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Multichannel E-commerce: What It Is (And Why It Matters)

Selling online is exciting, but it can also be extremely difficult. You’re competing against thousands of other merchants, each with unique strengths and weaknesses, and shoppers can afford to be extremely picky. You need to maximize your opportunities — and that’s where multichannel e-commerce becomes an important topic.

In this post, we’re going to look at the basics of this core part of modern e-commerce: what it is, why it matters, and how you can start using it to your advantage. Let’s get started.

What is multichannel e-commerce?

Put simply, multichannel e-commerce involves marketing and selling across a variety of digital channels — not all viable channels (that would be omnichannel e-commerce), but a selection of the most relevant and useful. For instance, instead of just selling through your website, you could sell through eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram.

The possibilities are even greater for multichannel marketing specifically: you can promote your products through forums, all the social media platforms, text messages, ad networks, and — most vitally — emails (the humble email address lies at the core of a comprehensive multichannel marketing strategy). The best multichannel strategies use channels in combination, treating them as linked parts of much greater marketing and sales funnels. The goal is clear: reach your prospective customers wherever useful.

Why is it worth pursuing?

Every time you bring your products to someone’s attention, and every time you list a product in your store, you increase your chances of achieving a sale and making some money. At a minimum, multichannel e-commerce significantly increases your chances by giving you more bites of the cherry — and it also allows you to get more sophisticated with your promotions.

For example, knowing that different audiences are at different stages in your lead-generation process (some people know nothing about you, while others have heard some things but need a little bit more convincing), you can distribute introductory marketing materials through channels you’re not very active on and point them to much more in-depth promotional pushes on channels you target heavily.

It also bears considering that 90% of customers want cross-channel buying experiences (such as getting information about a product through an official branded Reddit post, ordering it through a Pinterest button, and getting customer support through Twitter).

How you can implement it

Before you do anything else, you need to decide which platforms you want to target. Do you want your products listed on Amazon? There are pros and cons — more pros, I’d say, but still some cons that might dissuade you — such as Amazon eating into your profits. Do you want to market through Instagram? It requires detailed knowledge of the platform and its community, and getting it wrong could damage your brand.

Then, if you’re so inclined, you can use a hosted e-commerce platform that has solid multi-channel integrations, but you don’t actually need to, because this is all perfectly possible if you extend WordPress with WooCommerce. There are plugins — such as the WP-Lister Pro eBay plugin — that make it possible to seamless carry your products over to third-party marketplaces, allowing you to start selling elsewhere almost immediately.

There’s also a host of other multichannel plugins, such as the free Facebook plugin for WooCommerce (here’s a handy installation guide). In short, if you’re willing to do even a small amount of research, you’ll find that there are plenty of ways to expand your WooCommerce store and start making it a multichannel operation. Good luck!