The eCommerce industry has experienced year-over-year growth since 2014, and the trend is expected to continue into the next decade. The U.S. eCommerce market alone is expected to account for more than $800 billion in sales by 2022.
Today’s eCommerce retailers can choose from a plethora of marketplaces to advertise and sell their products. In addition to a homepage or webshop, online sellers can also publish their products as third-party vendors on Amazon, Shopify, Walmart, or Google Shopping. These platforms allow sellers to showcase their product to millions of buyers.
While this has greatly reduced the upfront investment and overhead expenses that sellers must normally invest to scale and reach larger consumer marketing, selling products on multiple platforms comes with its own challenges.
eCommerce merchants must tackle the following issues to sell on multiple channels successfully.
Diverse Marketplace Regulations
Every commercial platform has its own requirements that it imposes on sellers. Violating any of these rules can result in account suspension or even removal. Besides variations in agreements between sellers and marketplaces, there are significant differences between each platform’s shipping conditions and payment terms. These rules may also be impacted by other factors, including the seller or buyer’s location, especially if the transaction involves importing or exporting.
Each channel also attracts a different audience, so sellers must tailor their marketing strategies accordingly. For example, buyers on niche sites like Etsy or Cratejoy are specifically looking for homemade items.
While these same items can be sold on general marketplaces like Amazon, customers on these platforms are more interested in affordability and convenience. Sellers must take all of these variances into consideration to develop a marketing campaign that will resonate with the target audience.
Managing product descriptions and marketing campaigns on multiple channels efficiently requires multitasking tools, like a product information management (PIM) solution. Check out this resource on how PIMs can benefit online retailers.
Inconsistent Customer Experience
Although marketing strategies should vary by channel, the overall customer experience should be predictable. Third-party marketplaces cannot replace essential processes like customer service or brand management.
Sellers can ensure that customers from all platforms receive the same treatment by investing in customer management software. These tools funnel all customer interactions into a single dashboard. This allows customer service agents to track interactions and collaborate to resolve issues.
Brand consistency across channels also plays a role in customer buying decisions. Google’s market research team has found that shoppers will look up a new product on multiple channels before completing their purchase. If any experiences during this search are inconsistent, customers are more likely to abandon the transaction.
Executing a cohesive multichannel customer experience takes work. Sellers should allocate enough resources towards customer service by training agents and center customer satisfaction in their companies’ mission statement and business model.
Sellers can also manage customer expectations through transparent practices. For example, posting shipping and delivery fees and timeframes clearly on all channels and publishing accurate product descriptions on all platforms provides customers with the information they need to make a purchase.
As many eCommerce retailers do not physically stock or ship their products, inventory management challenges are inherent to the business. However, this issue is compounded when selling from multiple platforms.
While sales are coming in from diverse marketplaces, each order is fulfilled by the same stock of inventory. Without careful monitoring, items can oversell. When this happens, the customer’s payment goes even though the seller doesn’t have the available inventory to fill the order.
Since the customer is not notified that the item is out-of-stock until after the transaction is complete, it can lead to frustration and distrust. According to market research, seven out of 10 customers do not return to an eCommerce retailer after a bad experience.
Marketplaces also penalize sellers for overselling. As customer reviews and item returns affect a product’s ranking on platform search engines, sellers with poor track records will not appear on the lucrative first page of results.
To retain their consumer base and protect their brand, sellers must implement sophisticated tracking systems to prevent overselling and stocking issues. While overstocking can cause a seller to lose money, routinely running out of popular items can result in lost customers.
Managing purchases, returns, and stock orders for multiple platforms also requires more automation than selling from a single webshop. Manual methods like spreadsheets will quickly become overwhelming and inefficient for tracking and analyzing buying trends.
As with customer management, sellers will need to incorporate inventory management software into their workflow. The best tools integrate data from all marketplaces and automatically generate analytical reports.