E-commerce, also called electronic commerce, has become an important means for any company to be able to sell its products and services. This method of sales has only increased during the pandemic, for both B2B and also B2C sales.
However, companies have come to the realization that only a minority of sales are done directly through the most direct sales channel of their own website. This is due to a variety of factors, such as website traffic patterns of shoppers that want to compare competing products, or the obstacle of the requirement of a shopper needing to create an account at the next retailer, and wondering if they really want to make another account with a password that is too likely to be forgotten.
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What is multi-channel e-commerce?
Given these challenges, it therefore makes sense that a company would want to sell its products through more than one retail channel. This is known as ‘Multi-channel e-commerce,’ and it focuses the retailer to sell through not only websites, but also social media platforms, digital marketplaces, mobile apps, along with IoT’s. Having the multiple options of where to shop for a product translates to convenience for the consumer. After all, one of the channels may have the item on sale, or the consumer may be a member of another site, or yet another may offer a faster shipping option that may be driving the consumer behavior. Still, another scenario may be that while each retailer has the item, only one of them carries it in a particular color, or with some additional accessories.
The multichannel experience
While many companies have turned to multi-channel e-commerce to pedal their products or services, and been profitable at it, through the years, the approach has evolved. The more recent innovation is to an omnichannel e-commerce experience. Here, the product or service gets sold through multiple retailers and platforms. However, the goal becomes to have a unified experience, where each retail experience supports the others, and not to have each channel standalone. An example of this is to have the item for sale on the company’s website, and also have the opportunity for the customer to sign up for the monthly product newsletter- even if they do not complete the sale. This then allows the company to use this as an opportunity for lead generation, and then to send timely emails to keep the customer finding out about the product, with the hope of converting it to an eventual sale.
The diversification of selling beyond just a traditional website allows the company to sell its product through multiple channels. According to the Harvard Business Review, the majority of consumers do not simply acquire the product through a simple channel. Rather, they interact through various ‘touchpoints,’ with brick and mortar shoppers using a smartphone app to check a price or take advantage of an offer, or ordering online and then picking up in the store to save on shipping. Other touchpoints throughout the store include kiosks for online catalogs that can also support ordering, along with scanning UPC’s to provide pricing. The result of this survey demonstrated that these omnichannel customers that interacted with the retailer through the multiple channels spent 10% more online in comparison to the single channel customers, and also when they went to the store they also spent 9% more. Hence why retailers need to develop these customers, and also particularly value them as they are more valuable compared to customers that only interacted at a solitary touchpoint.
With this type of data, it becomes obvious how companies are eager to delve into additional channels, as each additional one firms up the multi-channel approach. Companies are understanding that especially with mobile apps, that customers are shopping online within the store. Furthermore, each time a new social media channel gets added to the mix, there is an opportunity to expand the user base to bring in more people. Also, this then needs to be tracked via intelligent monitoring, and find insights on each channel’s performance, with the goal of determining how various demographics are being connected with.
Businesses also monitor which channel it is obtaining its customers from. The goal is channel diversification, so that growth can be promoted, along with protection from an issue with an interruption with any single channel. Therefore the company should try to sell its product not only on its own website, but also on various marketplaces, other retailers, and also to be found in the search engines with high ranking results. International partnerships can be forged to promote products in other countries to promote geographical diversity as well.
With the multi-channels, it can be a challenge to connect them all. Consumers are purchasing less on the traditional company website on a traditional PC, and more through the less traditional channels, such as the mobile apps, and IoT devices, for example Amazon’s Alexa. Retailers have had to adapt, and now have turned to what is known as headless commerce. Rather than having a traditional backend, through the use of application programming interfaces (API’s), the backend commerce functionality is redone to be able to support the multiple interfaces that consumers are increasingly turning to. With the detachment of the traditional interface, known as the head, now there can be a more uniform interface across all the multiple channels.
Online commerce has significantly evolved from the origins of a retailer selling its product or service directly on its company website. It has evolved into multi-channel e-commerce, with the product now sold through multiple channels, such as the mobile app, an IoT device, and various marketplaces, such as eBay, Amazon, and their international versions. This has created opportunities, such as omnichannel, that allows the various channels to support each other and promote sales throughout the experience. This has also created challenges, such as headless commerce to allow the sales to happen in these too often disparate interfaces. Understanding multi-channel e-commerce has gone from cutting edge, to a requirement to compete in the modern world of both traditional brick and mortar, as well as online sales.
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With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!