*The following is a guest post from our partner, ChannelAdvisor.
It’s that time of year again — to make your shopping list and check it twice.
As consumers, it’s almost impossible to avoid the duties of holiday shopping. To cross names off our lists, some of us will venture onto online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. Others will scour the internet for the best deals through search engines, possibly finding their preferred price point through, say, a Google Product Listing Ad (PLA). And then there are those who will visit social shopping sites, like Pinterest or Wanelo, for gift ideas and inspiration.
But in reality, it’s most likely that a consumer in 2014 will do all of the above at one point or another.
As a retailer, that means you should approach e-commerce the same way your customers are approaching their shopping: on multiple channels. The ability to choose where and when to list your items will make the holiday season more manageable and more lucrative for your business.
The Multichannel Overview
With the rise of new technology, modern consumers have a multitude of touchpoints along their path to purchase. A strong multichannel strategy will ensure that your products are present at every step of customers’ purchasing journeys.
Multichannel is a win-win strategy for all parties involved. It not only increases your brand and product exposure, but it also offers convenience for consumers.
When you have a good multichannel strategy in place, consumers have a variety of ways to research, shop for and buy your products.
The Multichannel Experience
Your customers’ shopping experience has a drastic impact on how your brand is perceived. The key to a successful multichannel approach is consistency. When customers engage with your brand, they should have a consistent experience regardless of channel, device or time.
- Mobile: Year after year, the number of devices, platforms and browsers consumers use to search for products grows. The challenge is creating a consistent and user-friendly experience for every device. With responsive design, your website can detect the device and deliver the site content in the best layout and resolution for that device. You don’t want users to close out of your site and move on to one that is easier to view.
- Webstore: Have you ever experienced a boost in your site traffic but no changes in sales? Your site navigation may be the underlying issue. When visitors land on your website, they should have a clear path to find what they’re seeking. Don’t make them guess. Brainstorm visitor personas — first-time visitors, legacy customers, deal seekers and browsers — and determine how you’ll guide them along their journeys.
- Paid Search: Search engines are an important channel in many consumers’ purchasing cycles. Ongoing adaptation is necessary to shape marketing efforts to the fast-paced search advertising industry. Be a strategic adopter as changes roll out. Keep a pulse on engines’ algorithm updates through news articles, blogs and ongoing training.Try using Google’s Shopping campaigns to structure ads for seasonal products.
- Marketplaces: The internet doesn’t allow consumers to make the same tangible product judgments that they would in a physical store. When your products are listed on online marketplaces or social shopping sites, your product data is the foundation of the listing. Always ensure that the core elements of your product data — titles, high-quality images and descriptions — are accurate, up to date and optimized.
Lastly, don’t let the personal element slip from your retail strategy. Technology advancements make it easy to automate processes, but at the end of the day, humans are buying from humans. Recent studies show that service options trump brand loyalty in purchase decisions. Ensure that all customer-facing staff in your contact centers, retail outlets and order-processing and website-development departments understand and comply with your company’s customer service standards. Policies such as returns, delivery charges and shipment-tracking options should be consistent across all channels.
The Multichannel Reach
One of the advantages of having a multichannel e-commerce business is that you have the ability to expand the reach of your products internationally without needing to invest in physical locations. The beauty of an e-commerce website is that it can be designed to operate in multiple countries. But entering new markets takes a lot of homework. Foreign tax, fulfillment, demand, cultural preferences, currency and language differences are some considerations to keep in mind.
A more straightforward method to international selling is going through marketplaces. To make the fulfillment process easier for you, try using programs like eBay’s Global Shipping Program or Fulfillment by Amazon. These programs ensure that products are shipped quickly and accurately without much headache, allowing you to test the appetite of international markets.
The Multichannel Bottom Line
The aim of a multichannel strategy should be to maximize revenue and loyalty by offering your customers choice and convenience. The strategy allows your brand to tap into an enlarged audience base because it accounts for multiple stages of a consumer’s purchasing process. From browsing, buying, returning as well as pre- and post-sale service — your brand and products can be there each step of the way.
Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, social media & blog manager, ChannelAdvisor