Challenges with Multichannel Selling in E-Commerce
A typical e-tailer begins the digital journey with one sales channel – setting up their website or selling through a marketplace. However, it gets challenging as customers prefer the flexibility of multiple platform options. And, it becomes necessary for e-tailers to go beyond websites or marketplaces and explore channels such as social media, comparing shopping engines, and adopt multichannel selling.
While listing products on multiple channels increases the chances of targeting more people, it comes with several challenges the e-tailers should be prepared for.
Listed below are challenges e-tailers face as they work to spin up or scale multichannel for their e-commerce business:
One of the biggest challenges of multichannel selling is inventory management. It sometimes gets tricky to manage supply-demand or estimate inventory on hand. It leads to either overstocking or overselling. While overstocking expenses can be quantified, overselling and not delivering the products on time is a much costlier affair. It leads to customer dissatisfaction (losing existing customers), negative online reviews (losing prospects), or marketplace delisting.
Though each channel is independent of the other, having a mix of manual and automated set-up to update and manage inventory will take e-tailers a long way. Regularized feeds for marketing and marketplaces sourced from a single inventory base are the best way to start.
Each channel is unique, so should be the contact strategy. One content copy fits all approach not only tires customers who tend to compare but also disengages the channel loyalists. For instance, the detail to be given for Facebook won’t work for Instagram.
Also, each channel has specific requirements (say photo size, graphics best practices, word count, and messaging). Following the guidelines for each channel while keeping the message consistent should be the goal.
Customer Support and Experience:
When selling through their website, creating the right experience for customers is achievable. However, supporting and nurturing customer relationships becomes more challenging and time-consuming when e-tailers start selling on places like Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and others. Any negligence here would lead to loss of brand trust and more.
Hence e-tailers must establish a sustainable customer support team to address these issues in a timely fashion.
Product Information and Listings Management:
As e-tailers expand to additional channels, manually listing product catalogs and updating prices on a real-time basis in each platform gets challenging. It would be more complex if an e-tailer does selective product listing.
E-tailers can use product information management systems (PIM) to optimize listings and automate updates.
Order Fulfillment and Returns:
When e-tailers sell on multiple channels, order fulfillment, returns can suck up a vast amount of time and add complexity. Establishing a flexible, reliable, and scalable fulfillment strategy that does not eat into the profit margins is a more critical and daunting challenge than e-tailers initially realize.
Collating the order fulfillment and return issues at a single point alongside the channel-specific view will help identify and address the bottlenecks e-tailers most often encounter.
Data Management and Analytics:
As the channels proliferate, the amount of data coming in and the number of data sources e-tailers have to manage will get daunting. It is more likely to lead to missing out on the holistic view.
E-tailers must break down these data silos and integrate business intelligence into a single dashboard. It helps them get a big picture of the business and glean actionable insights from the data.
Multichannel selling benefits the e-tailers, their customers, and their bottom line. Having said that, it may seem a little overwhelming in the beginning, when e-tailers take the first step to expand their business to multiple channels. They might face several issues from inventory management and product information, to order fulfillment and shipping logistics. But if they can be proactive in implementing the above strategies, they are much more likely to build a sustainable and profitable business in the years to come.