Small BusinessCommerceOmnichannel

Your guide to creating a multi-channel selling strategy

Gone are the days when brands only sold products via one channel, whether a physical store, a mail-order catalog, or a home shopping TV network.

Today’s shoppers are creatures of convenience – the easier it is, the more likely they are to buy something. And thanks to the explosion of new online sales channels, brands have more ways to reach new and existing customers than ever.

The result of multi-channel selling? More revenue that lets you take your brand to the next level.

What is multi-channel selling?

A multi-channel selling strategy is a plan for offering products through different online and offline channels, including a website, online marketplaces, physical spaces, or social media.

With global ecommerce sales expected to grow by 10.4% in 2023 alone to reach $6.3 trillion — making up 20.8% of total retail sales1 — having a multi-channel sales strategy in place means you may be poised to take a slice of this revenue.

Top benefits of a multi-channel sales strategy

The benefits of multi-channel selling are massive — regardless of size or industry, brands with a multi-channel sales strategy have successfully encouraged new customers around the world to hit the checkout button.

Here’s why having a multi-channel sales strategy can be a game-changer for your brand.

  1. Attract new customers

    Multi-channel selling lets you reach more shoppers, which means more potential sales. After all, online shoppers aren't all in one place, which means your sales strategy shouldn't be either.

    With multi-channel selling, potential customers can shop via their preferred channel, increasing your chances of converting those who otherwise wouldn't have discovered your business.

  2. Add new revenue potential

    Adding new channels to sell on means increasing your revenue potential. Today’s shoppers want simplicity and convenience — so if they can purchase directly on, for instance, Instagram rather than having to pull up your website, the more likely they’ll checkout.

    Not only does multi-channel selling remove friction from the customer journey, but it also reflects basic math: More ways to sell means more revenue.

  3. Increase your brand touchpoints

    Multi-channel selling adds new touchpoints, so your brand is likely to remain top-of-mind no matter where shoppers are in the customer journey — and ensures you’ll be there when they’re finally ready to place their order.

    Increasing your brand touchpoints also offers protection in case your website or a third-party platform undergoes maintenance. Without a multi-channel selling strategy, you risk losing potential customers during periods of downtime.

  4. Sell internationally

    Multi-channel selling can expose your business to international markets, expanding your reach beyond local customers. There may be a strong demand for your products in another country, but if they don't know you exist, you may not be uncovering your products' full market potential.

    But before you set your sights on world domination, remember you shouldn't be attempting to sell to everyone and anyone.

    Rather than trying to sell your products on all channels all the time, think about the markets you'd like to grow in. Then choose the channels that are most popular with people within those markets.

Online sales channels for small businesses

As a small business or startup, it can be tempting to jump on as many online sales channels as possible — but you need to be smart about where you put your resources. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin and struggle to maintain your presence or, worse, fall behind in managing orders and responding to customer requests.

That said, here are some of the best ecommerce sales channels for growing brands.

  1. Social commerce

    No matter what industry you're in, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest can all be great platforms for sales.

    Let potential buyers discover your products through an influencer, by shopping directly via your “buyable pins” on Instagram and Pinterest, or by targeting buyers through paid campaigns.

    When it comes to social media for sales, you can generally expect low overheads, a readily available customer base, and simple setup processes. But engagement with followers drives engagement with your brand, so it's crucial to have the resources and time to be available to respond, connect, and post frequently.

    Tip: Even if you don’t have a website, you can sell your products and services directly on social media by creating a product listing right from your account with PayPal. It only takes a few minutes to create a listing — start selling on social media sales today.

  2. Social media marketplaces

    With hundreds of millions of social media users tapping on shoppable tags every month, marketplaces on social commerce platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer massive opportunities to reach your targeted audience — especially if you’re already leveraging social ads and sponsored posts in your marketing strategy.

    When you promote and sell your products on social media marketplaces, you not only reduce friction in the path to purchase, but also unlock creative tools that these apps offer.

    For example, the Shopping from Creators feature on Instagram lets creators tag your products in their posts, so their followers can quickly see and buy them.

    The best part? You can create product listings through your PayPal account and get paid in minutes.

  3. Websites

    While post-pandemic life has largely returned to normal, consumers have continued to choose online over in-person shopping,2 with shopping on mobile devices comprising 40.4% of all ecommerce sales.3

    If you haven’t optimized your website for mobile payments and easy checkout, you may be missing out.

