Written by Matt Warren
11th March 2016 • 28 min read
In 2016 retailers need to be using multi channel ecommerce in order to increase sales. It’s that simple.
Your customers are continually discovering new sales channels and not enough retailers are adjusting to this.
You may find yourself selling via your website, or a specific marketplace and you’re comfortable with that. It’s this sort of complacency that prevents retailers from exploring their true potential and increasing their sales.
Below i’ll be looking at what tools are available to help you master multi channel selling!
- E-Commerce Platforms
- Inventory Management
- Pop-up Stores
- Customer Service
There are so many platforms available now that are accessible to even the biggest technophobes. Even your Nan could set up a site selling, crochet perhaps?
Website design and additional apps for sales, marketing or accounting with a simple click of a button. Also, the hosting of the site, security measures which include credit card processing is all handled by the platforms themselves.
Which one is most suitable for your needs though?
Great For: Novice sellers, looking to start a store for the first time
Starting at a measly $9 a month, Shopify is a fantastic portal for people who are new to online selling.
I even used Shopify myself to sell a selection of Rugby t-shirts for last years 6 Nations.
Despite it been ideal for novices, it has the capabilities to grow with you. Companies as big as Budweiser, Tesla and Los Angeles Lakers use the Shopify Plus package.
What you will get on the lowest priced package:
- Sell through Facebook
- Add Buy Buttons to your blog
- Free POS system
- Discount Codes
- 24/7 Support – phone, email, live chat
Once you take out the free trial, it’s incredibly easy to add your store, select a theme and add additional apps.
Shopify is a particular favourite of mine. Their live chat support is superb and the options for them to call you back saves you money on your phone bill.
Great For: Novice/Intermediates, looking to outsource some of their work
The most popular ecommerce platform that powers 30% of all online stores.
It’s biggest clients include the likes of New Balance and Subaru. On the face of it it’s free, however you will have to outsource the hosting so this may set you back up to $700 a year.
What I liked about the offerings were:
- Free storefront theme
- Mobile friendly site
- Pre-installed payment gateways
- Shipping calculator
- Multiple shipping rates
- Great SEO capabilities
- Discount codes
- Basic sales reporting
WooCommerce’s free Storefront theme is very clean and stylish and you can benefit from their immense SEO capabilities because the site is run through WordPress.
Great For: Advanced sellers who have money to spend on an agency
Magento’s on-site language is very particular and slightly off putting if you are just starting out.
Words and phrases like ‘powerful’, ‘fast growing’, and ‘large businesses’ might have you running for the hills.
If you are just starting out this isn’t for you. If you’ve sold well on Amazon, eBay or etsy and have money to spend, this is for you.
No prices are available on face value, as it’s dependent on the size of your business. The features for the base ‘Enterprise’ edition that I liked are:
- Discount codes
- User-friendly admin panel
- 100% responsive themes
- User reviews
- Batch import and export
- Recently viewed products
- Product zoom
- Guest and register checkout
- Customer order history
Magento’s functionality can be complicated, but the possibilities are endless. It’s a platform that is normally used for big stores, who have migrated out of WooCommerce or Shopify.
Great For: Novice sellers, looking to start a store
Bigcommerce is a platform that is making a lot of noise and is becoming increasingly popular.
It’s ease of use and reliability and it’s uptime (when site is live without any errors) is unparalleled in the industry.
They offer some great features on their lowest package as well:
- Unlimited products
- No transaction fees
- Square & Google Shopping integration
- 24/7 phone support
- Amazon integration
- Analytics reporting
It’s very similarly priced to Shopify and is seen as a direct equivalent. If you are a bit more technically minded and have a willingness to learn, you might get more out of BigCommerce.
At first, it can be difficult to draw traffic to your web store, so this is where marketplaces like eBay and Amazon work well.
These sites already have millions of potential customers browsing every day for something similar to what you offer.
There are fees involved when it comes to marketplaces. However, it’s worth noting that you won’t have to pay a cent when it comes to site design, development, or rectifying any general site errors.
So which options are the best?
Captain obvious I know, but there a lot of retailers who ignore selling on Amazon. Still. In 2016.
