Using a mixed strategy to diversify your sales channels
We’ve talked about choosing your sales channels several times here before, and for incredibly good reason. For retailers that are selling online – whether it is their first foray into eCommerce, or they’ve been selling online since the 1990s – optimising, and diversifying your sales channel strategy is an essential part of your business.
- Sales channels are the places that retailers can sell to their customers
- Marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay are important
- eCommerce websites can be created quickly and easily using BigCommerce
- Social commerce is the next type of sales channel to consider
- Reviewing sales channel strategy periodically is essential
What are sales channels?
You’re probably already aware, but when we say sales channels, we’re referring to where retailers can sell – with most online retail businesses maintaining a presence on marketplaces, as well as having their own websites. Marketplaces and websites aren’t the only places to consider, although they are usually the first places that retailers start selling. Social commerce is growing, so if you’re not using social media for anything more than advertising right now, you’ll soon need to be.
For retailers that also operate offline, then sales channel could also refer to their own store, a concession within a department store, and time-bound events such as spring fairs, summer fetes, and Christmas markets.
You’re probably already aware of some of the marketplaces we’re going to talk about here – there’s Amazon and eBay, (of course!) as well as Wish, OnBuy, Groupon, and thousands of other more specialised, or local marketplaces.
Selling on marketplaces allows retailers to make sales to customers that wouldn’t have visited their website – either because they still don’t have trust in smaller retailer websites, or they prefer the convenience and the trust that they have in marketplaces.
Not only do marketplaces offer businesses the benefit of not needing to build customer trust, but they can also help to reduce marketing costs. That is especially true where the marketplace can help to place products in front of your target customers, the way Wish does.
Marketplaces aren’t without their issues though, and some of these issues include:
- Restrictions on what you can sell
- Payment disbursements may be slow
- Marketplaces are quick to suspend seller accounts
- Getting product reviews from customers can be hard
- Fees can add up
- You’re not building brand awareness – customers ‘got it on Amazon/eBay’
While having your own webstore is a way to avoid these issues, you’ll still have to wait a while before your website ranks on Google – even if you’re an absolute master of SEO. That is less of a challenge if you’re selling on marketplaces, and you don’t need to wait to build trust – customers already know they are covered when they buy from those marketplaces, so it doesn’t matter if they are your first sale. If something goes wrong, they will simply contact the marketplace’s customer service team, who will resolve the problem for them. However, if that happens (especially if it happens on several occasions) then you’re likely to face one of the biggest issues that retailers have to face when it comes to marketplaces: your account being suspended.
You don’t have to dig too far on seller forums to find evidence that marketplaces are quick to suspend seller accounts, and slow to reinstate them – if they do at all. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have thousands of new businesses signing up to sell with them every week, and so they can afford to suspend or terminate accounts if there is even a hint of suspicion that their policies have been broken.
This lack of control over your seller account – and the other issues – is where having an eCommerce website for your business comes in.
Having a website has been an essential component for businesses for a long time now, but there are still retailers that don’t have eCommerce built into their website. That might be because they are doing well enough with their marketplace sales, or because they have been reluctant to invest in working with a developer, or feel that the challenge of SEO and driving traffic to the website requires too much investment – both in terms of time and money.
Having a website means that you are in complete control of your marketing, and can build brand awareness, which can lead to increasing the number of repeat, and loyal customers that keep coming back to you. Building an eCommerce website isn’t anywhere near as difficult as it once was, particularly with website builder technology from systems like BigCommerce.
BigCommerce is an incredibly solid platform to build your eCommerce website with – and has a range of customisation options such as templates and integrations that allow you to create a professionally built look and feel, without needing to make use of a developer. The simplicity, and reliability of the BigCommerce ecosystem is why so many businesses choose it for their websites, including big-name brands like Molton Brown, Travis Perkins, and Skullcandy.
