Options. Choices. Variety. Possibilities. There are so many words to describe the behavior of today’s customers. They have their pick of who they buy from, where they buy it, and how they buy it. This trend has led to the rise of multi-channel retailing. Retailers are now realizing the value of offering their merchandise on more than one sales channel.
Consumers are now shopping beyond just your brick-and-mortar locations and eCommerce sites. They are tapping into multiple touchpoints on their path to purchase. They are bouncing around and often begin their journey on one sales channel and finish it on another.
It’s time to explore other sales channels so you can meet your customers where they’re purchasing. Your buyers are already shopping from multiple sales channels, and according to a survey of American shoppers:
- 74% shopped at large retailers
- 54% shopped at eCommerce marketplaces
- 44% shopped at web stores
- 36% shopped at category-specific online retailers
We’ll explore the top four sales channels and share how your business can best compete with them as a multi-channel retailer.
Large retailers: compete on customer service
Local businesses generate 70% more local economic activity per square foot than big-box retail. Yet consumers tend to flock to the big box stores such as Walmart, Best Buy, and Target. It’s because that’s where they perceive the biggest savings. They see value in purchasing high-ticket items such as televisions and computers from the many options at these stores.
Smaller businesses that offer the same products may feel like a small fish in a big pond. You may not be able to compete on price, but you can win at the customer service game. Many large retailers have poor reviews of the service they provide. As a smaller business, you can properly train your staff to help your customers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
eCommerce marketplaces: compete on trust
The transactions of an eCommerce marketplace are typically processed by the operator and fulfilled by the participating retailers, with the operator taking a fee. Shoppers tend to go to these sites such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, due to the respectable reputation of the operator even if the individual sellers have dubious reviews and product ratings. This trust factor opens the door for you to fight for your market share.
95% of Americans said they are more likely to be loyal to a small business that they can rely on and 92% said they were more likely to spend money at a company they trust. By treating your customers with care and respect, you will build that trust with them over time. They will continue to return to you on their buyer journey again and again.
Web stores: compete on experience
You most likely already have an eCommerce web store as part of your business. But are you optimizing it to keep up with other web stores? The key is to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations when they are shopping on your site. These a few areas to make sure you are offering the best experience:
- Delivery options: Look at the speed and types of shipping you offer. Consider free shipping with a minimum order amount or during special promotional times of the year.
- Mobile-friendly site: 61% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase from mobile-friendly sites. Make sure yours is designed for a useful experience.
- Loyalty program: Offer your customers rewards when they shop your site. These could be birthday gifts, discounts, a “members only” sale, or exclusive products for loyal customers.
Category-specific online retailers: compete on process
You know your competition in the online retail space. Peek at their websites and compare and contrast them with your own site. One area that may stand out is your return policy. The return process has become a pivotal point in the multi-channel retailing journey. 64% of shoppers who have issues with returns would be “hesitant to shop at that retailer ever again.” Your customers expect that making returns will be a simple and easy part of their experience.
The major players in your online competition probably provide a prepaid return mailing slip in their packages. You can go this route as well or offer another frictionless option. Make sure your inventory is synced and connected using tools like SKU IQ, to keep track of returns and maintain an accurate inventory count.
The bottom line on multichannel retailing
To stay competitive, take a close look at how you can elevate your existing multi-channel options. Then take it one step further and seek out new channels to expand your business. By providing an exceptional customer experience, you can compete with large retailers. Being responsive and consistent in your eCommerce store will lead to trust that leads to repeat business. Making the customer experience seamless will help you remove all barriers to your customers giving you their business.
By being strategic on these channels, you can better target your customers at every stage of their buyer’s journey and make it a pleasant experience along the way.