So what are the benefits of selling on Amazon?
- 19% of US millenials own an Amazon prime account
- There are 80 million millennials in the US spending $200 billion a year
- More consumers searches than Google
- 44% of all online shoppers go directly to Amazon
- 4x as many sellers make a million compared to eBay
- Fulfillment centres available
Amazon FBA is proving popular with sellers and is increasing at a rate of 65% year-on-year. All your goods are sent to Amazon, they pick, pack and dispatch. No stock, no problem.
Its benefits include:
- Amazon storing your products
- Amazon Prime benefits
- Free Shipping
- Exporting to customers worldwide
- Easy returns
- Using Amazon’s award winning customer service
With eBay, there is this notion that it’s a platform purely for part time sellers, trying to offload their junk.
This is not the case, in fact ‘power sellers’ on eBay are generating a much healthier profit margin compared to those who sell on Amazon.
- 10% of eBay sellers report a profit margin of 50% or more
- $20 billion spent on the eBay app in 2015
- 11 million consumer searches made every hour
- Free listing months available
- 15% discount on fees for powersellers
Additionally you can use Amazons FBA service to fulfil any of your other channels orders like eBay. It doesn’t have to be an Amazon order.
If you are looking to fulfil your eBay orders via FBA here’s a great video from Jordan Malik.
Unbeknown to most people outside of the US, Wanelo is a vastly improving marketplace for sellers. It’s said that around 25% of all online shopping will be via mobile in 2017, which bodes well for Wanelo!
Here is why:
- 85% of all consumer purchases made through its app
- 20 million products
- 350,000 stores listed
- 11 million users
- 90% of shoppers are female
- 50 minutes – Average time per day spent via each user
Hopefully by this point you should know your target market, so if it’s predominately female then alarm bells should be ringing in your ears now!
90% of Wanelo’s shoppers are female
It’s worth noting that all sellers must be selling handmade, craft or vintage goods. This can be off putting for sellers who may misunderstand this.
I’ve seen this personally with t-shirt companies who feel they won’t qualify, you will. So check beforehand if you are unsure.
- Free to set up, no monthly fee (cheaper than Amazon)
- 690,000 new members join every month
- Funding growing at rate as eBay
- Most pinned site on Pinterest
- 67% female
- 23 million active etsy shoppers
- 4.3 billion search page views
You may be thinking, “well it’s all well and good Richard selling on all these marketplaces but how do I manage the extra workload?”.
That’s why inventory management software is absolutely essential for retailers in 2016. In
fact in a recent report by Web Retailer where they surveyed 1,500 Amazon Sellers, it was the most popular choice of software for sellers in 2016.
So what is inventory management software?
Despite it’s slightly boring title it’s an intrinsic part of your business, that you won’t realise is a must until you have it.
Inventory Management Software allows retailers like yourself, to manage your inventory, purchase orders, accounts, shipping and profit reports across all of yout sales channels, in one centralised place.
No more overselling and no more disappointing customers with out of stock items.
It allows you to effectively sell on more platforms, and to print shipping labels faster so you can spend more time on activities to grow their business.
As clever sellers are identifying that adding marketplaces is the way to reach more customers, 21% of Amazon sellers are planning to use inventory management.
It has been shown that 46% of small to medium businesses still manage their inventory manually, or not at all.
So how big a problem is that? A $1.1 trillion problem in fact, companies lose the following every year:
- $634 billion disappointing customers with stocking issues
- $472 billion by overstocking items
Inventory management starts at around $70 a month, so it’s an absolute no brainer when you are seriously looking to expand your business.
Poor inventory management is costing small to medium business $1.1 trillion every year!
The biggest resurgence in the last few years for retailers has been that of offline sales. Seriously, roll with me here.
So why should you be looking into a pop-up store? Here’s why:
- Engage customers offline
- Gather product feedback
- Utilise a certain season
- Generate brand awareness
- No capital intensive expansion
This is a tactic that worked well for gift company ChattyFeet. This is where inventory management
can come in handy, as most good systems also offer a point of sale system. The benefit of a POS system linked to your inventory management system is:
- Works on any device
- Updates your inventory in store as well as online in real time
- Easy to use, no training
- Personalise your own register
- Unlimited registers
- Use your own credit card terminal
- Design your own receipts
- Most hardware already supported
You can be really inventive here as well and there are some great example of brilliant pop-up stores.