    Make sure you design your brand’s mobile experience with a device-first mentality, meaning simplified navigation, easy on-screen “Add to Basket” and “Checkout” buttons, and a streamlined mobile payment process.

    Plus, prioritize implementing a seamless, secure payment solution to help your customers feel secure when handing over their private information.

  4. Online marketplaces

    Online marketplaces are one of the best ways to get your products and services in front of an established and engaged customer base. While you’ll typically need to pay a commission, you benefit from the online marketplaces’ brand reputation and ease of use for both buyer and seller alike.

    You’re probably familiar with the big online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay, but don't be afraid to embrace growing alternatives like Swappa, Storenvy, and Depop.

    When exploring a new online marketplace, take the time to do thorough research. Not all marketplaces will be the right fit, and it’s important to consider their fee structures, how customizable your store and listings can be, and whether they support payment methods like PayPal.

Deciding where to sell

Given the abundance of channels you can add to your multi-channel selling strategy, the challenge lies in determining which ones make the best fit.

When choosing the right channels for growth, consider your business's current infrastructure. Will it be able to support selling on multiple channels? Can your customer service agents handle requests on different platforms? Do you have enough inventory to justify multi-channel selling?

Rather than trying to do it all, remember that it's about delivering a great customer experience on your chosen channels. There are also plenty of resources and tools to support you, including PayPal for Business.

Top challenges of multi-channel selling management

While it touts massive benefits, multi-channel management comes with challenges that can take up valuable time and resources if unprepared.

Use these tips to stay ahead.

Multi-channel inventory management

Since multi-channel selling involves maintaining a presence across different channels and marketplaces, you’ll need to ensure your inventory is always synced and up-to-date.

Nobody wants a sticky situation where a customer purchases an out-of-stock product because someone had just bought it on another channel.

The key is to use a multi-channel inventory management tool that connects directly to your POS system and automatically updates inventory levels across all your channels when a customer places an order or if you restock a product.

Ideally, your multi-channel inventory management tool will also provide you with insights into how your products are selling, so you can make smart decisions that minimize the likelihood of excess inventory or shortages during seasonal sales, like the holidays.

Account management

When you sell on multiple platforms, you’ll need to juggle different accounts and business relationships with different companies and people, whether it’s Facebook, Amazon, or the organizer of the local holiday fair.

The more channels in your multi-channel selling strategy, the trickier it gets. Some of the processes you need to consider when managing different sales channels include:

  • Payments. Each platform will take a different percentage of your revenue. Closely track how much you earn from each platform, so you can optimize your multi-channel selling strategy moving forward.
  • Terms of service. Different platforms will have different terms of service. For example, some may have strict guidelines about what types of products are allowed. Read the terms carefully, so you don’t run the risk of having your products delisted or store banned.
  • Listings. While you may have limited control over how your brand looks and feels on an online marketplace, make sure your listings (including product descriptions, images, and prices) are consistent across all channels so customers have a standardized experience no matter where they end up purchasing from.
  • Tax reporting. To stay compliant, take the time to familiarize yourself with each platform’s requirements for tax reporting and collection.

Customer experience

Customer experience is what may differentiate a retailer that sells you the products from a brand you love, support, and share with your friends and family.

Keep these tips in mind when managing the customer experience across your owned channels:

  • Build a centralized knowledge base. By providing an upfront snapshot of all your products, services, and policies, your customer support agents can quickly find relevant answers when assisting customers, whether over chat, email, or phone.
  • Offer self-service. About 65% of business leaders say improved self-service is key to decreasing call volume.4 Not only does self-service free up your customer service agents to tackle higher-priority or more complex requests, shoppers may feel more empowered after solving their own problems.
  • Provide different customer service touchpoints. Having an array of customer service touchpoints across your channels ensures shoppers can get appropriate help when and how they want it.
  • Integrate the online and offline customer experience. In 2022, “click and collect” retail sales amounted to nearly $96 billion in the U.S. alone.5 By creating a seamless and convenient customer experience that spans your digital and in-person channels, you can increase sales and customer loyalty.

Whether they’re learning about your brand for the first time or checking out for the fifth time, every interaction a customer has with your brand is an opportunity for you to set their expectations.

Investing in ways that go above and beyond these expectations will help turn casual shoppers into loyal brand champions – learn more about how you can deliver memorable customer experiences one small moment at a time.

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