There is hardly a retail, eCommerce or related conference one can go to these days without hearing the buzzwords ‘Multichannel’ or ‘Omnichannel’ selling.
In this article we explore what exactly these terms mean, and give you some examples of how you can get into multichannel selling, to increase reach, and sales.
What is Multichannel Selling?
Simply put, multichannel means that you as the merchant, engage with your customers through whichever medium they wish to engage with you. It’s about giving your customers a choice of how to interact with you. For example, fans of social media may not be willing to engage with you on email, or vice versa, but may want to purchase using a marketplace like bidorbuy because that is what they are accustomed to. Make sure that you can facilitate that for them.
A more formal definition of multichannel/omnichannel might read something like:
“Multichannel selling or Omnichannel retailing is the use of many different channels in a customer’s shopping experience. This includes research before a product is purchased, physical retail stores, online stores, mobile web and apps, telephone, pop up stores, marketplaces as well as any interaction after the purchase such as returns and after sales service. “
Why is Multichannel Selling Important?
Looking back to the beginning of the dotcom boom in the late 90s’, many pure play eCommerce companies had the somewhat arrogant belief that online retail would eat offline retail’s lunch. While it is true that online sales have replaced some of offline’s sales, what has emerged now is that it is more important about how online and offline work together rather than in opposition.
With the advent of social media, online marketplaces, and smart phones, customers are no longer confined to how they interact with a merchant during their shopping experience. Take for example, a typical click and collect transaction where the customer places an order online but picks up the order in person directly from the physical store. There is clearly a blurring of the lines as to whether this is an online or offline transaction. Another example would be where a customer sees a product on Facebook, but comes to a merchant’s pop up shop to purchase the product.
Of course selling on multiple sales channels comes with a number of technical and logistic challenges such as:
- Catalogue administration;
- Inventory management;
- Order fulfillment and tracking;
- Accounting integrations;
- Communication with buyers.
Fortunately there are tools available to make multichannel selling easier for merchants. One such tool is uAfrica’s multichannel service. With this service, merchants can easily sync their products, inventory, and orders across multiple sales channels and manage all of their sales from one place. Here’s a diagram of how it works:
For example, with uAfrica multichannel, a merchant could have the following set up:
- A ZAR based Shopify store as the source / master store from where all products, and inventory are managed.
- bidorbuy.co.za as a sales channel. Using the rule engine, rules can be set up to match products to the categories on bidorbuy, and much more.
- A USD based Shopify channel store targeting an International audience. A rule can be set up to convert the price from ZAR to USD using a formula.
- Use of the Shopify mobile and tablet based POS for a physical store or pop up shop.
In this way the product catalogue is managed in one place (the source store), with product information being automatically updated across all sales channels. When orders come in from any of the channels, these are then stored on uAfrica.com, giving you access to all your channel orders from one place. At the same time, your inventory and product information is updated on all your channels, ensuring that you don’t sell products you don’t have in stock.
While uAfrica multichannel currently only supports integrations with Shopify and bidorbuy.co.za, integrations with other storefront solutions and third party fulfillment providers are being developed.
Your customers are evolving, and by using multichannel sales methods, you can ensure that you are able to speak to your customers wherever they are, and compete in an ever changing retail environment. What better way for you to expand the reach of your product offering, speak directly to your customer, and grow sales.
By Andy Higgins