To achieve maximum market penetration and to reach as many potential customers as possible, a multi-channel sales strategy is vital. As an online retailer selling you should identify and use as many sales channels to profit your business. Some channels are better than others, some channels are costly while others are time consuming. In this post I hope to list the different multi-channel sales strategy options available today and to highlight some pros and cons for each channel.
Selling Online? – 10 Multi-Channel Sales Strategies to Consider:
1.Â Invest in online merchandising – As an online retailer your website is really your lifeline. When it converts well the business is making money and when it converts poorly the very existence of the business is in question. When it comes to online merchandising work never ends. Images could always improve, text could always better explain the product and the products themselves could always be better positioned across the site. The pros of online merchandising are low investment and quick turn-around as it is really up to you, while on the cons side it could be time consuming at times if you don’t have a defined plan.
2.Â Sell over the telephone – At first glance it seems that using the web to promote telephone orders might not be cost effective for an online retailer, however when you consider the fact that it suddenly opens the doors to up-sale and cross-sale other products it becomes clearer. On the pros side, trained customer support agents could better ‘close’ a sale over the phone, better deal with possible objections compared with content on the site and funnel feedback back to the management team. On the cons side this channel could prove costly to the business and make it too easy to order over the phone than through the site.
3.Â Advertise off line – When considering to advertise off line we’ve always raised an eyebrow because tracking and reporting on the effectiveness of this channel was always questionable. Once we learned how to track sales from off line advertising by analyzing a dedicated landing page in Google Analytics, offering a unique telephone number and asking customers to quote a reference number this channel became more viable. On the pros side it gives the business more options to reach its target market especially using niche publications, but its cons are the large investment needed and low conversion rates when compared to other channels.
4.Â Sell on eBay - To better understand its size and positioning as a sales channel, eBay’s turnover is larger than the GDP of many countries which means eBay is big, very big. As a true online retailer you must consider selling on eBay to reach as much of your target market as possible. The pros of selling on eBay are tapping into its high level of traffic and attractive costs, while the cons are the fact that you will be competing with other sellers which might require you to reexamine your pricing structure and often compete with better priced re-furbished / re-sealed products.
5.Â Sell on amazon – Similar to eBay, Amazon has high levels of traffic and now days allows sellers to sell on its web properties similar to eBay. The pros of selling on Amazon are its higher conversion rate compared to eBay, its large affiliate network and ability to rank highly in the organic search results, while the cons similar to eBay are the fact that you will be competing with other sellers and its approach to uploading new products isn’t as easy as it could be.
6.Â Use Google Merchant – Also known as Google Base, this free service from Google allows online retailers to list products on its first page results. In most cases products will appear just below the paid results and will include an image, title, price and direct link to the product. The pros are the fact its free and quick, while there are very few cons, perhaps the initial investment of creating and automating a product feed.
7.Â Invest in natural SEO – The most cost effective sales channel with the lowest cost per acquisition is the natural traffic channel also known as organic traffic. By optimizing your website in accordance with the search engine guidelines you will notice that with time organic traffic will find its way to your site. In terms of pros, the traffic to your site is free and qualified meaning you are likely to convert well, while in terms of cons it might take a while to build. A good start is to look at your backlinks and build them up.
8.Â Use Google paid search – Although Yahoo and Bing offer paid ads services, Google AdWords is the biggest which makes sense starting there. Using targeted ads, you are able to place your products or services in front of your target market. In terms of pros, you are getting access to large numbers of potential customers while their state of mind in intended on purchasing, on the other hand in terms of cons it could prove very costly, especially if the price per click is high and the overall conversion rate is low.
9.Â Launch an affiliates programme – Using affiliates to promote your products or services is a true multi-channel sales strategy because some affiliates can act as paid search partners, some as organic search partners and some offer highly focused niche traffic. The pros of running an affiliate programme are mostly financial as you would expect to pay commission only for success, while the cons are the resources needed to managing the programme to maximize its effectiveness.
10.Â Turn your customers into your brand agents – This channel, often overlooked is a method of turning your customers into brand agents or brand ambassadors to complete your multi-channel strategy. To achieve this, your product or service (many times both) have to be at their highest levels, your site has to have tools for sharing information easily such as bookmarking tools and a referral scheme will help as well. In terms of pros, customers value recommendations highly and often friends share the same taste which will result in high conversion rates, while on the cons side you would need to ensure the referral scheme isn’t open for abuse.
What is your multi-channel sales strategy?
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This is a guest post by Ran, online marketing manager of Photo Paper Direct, a UK based online retailer selling a rage of office supply and Inkjet Cartridges. If you’d like to submit a guest post on theÂ UnconventionalÂ Marketing Blog