Cloud based accounting services like Xero and Quickbooks have completely revolutionised the game for small to medium businesses.
Like all good cloud based services they have clean interfaces, are user friendly, save time and take the pain out of mundane tasks.
Most importantly, they almost make accounting fun. Who would have known?
So what options are available? There are 2 major players in my opinion.
Xero supports over half a million businesses as well as 16,000 accounting firms. So if you currently have an accountant, check if they are supported by Xero.
Xero is an ideal solution for small to medium businesses as it allows you to handle your cash flow, invoicing, payments and payroll.
The starter package is more than adequate, it is priced at just $30 a month, where you pay just $21 for the first 6 months.
Xero’s package for SMBs is $55 cheaper than Quickbooks
So how will it benefit your expanding multi channel business:
- Integrates with POS and inventory management systems
- Easy to setup and transfer from another accounting program
- Xero Touch – App that lets you manage your accounts on the go
- Clean dashboard with accounts payable and receivable
- Create budgets to estimate future income and expenses
- Create invoices and purchase orders instantly
- Take photos of expenses and save online
With its 350 integrations Xero is perfecting for linking to your ecommerce platform and inventory management system. It allows you to grant access to an unlimited number of users with your business.
A household name, especially in North America, Quickbooks is the original market leader.
However, it has faced stiff competition from Xero in very recent years. It serves more than 1 million businesses.
Similarly to Xero it’s a great solution for small to medium businesses. However, Quickbooks has a restriction on users and their equivalent package of up to 5 employees on payroll comes in at $76 a month.
So what good features do Quickbooks offer:
- Real time dashboard with private mode view
- Customizable invoices and overdue alerts
- Expense tracking
- Manage VAT from software
- ‘Company Snapshot’ shows annual income and expenses
- Integrates with POS and inventory management systems
Quickbooks popularity is based on the length of time they have been around, however (in my opinion again) Xero takes the crown of cloud based accounting service.
More features, a better price, easier to use and more integrations make it a far superior choice!
As your business continues to grow, customer service is something that can’t slip by the wayside.
As you start selling on eBay, Amazon, Etsy and Wanelo ideally you’ll want to start referring people back to your website.
This will be beneficial as the profit margin is likely to be greater on your site, as you won’t be paying any seller fees.
Refer marketplaces customers to your site, your profit margins will be better there
Placing promotional materials in the packaging of goods you sell via your marketplaces, perhaps with an offer, is a great start.
So what are some great tools to ensure you are providing great service as your company grows?
See how Veeqo integrates with Quickbooks
In a world where customers have a plethora of ways to contact you, managing all of their requests can prove a right headache.
It’s not surprising as well, as there are more entries into your business than ever before such as email, phone, contact forms, Twitter, and Facebook.
Here’s how can Zendesk help eradicate these headaches:
- Work from anywhere – iphone, ipad, laptop or desktop
- Answer common questions with one click templates
- Integrates with most ecommerce platforms
- Support available in multiple languages
- Customer feedback integrated into analytics
- Create a self service portal to match your brand
- Online live chat for your site
A market leader in its field, Zendesk is a great option for any size business due to its multi layered pricing plan and additional add ons.
Another big player in the field, Kayako can list RSPCA, Peugeot and Nasa amongst their customer list. Similarly to Zendesk they offer some great features including:
- Rich live chats and screenshot sharing
- Personalized self service portal
- Capture log calls
- Create customer profiles with chat history
- Speed and satisfaction reporting
Great customer service is absolutely essential in converting your customers into fans and brand advocates. I particularly prefer the outlook and pricing structure of Zendesk, but you may think otherwise.
Check out Capterra’s list of customer service software for a better idea.
Any tools I haven’t mentioned? Anything you agree or disagree with? Have your own personal experience of any of these tools? Know of any multi channel ecommerce tools? Let me know in the comments below! Download eBook
Written by Matt Warren
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