Considering that strategies are going to be different from platform to platform, it can be hard to decide if it’s worth it to expand to another channel, what channel to expand to, and what you’ll need to focus on when you get there. To help with that, let’s talk about the pros and cons of multichannel selling and some essential marketing tips and strategies for four major platforms.
Omnichannel marketing basics
Selling on many channels provides a slew of benefits for your customers, and therefore for your business as well (if done right). It gives you access to more leads and the chance to retarget and build brand awareness on each platform you’re on. In return, your customers will spend up to three times more.
How do I choose a new channel to sell through?
As a marketer, you already know your customer well (by the way, if you don’t, you aren’t ready to expand). That customer profile you have will be a big help in choosing which platform to sell on — and the other part will be where you’re already selling.
Where are your customers shopping? If they found you on Instagram, they’re probably also on Etsy. If you sell successfully on your own website, find out where else your target customer is looking for you or your competitors’ products. Build out your customer profile to include their other shopping habits, and it will dramatically narrow down your options.
Also keep in mind: Where are you already selling? Try to choose a platform that is compatible and somewhat similar to your current channel, so you won’t have to start completely from scratch.
How do I prepare to launch the new channel?
Once you’ve chosen a channel, you’ll need to do some prep work and figure out how you’re going to tackle marketing on the new channel — and no, you probably can’t use the same strategy.
Keep the following rule of thumb in mind: seamless, but unique. In other words, your potential customer should be able to experience each channel seamlessly — buy in-store and return online, for example. However, your marketing strategy should be unique on each platform, based on the users, the best practices on that platform, and your target customers. You usually can’t use the same marketing strategy for each platform, but the customers should feel like they can move from platform to platform without a hitch.
You also need to make sure that each part of the business is airtight before expanding:
- Whether you ship from in-house or partner with a third-party logistics warehouse, are your shipments accurate and your returns being processed efficiently?
- Do you offer free shipping, and can you handle a sudden increase (which is far more likely to happen with a new channel)?
- Are you incorporating analytics software to figure out what messaging is working best for you?
- Do you automate marketing emails and ad campaigns, and is the new platform compatible with your current software?
Should I launch on multiple platforms and see what works best?
Please, do not do that.
Launching on a new platform is hard and time-consuming — and if it’s fast and easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. Build out your customer profile, choose one new platform, integrate that platform into your existing one, create a new marketing strategy, and ease yourself into the new channel. There will always be challenges and a learning curve, but if you do your research and prepare properly, you’ll be fine.
The cons of multichannel selling
Everywhere you look, you’re going to hear that you need to embrace omnichannel selling. But do you really? What’s the downside?
There are actually a few reasons that multichannel selling could be wrong for you. The first is if you’re still figuring out the platform that you’re on, why make double the work for yourself? It’s better to do one channel well than two channels poorly. Honing in on your marketing strategy for your current platform will help you develop copy that you can use in the future, and further flesh out your target customer. Omnichannel selling could be great for you, but not now.
Another downside is that it does require more time, money, and effort. Just like any expansion, you’ll need to invest the time into it to make it work. It will require research, at least tweaking (if not rewriting) ad copy, and probably investing in new software to make your new channel get along with your existing one. If you can’t afford the extra marketing budget or software, it’s not the right time. Again, focus on excelling with the existing channel and revisit expanding later.
Finally, some channels will never be right for your business. That doesn’t mean that omnichannel selling as a whole isn’t right for you, because there are typically at least two or three platforms that work really well. But if your product is mass-produced tech accessories, Etsy will probably never be the right platform for you. You can’t market successfully to a customer who just isn’t there.
Which channel is right for you?
So how are you supposed to choose the right channel? Consider the marketing pros and cons for each of these platforms:
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room, shall we? Amazon presents some pretty obvious advantages from a marketing point of view. Its audience is so massive that it’s almost guaranteed that your customers already shop there. Most Amazon customers have their billing information entered already and experience a nearly frictionless checkout experience, and many are already there with the intent to buy. Amazon customers are also extremely loyal. All music to a marketers ears. In addition to all that, marketing can be very cheap, especially if you’re one of the first in your niche.
However, there are some concerns. The first is that it’s difficult to create a seamless experience between your existing platform (be it in-store, on your website, or on social media) and Amazon. For example, if your customer buys from Amazon, they can’t return the product anywhere else. You also can’t collect data on your customers to find out who’s buying from you. Finally, while marketing may be cheap if you’re one of the first in the niche, you’ll still have to put in a lot of effort to distinguish yourself from other sellers — and if you’re not one of the first, you’ll have to work even harder.
