(This post was last published on November 14, 2017. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Shopify sellers shouldn’t feel limited to selling on one webstore. Merchants can grow by selling on multiple storefronts used to diversify their brand.
However, managing multiple Shopify stores comes with its own set of challenges. To some merchants, the idea of managing two unique stores sounds overwhelming and difficult.
We don’t want you to feel that way! It shouldn’t keep you from expanding your business.
In this post, we’ll explain why you should sell on multiple stores, the challenges of doing so, and then best practices to overcome those challenges.
Why You Should Sell on Multiple Shopify Stores
Selling on multiple Shopify stores isn’t for everyone. For many merchants, it makes sense to sell only through a single online store.
However, there are merchants who could benefit from selling on multiple stores and should consider it. Multiple storefronts can expand your business and better serve your customers.
Here are a few reasons why merchants would sell across multiple Shopify stores:
Selling Internationally / Localized Marketing
Merchants who sell across the globe can benefit from having more than one online store. Separate stores allow you to tailor each site to that region’s unique differences and needs, which can also be referred to as localized marketing. Depending on the market, you’ll want to change language, currency, products, and even website design.
Example: Treat each region as a different market. You’ll want to put your best foot forward for each market and that doesn’t always mean using the same tactics. Check out how Nike tailors their site for different regions: nike.com for US and nike.com for France.
Managing Off-Price or Outlet Brands
Some luxury brands create off-price or outlet offshoots as another way to grow their business. They use these off-price versions of their namesake brands to appeal to a different audience. This opens their brand to more consumers with different price ranges. While this strategy is tricky, it has worked for some brands.
Example: Take a look at Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack. Nordstrom Rack is the off-price retail division of Nordstrom. How you appeal to a high-end consumer versus a price-sensitive one is very different. You wouldn’t want to mix those messages on just one site, which could severely devalue your brand. Nordstrom solves this problem by operating two separate sites for each.
Selling to Different Buyer Groups
Different buyer groups could mean men or women or even the difference between B2B and B2C. Either way, sometimes it makes sense to use different sites for each buyer group you want to appeal to. You may want to take this approach if you sell different products to each group.
Example: Consider Fabletics. They started out selling affordable athletic wear to women through a monthly subscription service. They then added fabkids, which uses the same monthly service, but the kids’ clothes are everyday wear, not athletic. Instead of one site, they use two different sites dedicated to each brand.
Just because you fall into one of these scenarios doesn’t mean you have to use more than web instance. But, it probably warrants at least considering the benefits of doing so.
Challenges with Managing Multiple Online Stores
While setting up extra store instances on Shopify can be fast and simple, the actual management of both is more difficult. With separate online stores, merchants have separate orders, items, and inventory data to worry about. You need to be prepared to deal with problems like these:
- Orders: You’ll have to manage orders out of each site separately. This gets complicated when dealing with fulfillment and return processing.
- Inventory: If you sell some products on both sites, you’ll have to update inventory as customers buy and return items to both sites.
- Products: Product data becomes messy as you structure it differently across multiple sites.
- Integration: Integrating with your other systems like an ERP, or POS system becomes more complicated.
Having two storefronts means two sets of sales data to manage. Keeping all of it straight is hard, but is essential in successfully managing multiple stores.
How do you keep a 360-degree view of your customer across all your stores? How do you decimate inventory when the same items are sold on two different stores?
You don’t want to isolate your data from your different stores. You won’t be able to manage for long if you do. Instead, merchants should focus on centralizing their sales data and using business processes that can be used across all sales channels.
Before you start out on this venture though, know what challenges you’re taking on. Only use multiple stores if you require it. If you decide that it is the best strategy for you, focus on how you plan on managing the complexities we mentioned.
Best Practices for Managing Multiple Shopify Online Stores
While it can be tricky to manage multiple Shopify stores, the fear of doing it shouldn’t stop you from selling the way you need. These following best-practices make it easier to manage a multi-store strategy.
Optimize Each Site Specifically
If your Shopify stores represent different brands or target different customers, then the product information, copy, and design should reflect those differences.
Think about what different keywords each target market is looking for. You’ll want to use the language that your customers are using. You can utilize A/B testing software to test variations of copy to see what converts more customers.
Check out our post about Shopify SEO Best Practices.
Centralize Order Management
One of the challenges of managing multiple stores is fulfilling orders from your separate sites. If you centralize where you fulfill orders, you can more easily manage orders across all of your sites. You’ll want to keep fulfillment, returns, customer care, and drop shipping processes consistent.
The best way to do is to push order data to a centralized system that’s capable of managing orders across all online sites. You can use a integration platform as a robust solution to centralize your order management.
Master Product Data in a PIM
Odds are that your product information is also structured differently across your multiple Shopify stores. It takes extra work and time to re-structure or create new product information for each site
If not handled properly, product information management becomes a real pain for merchants. Data ends up messy and inaccurate. You won’t be able to rely on Shopify’s import products features to get the job done for you either. See how Shopify’s import product features often come up short for merchants.
Instead, merchants need a place to centralize or essentially “master” all of their product data. From this single location, you can then clean and standardize your data to publish it to your different Shopify stores.
This single location is called a Product Information Management (PIM) application. Read about more reasons why merchants need a PIM.
Update Inventory in Real-time
It’s crucial that your inventory updates in real-time when you’re selling through multiple customer touch points, especially if you’re selling the same products on different storefronts. Real-time inventory updates ensure that you never oversell your items.
The best way to achieve real-time inventory is to centralize where you manage inventory. This ensures that you track inventory counts no matter what store instance it sells from.
Save yourself the hassle of telling customers that you can’t ship a product to them because you don’t actually have it.
Consider eCommerce System Integration Software
When considering many of these best practices, you’ll see that most of them come down to centralizing where you manage your data, whether it’s your orders, inventory, items, or customers. Centralizing your data allows you to easily manage all your Shopify stores using the same processes.
A system integration platform, like what nChannel provides, is built just for online merchants like yourself. It doesn’t matter where your data is coming from or where it’s going, a data integration platform manages the flow of it so you have complete control.
With a solution like this in place, you can scale your business to multiple Shopify stores and even more sales channels like marketplaces and brick & mortar stores.
Learn about more challenges of managing multiple Shopify stores and how you can avoid them.
What to Do Next
Setting up multiple storefront on Shopify is no easy task, but merchants can do it. Just keep our best practices in mind. When done right, you can successfully sell on multiple stores.
If you’re ready to consider system integration between Shopify and your other systems like a POS or ERP, read more about nChannel’s pre-built integration for Shopify.