Running a business with a multichannel strategy can feel like you’re running eight businesses all at once. Although a multichannel strategy gives you the opportunity to sell your inventory stock through a variety of platforms, the balancing act can be tricky. Each channel has specific requirements for sales and orders, inventory stock quantities, re-ordering amounts, refund policies and exchanges or returns. These are only a few on the ongoing tasks that must be managed on each channel when you’re selling in a variety of places.
There are obvious benefits to implementing a multichannel strategy. If you can make it work, the financial gains can speak for themselves. By optimising your inventory stock to sell in so many different places, you will increase brand awareness and increase the likelihood of customer purchases.
However, you may also feel like you need octopus arms, with one of the eight arms able to handle each channel. What’s worse, when something goes wrong in one channel, you might feel like the arm and body gets pulled in that direction and it’s all you can focus on. That’s not a fantastic feeling, but sometimes it can become a reality.
Here are three of the main multichannel challenges that cause headaches for multichannel sellers.
Overselling happens when you don’t have visibility over all of your accounts and can be a frustrating part of a multichannel strategy. Each channel has a different audience clicking on items simultaneously. That means that if you have one green jacket left in stock and someone selects the green jacket on Amazon and also on another channel at the same time, you have oversold. If you have an inventory management software it isn’t difficult to manage stock across various channels.
When your customer has purchased a product on one of your channels, it’s time to get the product out the door and into their hands. Easier said than done, unfortunately. With a multichannel strategy, shipping products can be a huge roadblock. Each channel is bound to have slightly different shipping and returns policy. This means that you need to be able to comply with these policies or you risk having dissatisfied customers.
If you’re selling internationally, there are customs regulations that can impact shipping as well. Even when items should be cleared, they can get stuck in customs for days or weeks. Unfortunately, this still looks like a bad reflection on the business. Shipping is also subject to weather events — winter storms, floods and other inclement conditions can delay products in some of your channels. It can become tiresome to keep on top of all of the requirements across the channels.
Returning and exchanging challenges
No surprise here that returns and exchanges have different policies across each channel as well. This means multichannel sellers need to comply by each channel’s rules, in a timely manner, and also keep their customers happy. There are a variety of reasons that a customer returns an item; sometimes it might not fit or they don’t like the colour. Whatever the reason may be, you need to be responsive and focus on the customer experience so you don’t compromise their loyalty. If a customer gets frustrated in the returns process, it will negatively impact customer satisfaction and you could lose that customer altogether. Make sure you know the ins and outs of the returns and exchanges policies with all of your channels.