invested into all other channels.
Focus on your funnel, not channels
When you can pinpoint where in each stage of your sales funnel customers are finding you, you can better diversify and target ads and marketing efforts.
For example, if you know people in the discovery stage are finding their information on social media, you know what content to use for that channel. If you know that your funnel typically starts on social media, moves to Google, and then ends at Amazon or your own website, you’ll also know how to set up retargeting.
Chances are, you already have some data to check how your sales funnel operates across channels. You just need to gather and analyze it.
2) Master your multi-channel inventory and fulfillment
It’s one thing to offer products across marketplaces, and it’s another to fulfill those orders seamlessly. You need to have a lot of solid infrastructure in place in order to guarantee the same quality buyer experience every time someone makes a purchase — whether they’re in Oklahoma or Idaho. Getting your multi-channel fulfillment down is especially important today, in the era of fast fulfillment.
One of my clients, Deliverr, is an outsourced fulfillment service that can deliver items to buyers nationwide in 2-days or fewer. In that role, I’ve seen first-hand how important it is to build redundancies into your fulfillment systems, so that if one of your systems runs into a hitch (ie. FBA restricts inbounds so you run out of inventory and go out of stock) your backups can kick in.
If you’re selling across marketplaces, you may have some inventory in FBA (for Amazon), WFS (for Walmart.com), your basement for Etsy or eBay, and a 3PL for your Shopify store. There are a few problems that come up with this kind of setup.
If you misjudge your sales on a marketplace and sell out on one channel but have too much inventory in another, you then have to pull out stock from one of your fulfillment providers and put it into the other. This process takes time and money, and in the meantime, you lose out on sales and search prominence while your listing is sold out.
Tip: You can use a provider like Deliverr to fulfill orders across all your sales channels and create a more efficient fulfillment network. This is useful because you only need to send in your inventory to one network, and it covers all your sales channels. No need to switch and reallocate inventory based on which channels are selling more quickly.
3) Ensure a seamless, uniform buyer experience across channels
If your store is visible across multiple channels, assume the same customers see you across every channel. That’s important because it means you have to deliver the same value across every channel to remain relevant.
For example, eCommerce sellers historically flock to Amazon because the marketplace has so much traffic. Almost 70% of online shoppers use Amazon to compare products and prices. When Amazon offers free 2-day shipping, consumers logically shop there instead of a D2C website that still charges $4.99 for standard shipping.
Some of the cues shoppers look at that drive their buying experience includes the volume and ratings of your reviews, the quality of the photos you use, your product title and descriptions, and your shipping cost and speed.
Here are some tips to maintain an A+ buyer experience:
- Use the same or similar product title, description, and highlights to keep your items recognizable
- Ensure uniform and high-quality photos and product images
- Try to get a good amount of high-scoring reviews across every marketplace
Tip: Since every marketplace has its own unique algorithm, you may need to tailor content across your different sales channels. What works on Amazon doesn’t necessarily work on Etsy or Google.
4) Track and extend customer lifetime value
Customer lifetime value (CLV) is one of your most important tools for tracking and validating cross-marketplace sales. Tracking your CLV will help you understand when customers are coming back (and why), show you how to encourage loyalty or introduce repeat conversion programs, and show you how much you can afford to spend on customer acquisition.
Tracking CLV helps you:
- See how, why, and when your shoppers turn into buyers
- Find the best place to insert upsell pitches
- Learn which channels are the most valuable for retention
- Discover the best ways to extend CLV with remarketing
- Use the best tactics for reconversion (for example, do they respond the most to new products? Discounts? Free shipping?)
It’s cheaper to retain and reconvert a customer than to acquire a completely new one, which means extending your CLV will help your bottom line and save you some time and resources.
5) Find your primary and secondary channels
Your primary channel shouldn’t necessarily be the channel you started on, or the channel you’re biggest on right now. Look at the channel with the most growth potential and the best cost-to-revenue ratio, and start prioritizing that one. It’s still important to build out your secondary channels to keep your income streams diverse, but you may find that you should devote most of your time to your Shopify store instead of Amazon, or your Walmart.com store instead of eBay.
Chubbies, an eCommerce clothing company, offers a great example. Their cross-channel strategy often begins on Amazon, but the brand drives customers to social media with in-package branding. Flyers and cards ask for social media shares, invite users to join competitions, and deliver discounts (via Chubbies’ website) right in the package.
Cross-marketplace sales strategies are the norm for most eCommerce sellers. Optimizing that means:
- Each channel or marketplace might have a different place in your funnel
- Customers research across channels, so you should maintain the same quality across every channel
- Managing your inventory and fulfillment well is mission-critical for creating a good buyer experience that shoppers will return to
- Multi-channel sales strategies shouldn’t stop after the first purchase
Optimizing your multi-channel eCommerce strategy should help you streamline your buyer experience, discover your most profitable channels, and generate more revenue from more places.