Making it as a Multichannel Merchant: 4 Steps to Implement for Tangible Results

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Being successful in today’s retail market is no easy feat and, in fact, can be quite daunting. However it is certainly not impossible, and with some careful thought and consideration, embarking on the right steps at the right time and committing to some hard work can get your brand off the ground. In this article, we want to unpack some tried-and-true tips to ensure your multichannel strategy works for you and facilitates the building of a successful business.

Defining multichannel

The terms ‘multichannel’ and ‘omnichannel’ get erroneously thrown around and used interchangeably when in fact, they are very different. Although both imply retailing by more than one channel, it is the approach to the two that differentiates them from one another.

Omnichannel means to essentially be omnipresent, retailing from wherever a customer happens to look. On the other hand, multichannel has a more tailored approach, where a brand considers what channels will appeal to their ideal customer and then solely focus their attention on those channels only. A multichannel strategy not only considers what the ideal customer needs, but it also assesses how the company can best meet those needs, accounting for operational constraints.

How to succeed at multichannel retailing

Given the aforementioned distinction, let’s explore changes a business can implement to be successful in its multichannel retail approach.

Appreciate the buyer’s journey

Buyers in today’s world are becoming more and more knowledgeable on products they buy prior to making a purchase. This is facilitated by the vast amount of information and reviews available at their fingertips, and the assurance of same-day, next-day or two-day delivery. Basically, they do not have to wait long for shipping and so the sense of urgency for decision making is no longer a significant factor.

To instigate a decision and subsequent sale, companies need to be considering the buyer’s needs and decision-making journey and ensure that they offer the information a buyer is after, and when they predict a buyer will be ready to make a purchase, the brand is there and waiting in whatever channel that may be. For the groundwork, a brand must not underestimate the use of great SEO and content on its website. It is also beneficial to list items on well-known sites such as Amazon or reach out to trusted social media influencers for reviews. Reviews and endorsements go a long way to building trust and assurance which are vital to committing to a purchase.

Ensure your system can keep up

A large part of successful multichannel retailing is the backend support you have which facilitates your business. There a myriad of options out there under the general banners of POS, eCommerce, ERP and inventory management systems but not all are equal.

It is important to picture where you want to be in the future and ensure the system you choose is scalable and will adapt to your imminent new growth. Some retailers make the mistake of being too timid, and simply purchase add-ons and plugins to their existing software, which might inhibit growth and create problems down the line.

A specific and essential function of any system for a multichannel business is the ability to integrate multiple channels at one time at a centralised point. This then provides real-time processing and data analysis. What does this mean for you on the ground? If stock is sold through one channel, it will not be ‘sold again’ through another. This mitigates a shortage situation that could create unhappy customers.

Ensure your supply chain can keep up

If you are increasing your exposure to customers and subsequent sales, then it is vital to ensure your supply chain can keep up with the increases. The last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver because your supply chain is still operating under the same constraints (timing and quantities) as before. This may mean communicating increased expectations to current suppliers, or even searching for new suppliers so that your supply chain remains efficient and uninterrupted. Of course, to understand your new requirements and how your suppliers can support you, you need to have an adequate grasp of your projected sales and inventory through inventory management software.

Keep your customer in focus

The final point we want to emphasise for multichannel retail success is that your customer needs to be your perpetual focus. This not only means that communication and customer service need to be your top priority, but also that all your interactions need to be catered to the person you are dealing with.

A big faux pas many multichannel retails commit is to replicate their content and approach across all channels, essentially taking the easy way out. Your customer for each channel may be different, and every interaction needs to feel genuine. Therefore, ensure your content is consistently fresh and unique, catering to the audience at each interaction point.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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