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How to choose which selling channels to target first
It’s tempting to add as many selling channels as possible to your business, but which should you add first and which will result in the greatest sales volumes and profits? Today, Tony Kyberd, COO of ecommerce platform and services provider Volo Commerce, examines the two main things you need to do to get all the benefits of being multichannel in a structured and targeted manner:
Adding Channels without Adding Overhead
In my article on the relative freedom and agility you get from being present on multiple online channels I noted that there are two chief challenges to going multichannel, but I didn’t explore them. That’s the purpose of this article. The first is that you can’t be on every single channel so you need to make good choices to match the resources and effort you can put in. Secondly, to avoid a doubling of channels translating to a doubling of people and processes, for example, you need to centralise the management of your multiple online presences.
Making good choices
The first thing we advise our customers to do, or help them with, is establishing where you are now and where you want to take the business. This can involve some good old-fashioned SWOT analysis – your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth and external threats. Then you should do the C as well, which is an assessment of the competition in the categories and regions where you operate. Once you’ve done this you have your starting point for where you want the business to grow, what you’re trying to achieve, and what could stop you getting there. If you’re struggling to give this some shape, think about PPP – people, process and platform – and how those three factors can help or hinder you.
Armed with your objectives, then you need to decide which new channel or channels are the best fit to those objectives. In the area of marketplaces, for example, there’s an abundance of choice, which can be a little overwhelming. Some marketplaces focus on certain categories, some on certain regions. The likes of Amazon and eBay are regularly adding new country sites to challenge the local status quo, and that might be an easier step than starting with a brand new marketplace, relationship and way of working.
Furthermore, some web store platforms are easier to use than others, but scale less well, or vice versa. Markets also vary in terms of how regulated they are, how culturally different they are to what you’re used to, and in their attitude to customs, taxes, reporting and so on. And how will you serve these markets? Will you do everything yourself, or will you partner with specialists for some aspects?
There’s a lot to think about, so you might look at getting an external perspective on your business and some advice from people who specialise in working with businesses to recommend the right channel mix. Some of them even provide this free as part of their own requirements gathering and consultative selling process.
Streamlining your diversification overhead
We also add multiple channels to bring in more sales but we don’t want it to be a linear relationship, with a corresponding spike in resources and costs to cope with the additional workload. In many cases our customers came to us because they added a second or third channel and couldn’t run the business manually anymore. They needed a way of centrally managing what’s happening across multiple channels.
All marketplaces focus on the quality of the buying experience, since they need to ensure that customers are delighted with the experience and keeping coming back to make more purchases. You need to take the same detailed, quality-drive approach to any new marketplace as you have so far in your business. The trouble is, even though every marketplace wants the same thing for their buyers, in order to get there they each place their own different rules, requirements and standards on the seller.
So how do you centralise your operations to achieve the efficiencies while still taking a focused approach to each new channel? It’s all about options as I’ve said before, and you have three of them. One, you can automate your processes as much as possible. Two, you can erode your margin and pay another company to do the work for you. Three, you can do some of both.
You can automate various processes between your suppliers, you, your channels and back again. This could be in the form of product and listing feeds, order information, stock level adjustments, re-order quantities, back orders, or dispatch and delivery data, all across multiple channels and parties. There are even clever technologies that can take information like listing data, automatically tailor it for each channel, and then push it back to you or to all the channels simultaneously.
The degree to which you can automate can depend a lot on your suppliers and other partners. For example, a survey covered in a recent Tamebay white paper called Scaling Up Your Online Business found that 73% of sellers still relied on manual information from all of their suppliers. That said, most companies start using spreadsheets before graduating to FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites to collect and send electronic files and then building connectors to other websites using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Many multichannel platforms also have direct integrations to the more popular marketplaces built into them, so you don’t need to build the connectors, which can be costly.
As with deciding which channels to add, it makes sense to work with specialists in managing projects to successfully centralise the management of your multichannel ecommerce business. Pick one that you can trust to advise you on the best solution for your goals, and bear in mind it might be their own solution, a solution they’re commercially tied to, or an independent solution in which they’ve no vested interest.
Adding channels without adding overhead makes you more agile, as long as they’re the right channels for you and you have the right technology approach to bring everything together. For an easy read charting the ‘how to’ journey from start-up to scaling multichannel ecommerce business, you could do a lot worse than having a look at the Tamebay white paper I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, which we’re pleased to be able to support.