Definition: Multi-channel retailing is an ecommerce selling strategy that targets customers on various channels beyond a company's website. Multichannel retailing has evolved beyond promotion to include multichannel selling directly to consumers on social media, marketplaces, and other mediums.

Consumers are shopping in more locations than ever

A 2015 Stitch Labs analysis of some seven million online orders compared single and multi channel retailers and revealed the immense value of multi-channel retailing. Retailers utilizing two channels averaged double the revenue of those who sold only through one . Additionally, those who sold on two online marketplaces instead of just one (plus their website) averaged 190% more sales revenue than single-marketplace retailers.

Given user's cross-channel interaction with brands and products, online sales are no longer limited to an ecommerce website. Channels that were previously considered part of the awareness stage, such as social media and content platforms, can now be sources of revenue. Reaching consumers at every possible multi-channel touchpoint validates a brand and enables merchants to earn repeat customers who otherwise may not find them.

Three important retail channels

While the complete list of possible channels could probably fill a short book, the three most significant ones are:

1. Social Media, a recent but promising new sales channel. Now social sites are not only places to advertise but also places to convert visitors to buyers, as a "buy button" has been introduced on several popular platforms. The Twitter Buy Button automatically appears with any product Tweeted. Pinterest has recently reconfigured their buy button so that virtually any company can have one. Facebook Shop lets businesses place buy buttons on their Facebook home pages. With any of these channels, customers can buy without leaving the social site and do it from a mobile device if they wish.

2. Marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, and Rakuten, where businesses can offer their products for sale. Many shoppers begin their product search on a marketplace, including an astounding 40% that start on Amazon. Marketplaces don't have to be considered a competitor: they can be a source of revenue.

3. Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) are a great way to let products outshine those of competitors. There are over 100 CSE sites, including Google Product Search and CSEs can either sell products directly or drive traffic to ecommerce site product pages.

Keys to successful multichannel retailing

It's important to remember that the success of any sales strategy hinges as much on execution as on the strategy itself. Stimulate multi-channel retail with these three strategies:

1. Differentiate: Conveying a value proposition at first glance is essential for merchants to stick out in a competitive field. Between product descriptions and eye-popping images, each point of contact with prospective customers needs to offer something unique, like special discounts, coupons, free samples, and points in a membership program.

2. Brand consistency: All channels need to have consistent graphics and messaging to increase brand recognition.

3. Streamlined operations: The most daunting aspect of multichannel retailing is managing sales, processing orders, and fulfilling customer purchases — across multiple channels. Without synchronization, you run the risk of overselling or having to manage multiple order management interfaces. Channel Manager from BigCommerce solves for this by introducing a hub for all sales, allowing you to control every aspect of your multichannel operations from your control panel.

Learn more about multichannel retailing with BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is the leading ecommerce platform for growing and mid-market retailers.

Learn more:

Start your free trial
High-volume or established business? Call for a demo. 1-888-248-9325

Start your free trialHigh-volume or established business? Call for a demo.1-888-248-9325