Multichannel eCommerce is now a staple of modern business. It lets businesses reach new audiences and sell to customers where and when they’re ready to shop. Done right, it boosts revenue and maximises margins.
Done wrong, however, multichannel eCommerce has the potential to cost a business financially and hurt its brand in the marketplace. Here are the 11 most common mistakes retailers make when they sell through multiple channels.
Mistake 1: Starting with no multichannel order management system
Without a multichannel order management system, it is extremely difficult to engage in effective and efficient multichannel retailing. Trying to manage numerous order pathways and distribution centres without being able to see real-time stock levels can cause numerous fulfilment issues, as well as pose huge challenges when trying to process returns, exchanges and refunds.
A multichannel order management system not only tracks and syncs inventory across multiple locations, but also provides a single platform to process the picking, packing, shipping and delivery of products. An integrated system is crucial for any business attempting to see growth from selling in more than one or two places.
Trying to manually consolidate all the required data and information across various platforms (or on paper?) is likely to end in tears for someone – not to mention the amount of resource needed to ensure it is completed accurately on a regular basis. So do your business a favour and start as you mean to go on, with an end-to-end multichannel management order system that can scale with you.
A multichannel order management system is crucial to making sense of your cross-channel sales.
Mistake 2: Choosing channels before services
With so many channels in which to sell, you better cover them all, right? Wrong. This is actually a great way to dilute your service offering, by spending time, money and focus on retail channels that won’t show ROI.
It’s important to first understand your target audience (which we will discuss a bit later), and know which channels they prefer to buy from. For example, if you had a technology product for the younger generation, you wouldn’t go to market with a retail store. That is an expensive investment for something that would sell better online, without the need for a bricks-and-mortar location. You would get more bang for your buck on digital marketing and a great website.
Of course, once you are well established in the right channels for your buyers, you could explore one or two others, but there always needs to be a basis for selecting them. Do you have data that shows there may be potential in that particular channel or is there a way you can serve your market better by selling there? Consider the service you are providing first, before selecting channels.
Mistake 3: Failing to adapt content across channels
Brand consistency is important, but if you fail to adapt content when creating multichannel retail marketing content, you’ll struggle to attract and convert buyers. Why? Three reasons.
- Because different people use different channels to browse and make purchases. So if your product needs to reach a variety of demographics, it’s important to meet the expectations of those audiences with the language they use.
- Because some messaging just doesn’t work across different channels. Something that makes sense on mobile probably won’t in a physical store and vice versa.
- Because all channels have different input requirements. On Instagram images are absolutely key, with the captions less so. On Facebook photos are important too, but if you’re advertising, only one or two sentences show in the newsfeed and users have to click ‘more’ to see the rest of the content. You’ll need to adjust your content with every platform to make sure what you want to say is still getting cut-through, no matter if there are 20 words or 100.
One size does not fit all when it comes to marketing content and multichannel eCommerce. Failing to differentiate offerings across channels will alienate, confuse and fail to grab the attention of potential customers.
Multichannel content needs to be tailored based on where your customers are.
Mistake 4: Neglecting customer experience
A business is nothing without its customers. Yet it’s surprising how many organisations forget to put the experience their customer has, on their journey to making a purchase, at the heart of every decision they make. And what about delighting that customer with friendly communication, an amazing delivery and ease of returns? (Because the experience doesn’t end once they decide to buy).
Planning customer journeys is essential before moving a business into multichannel retail. Even though that planning process is inherently more complex, with so many different paths to purchase. In fact, research has shown that more than 50 percent of consumers will use three to five channels on their journey to buy.
So what’s important is not just setting up a system that works for your business. It needs to be created around the needs of your customers, and ensure that every step offers the experience they expect when deciding to buy.
Mistake 5: Viewing order fulfilment as the end of the line
So you’ve managed to lead your customer along their journey to purchase, resulting in a successful order, pack and delivery. Well done – but this is when a lot of businesses simply forget about their customer and move on. You shouldn’t though. There is still much more value to unlock beyond this point.
From managing returns or exchanges, to getting in contact about a faulty product, or encouraging a repeat purchase – there are lots of reasons to stay engaged. Recent research has shown that customers no longer base loyalty on price or product, but prefer to choose companies based on the experience they receive. So don’t forget to provide superior customer service long after the product has been delivered, as this could make or break the customer’s impression of your business.
Lifetime customers come from great after-sales service.