Not only can you make use of marketing and SEO apps for your BigCommerce store, but you’ll also be able to source and list products from verified Avasam suppliers. Our partnership with BigCommerce means that you’ll be able to fill your store with just a few clicks using our product listing tool. Sourcing from Avasam allows you to diversify your inventory – both on your BigCommerce website and on your other sales channels.
But just like marketplaces, selling through your own website isn’t the whole solution. There are challenges when working with an eCommerce store, especially when working with website builders rather than coding your own website. These challenges may include:
- Fewer customisation options
- Restrictions on variant listings (which may not be an issue if you don’t have variant SKUs)
- Additional fees for advanced functionality
These issues tend to be less of a problem for sellers on marketplaces – which is why having a strategy that uses both marketplaces and your own website is so important.
The era of social commerce is here – all of the social media channels have implemented eCommerce functionality within their platforms, with much more on the way. That means not only is building your social media following more important than ever, but it also means you can make sales to your followers directly from their feeds – which is potentially very lucrative, depending on your target customer.
We’ve only touched on social commerce briefly here, but if you’re an established business, it should definitely be on your radar as your next potential sales channel. We have a post about social commerce coming up, so we’ll dive into that soon – but in the meantime, you can read more about it here.
Why diversify your sales channels?
We see quite a few retailers that launch their business on just one sales channel. It does make sense at first – especially if you’re new to eCommerce, and you have so many other things to think about. But by listing on just one or two sales channels – and especially marketplaces – you are exposing your business to a huge amount of unnecessary risk. There’s the potential of losing access to your seller account, but you’re also minimising the number of potential customers you can reach; and neither of those issues are conducive to a successful online retail business.
As we’ve illustrated, there are a number of challenges that both marketplaces and website have for retailers, that the other type of channel doesn’t have. So when you diversify your sales channels, you’re covering yourself from the issues on the other type of sales channel – and of course, the more sales channels that you can sell effectively on, the more customers you can potentially reach.
How often should retailers review their sales channel strategy?
There isn’t a correct answer to this question – because it all very much depends on the needs of the business at the particular moment in time – but it definitely shouldn’t be a one-off task. However, we’ll definitely say that reviewing sales channels should be done on a regular basis, for a couple of good reasons.
Sales channels that aren’t performing can be removed from the strategy – either on temporarily, or permanently, depending on sales figures. Some sales channels may perform well for your business during quarter 4, yet may not make enough sales to warrant the listing fee or seller subscription during the rest of the year.
New opportunities arise regularly. Marketplaces may offer special rates, or new marketplaces emerge, spend on marketing and gain traction with customers, much as OnBuy has in the past few years.
As the other elements of your business evolve and adapt, so other opportunities may become available. Let’s say selling overseas hasn’t been an option previously due to costs being prohibitive. If you decide to change your shipping provider, and your new partner provides a cost-effective service to Europe, then that opens up a whole range of potential on European marketplaces. You might then decide to start selling with Amazon and eBay on their local sites (especially if you’re already selling on those channels) but then also start listing with Coolshop, Bol.com and Yatego, exposing your products to a much larger number of potential customers.
Despite many businesses heading directly for Amazon and eBay, and having a website, there isn’t a prescriptive, ‘perfect’ list of marketplaces and webstores that work for every single business. In many cases, those websites actually aren’t the best places for businesses to start out – while only having a website means that your business may be slower to take off, and miss out on potential sales. The key to eCommerce success is:
- Having the right mix for the specific needs of your business
- Doing the research to establish which sales channels will work best for you
- Choosing a robust website solution such as BigCommerce
- Knowing the terms and conditions for each of your sales channels, and sticking to them
- Periodically reviewing your sales channels to ensure they are working effectively for you
If you’ve been delaying creating an eCommerce website in favour of selling purely on marketplaces due to the cost implications, then you’ve likely seen the reasons to get yourself a website. For a limited time, we’re offering a three month free trial with BigCommerce – and paired with our affordable subscriptions, you can create your website and fill your store at an incredibly low cost. Yet to start sourcing from Avasam? Sign up for your free trial and start selling today.