Today’s online retailer does his or her self a disservice by executing a single channel strategy. The competition is too great. The consumer expectations are too high. The variation in buyer preference is too wide.
If you want to be successful in 2015 eCommerce and beyond, you need to understand how to define and execute a multichannel eCommerce strategy.
Rule 1: Be more than just a website.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of being singular. Do you want to start an eCommerce business? Start an eCommerce website! Or, alternatively, start an eBay store!
Most eCommerce companies do start out with one channel. They start out doing one thing, until they build enough success to justify expansion. It’s critical that you always keep an eye on the future. How will you be more than just a website?
Different groups of people shop for what you sell in different ways at different times. You want to make yourself available to satisfy as many of these groups as possible, because when you do, you generate revenue.
If you isolate yourself to one channel, you leave opportunities to sell on the table. Instead, define a growth strategy that includes how you will expand your business to additional channels. Your webstore may be vital, but can you augment that revenue by selling on Amazon? What about a Facebook eCommerce store?
Expanding your channel strategy diversifies your business and opens new opportunities for revenue. It also puts your brand in front of more people. These benefits are worth the work you’ll have to put into expansion.
Rule 2: Be where your customers want you to be.
As you develop your multichannel eCommerce strategy, be pragmatic about the channels you utilize. Don’t just be everywhere for the sake of doing so. Be where your customers are.
Your potential customers want you to be somewhere. They need you to be there. It’s your job to understand your customer well enough to make educated decisions about where that time and place is.
Online consumers are fickle and have short attention spans. eCommerce is different from traditional retail in that you have to capture the customer at the exact right time to close the sale.
The only way to do that is understand which channels will connect you with the right consumers at the right time–and which channels won’t. The key is letting your customers dictate your channel strategy, not an analyst or a marketing director or a consultant.
Rule 3: Each channel should have a very specific purpose.
It’s a mistake to assume that you will sell in every channel exactly the same way.
Amazon limits your ability to build brand, and playing the rules of the Buy Box are critical. A product feed like Google Shopping requires keyword and bidding strategy. Selling on a webstore requires branding, good web design, and other strategies designed to convert visitors to sales.
Every channel will be useful for different reasons, and each one should have a specific purpose in your overall strategy. Don’t be afraid to define a purpose other than “sell the product right now”. You can (and probably should) combine channels to define multi-touch customer journeys.
Rule 4: Multiple channels. One brand.
You see your business as multiple channels. You define different reasons you sell through those channels. But, your customer probably doesn’t see it that way.
Your customer sees one brand. And, they expect their experience to be consistent, coordinated, and integrated.
Consumers consider organizations to be almost human. They they don’t talk to Joe who runs the Twitter account and focuses on brand engagement. They don’t talk to Alice in customer service who focuses on customer satisfaction. They talk to <brand name here>. And, if all of their experiences with <brand name here> aren’t consistent or connected, they’ll get frustrated.
Expanding to multiple channels can fragment your customer experience. Build an experience that is consistent.
Rule 5: B2B is just selling to a bunch of Cs.
If you’re a business that sells B2B, it’s easy to get caught up in that. And, while selling to business does have certain nuances and complexities, it’s important to remember one very important fact: a business is just made up of a bunch of consumers.
Yes, you’re selling to a law firm or a construction company or a newspaper printer. But, you’re also selling to Bob from maintenance, who is buying tools and materials. Or, you’re selling to Mary who manages the office, including buying supplies.
Businesses are made up of people, so make sure your channel strategy engages the people that make up those businesses first. They are the ones who will swipe the company card.
What To Do Next
Now that you know the rules, you need help accomplishing your multichannel eCommerce goals.
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