Mistake 6: Not connecting offline selling to online (and vice versa)
While different channels require different messaging it is still important to connect your offline selling with online – because (as noted in point four) customers use a variety of channels on their journey to buy. So there needs to be commonality between what they see when they are browsing, whether they are on a mobile app, selecting from a catalogue, or in a physical store.
And don’t forget to offer consumers the convenience of purchasing across channels, depending on their requirements. For example someone might buy from you online but need it urgently, so want to pick it up in store the next day. Or if they visit your retail shop and you don’t have an item in stock, let them buy it online right then and there, and have it delivered.
Mistake 7: Not meeting your market
Online channels are fast outpacing their physical shop counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with your customers. Even if you are only online right now, there is still value in providing retail store-like opportunities – and it all comes back to providing an exceptional customer experience. After all, one of the largest brands in the world – Apple – still has physical stores because it understands how important it is for their consumers to use the product before buying.
So what does meeting your market look like in multichannel retail?
It could mean turning your employees into product experts, to really enhance the benefits of human interaction. Or you might host special events, use pop-up stores, appear in podcasts or host a special webinar. The point is to think outside the square to make encountering your brand an experience that can’t be missed. Adapt your offering to meet the market and delight your customers with something new and exciting.
Consider how you can create a great retail-like experience, even if you don’t do brick-and-mortar sales.
Mistake 8: Failing to understand your audience
If a business doesn’t understand the details of who buys their products, they will struggle to choose the best channels for selling. And this must go deeper than simply deciding on a demographic and making generalisations about the way they shop.
If you want to put customer experience at the core of everything you do, you need to know who your customers are, why they want to buy your product, where they like to browse and how they like to make a purchase. What kind of decisions are they making on their journey and who are they talking to? Does price matter, or is it more about convenience, or quality?
Some studies show that male customers are more likely to use new channels to buy than females, but then that depends on the product itself. And women typically use multiple channels to purchase, as opposed to their male counterparts. There are many intricacies to understanding the customer you are looking to target, and by knowing exactly who they are, you’ll be able to develop research-based strategies on how to best market and sell to them.
Mistake 9: Neglecting the data captured from multichannel retailing systems
Multichannel retail management systems are constantly collecting data. And not using this data to your advantage is a huge failing.
For example, a free shipping code goes out by eDM and is also advertised on your social channels. And in every 100 people that take up that offer, only five have clicked through from their email and the rest have come from Facebook/Instagram. This data is highly valuable in that it shows most of your customers aren’t reading their emails from you, but are very active in your social channels. So next time, where are you going to invest time and effort?
Of course this is a simplistic illustration of what data can show us, and in reality there is no end to the insights you can glean from your system. Unleashed software, for example, includes a built-in module called Business Intelligence Vision which lets you explore your data on the fly, in near-real time.
With a few clicks, for instance you can interrogate your profit margin by sales channel, and cross-reference this with any other metric, such as location, or sales person.
Mistake 10: Confusing checkouts
Cart abandonment. It’s the curse of online retailers. Someone is ready to make a purchase, puts an item in their cart, then boom – they disappear. And you’re left wondering, why?
Some of it is purely the digital version of window shopping. However some figures suggest around 50% of cart abandonment is due to lack of shipping options at checkout. There’s also the issue where the cost of shipping is not known until the last minute, which is a big no-no. The holy grail of online shopping is still free shipping, with 90% of customers agreeing that free delivery is more important than fast delivery.
But aside from shipping, what else could be putting people off buying from your business online? A confusing checkout, or difficult path to checkout could be the culprit. So you must ensure your ecommerce store is designed with user experience in mind, for both desktop and mobile. It is absolutely essential that the whole process is as easy as possible. Not sure if it is? Test. Test. And test again.
Mistake 11: Underestimating the importance of the delivery economy
When a customer makes a purchase your job is only half done.
The next step is getting their order to them when they expect it – and these days, consumers want things quickly. If you haven’t got your delivery options sorted, you could be missing out on a lot of sales – especially repeat sales.
Shipping and delivery can no longer be left to languish at the end of the customer path to purchase – in fact they should be one of the first things to consider when putting together a multichannel sales and marketing strategy. Failing to do so can really limit your multichannel results.
Article by Greg Roughan in collaboration with our team of inventory management and business specialists. Greg has been writing, publishing and working with content for more than 20 years. His writing motto is ‘don’t be boring’. His outdoors motto is ”I wish I hadn’t brought my headtorch’, said nobody, ever’. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his family.