However, Amazon presents some unique marketing opportunities within each product listing. Aside from optimizing your titles for tags and SEO, and making sure your images are high-quality enough to zoom in on, there is a section on each product page where customers can ask questions about the product. Is it compatible with a technology they already own? How tall is it? Can it be dry cleaned? This is a golden opportunity to answer any questions that pop up and show that you’re engaging and helpful.
If your niche is already oversaturated on Amazon, marketing your product there will be an uphill battle, and may not be worth it. Aside from shelling out seemingly endless amounts of money on sponsored product ads and headline ads, you may also feel pressured to lower your prices to compete, which leaves you with an impossible choice: lower your prices everywhere, or create a price discrepancy between Amazon and your other platform(s).
Etsy is well-known, but relatively small in the online marketplace niche, pulling in just $3.93 billion in sales in 2018.
However, Etsy is becoming a more and more attractive place for businesses to go, especially due to its relaxed restrictions on what can be sold on the platform. While it’s still primarily seen as a marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, you can actually have your products manufactured by someone else, and it also sells supplies for other crafts that are mass-produced.
If your product fits in their niche, Etsy can be a gold mine for one very specific reason: it’s a not just a place people go to shop, it’s a community. You’ll find a much more engaged and thoughtful audience on Etsy because they feel like they can find products there that they can’t find anywhere else. Because of this, your focus should be on the experience the customer is having from beginning to end, including a nice unboxing experience when they receive the product.
It poses the same marketing challenges as Amazon, however, in addition to being more restrictive on what can be sold. It can be difficult to make your shop feel the same way to your shoppers compared to elsewhere. It may also be hard to stand out from the crowd, and you’ll likely be spending your money on sponsored listings and banner ads to get noticed. However, Etsy shoppers are far more likely to visit your shop and see what else you have for sale, and also offers a lot more options you can use to market your products, like free shipping over a certain amount, coupon codes, and more.
Despite being five times smaller than Amazon, eBay is the second largest online marketplace when it comes to domestic sales — $35 billion in 2018 compared to Amazon’s $175 billion. This speaks not only to how much of a behemoth Amazon is, but how much untapped potential other marketplaces can have.
If you’ve looked into successful marketing tactics on Amazon, this will sound familiar: The best way to market your products on eBay is to win its “our pick” spot. To do this, you’ll need to focus on eBay SEO, price your items well, become a Top Seller, and offer guaranteed delivery. eBay, like Etsy, provides ways for you to encourage customers to buy, including discounts and coupons, and even limited-time markdowns on an entire category.
eBay, of course, comes with the same downsides as other marketplaces: it costs money to list products, you have limited control over your shop and listings, and you’re competing in an arena filled with other sellers.
The outlier of the bunch and the newcomer on the block, Facebook is slowly becoming a go-to place for users to shop — and brands are taking notice. Facebook presents tons of positives that the other platforms simply can’t replicate: a personal relationship with your customers, audiences that will do promotion for you (for free), and behavioral insights into your fans and customers. This is, of course, because of its main function as a social network, now with a marketplace attached to it.
While many marketers drool over the thought of being able to create an engaged and personal relationship with their audience it isn’t always that easy. Facebook has the Facebook Marketplace, which is for people to list items for sale and arrange payment (typically outside of Facebook), and Facebook Shops, where users can go and shop from brands within their Facebook Page. Sound confusing? It is, both for your audience and for marketing purposes.
However, the fact remains that with some great engaging content and promotions, you can drive a lot of traffic to your page and increase your sales pretty dramatically. From a marketing perspective, it’s entirely different from many marketplace experiences, with a focus on engaging your audience and posting content regularly, instead of perfecting your SEO and targeting promoted listings.
Conclusion: the multichannel marketing mantra
As a marketing professional, you’re more than familiar with this idea: it’s always about the customers. What they like, where they shop, what they want to see; it all factors into your marketing strategy. Multichannel marketing is no different. Your customers should be at the forefront of everything you do.
In practical terms, this means creating a great experience on your existing platform and expanding to a new platform if it’s a good fit for your product, your business, and your customers. It means considering what potential buyers will want to see from you, and what existing customers will expect to experience on every channel you choose to expand to.