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Multi-Channel Selling: Optimize Your Inventory for More Marketplaces

This is a guest post from Ecomdash. Ecomdash is an order and inventory management software for multichannel online retailers. They focus on providing small to medium-sized businesses with actionable tips and strategies for building a lucrative eCommerce business.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This age-old advice remains just as relevant today, even in our age of technology.

Just look at eCommerce — more and more online stores are learning that multi-channel selling is the best strategy for exposing their products to new markets and customers who would never see them otherwise.

So why doesn’t everyone do it? Many people think that multi-channel selling means more work, and a lot of online retailers are struggling to find success on just one sales channel. How do you manage inventory and sales for more than one platform at the same time?

Sure, multi-channel selling does require extra effort but thanks to automated software and established precedent on “what works,” it isn’t too bad and the extra visibility more than makes up it.

To help in your multi-channel expansion, we give you beginner’s guide to multi-channel selling, specifically, managing inventory across more than one marketplace.

Standardizing Product Identifiers

Before we dive into the sales strategies and marketing advice, we have to start with the basics — making sure your products can be sold on multiple channels in the first place.

One of the biggest obstacles to multi-channel selling is product identifiers. Different channels have different requirements for product identifiers, so before you enter a new market you have to make sure your products are properly ID’d.

If this is new to you, a product identifier is a unique number attributed to a product, usually under the bar code. These IDs facilitate checkout by enabling scanners and digital database searches.

The most common product identifiers are GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers), a family of product identifiers that include UPCs (Universal Product Codes) and EANS (European Article Numbers). GTINs are officialized by the GS1, a global organization aiming to facilitate international and cross-channel commerce.

If you plan to sell on Ebay, Walmart, or Etsy, any GTIN works (Etsy actually doesn’t require any product identifier). However, you’ll need more specific types of GTINs to sell on other popular channels. Namely, you need either UPCs or EANs if you want to sell on Jet or Newegg Marketplace, and a UPC to sell in most categories on Sears.

And what about the leader of the pack, Amazon? They use their own product identifiers known as ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). Don’t worry, though; most products already have a corresponding ASIN that you can look up when adding a new product. If, by chance, you’re selling original products that don’t yet have an ASIN, you can register one pretty quickly. However, to do so, you’ll still need either a UPC, EAN, or ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

Acquiring these numbers isn’t as difficult as you may think. Try these methods:

  • Search the databases at GS1 or UPC Index.
  • Search for the same product on other sites.
  • Contact the manufacturer.
  • Check the packaging. The number under the bar code is a product identifier, and the amount of digits tells you which one.

If you have a unique product and need a new product identifier, you can buy one at the GS1. Here’s a complete list of their services.

Strategies for Different Channels

Of course, getting your products live on different channels is only half the battle. Each online marketplace has its own policies, customer types, brand personalities, and culture. That means you’ll have to tweak your sales strategies a bit for each.

Before we get into the individual platforms, first you want to check the listing requirements for each. These charts show you the optimal format for your product listings on the biggest sales channels, with example entries.

When you’re ready, review the best strategies for the different platforms below.

Amazon

SEO is vital for Amazon, as 49% of all online product searches start on Amazon. The most effective place for SEO in an Amazon listing is the title, so make sure your title includes the brand, product name, and top descriptors for long-tail keywords (women’s, black, large, etc.). If you need suggestions, try typing the product in the Amazon search and see what autofill brings up.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of product listing SEO, you can give yourself an extra boost with Sponsored Products ads. These are more effective if you already know what your strongest keywords are.

eBay

Similar to Amazon, eBay also revolves around product searches, so SEO is your best strategy. Again populate your title and descriptions with keywords, short- and long-tail. You can also take advantage of eBay’s version of sponsored ads, Promoted Listings.

Etsy

Etsy is a little more “homey” than the other eCommerce platforms. Rather than using traditional sales techniques, Etsy stores benefit from a more personal, human touch — if Amazon is a five-story mall, Etsy is a friendly farmer’s market. Here, customer loyalty is paramount.

You want to focus your sales strategies around encouraging repeat sales through customer deals like:

  • Discounts for repeat orders.
  • Promotions for birthdays, first orders, etc.
  • Referral bonuses.
  • Exclusive deals via a newsletter.

Rakuten

More than other platforms, Rakuten relies on visuals. The platform highlights the shopping experience, so you want your store pages to be exciting and engaging. You can use this to your advantage by showcasing your brand identity — accent your brand colors and include a logo or mascot when appropriate.

Walmart

Success on Walmart really depends on winning the Buy Box, which is based on two elements: low price and fast shipping. So, choosing products you can list at a competitive price while still making a profit, is key on this marketplace. From there, you want to take advantage of their 2-day shipping program, Walmart’s version of the Prime tag. Partnering with Deliverr helps fast-track the approval process so you can add the fast shipping tag to each of your product listings, improving your chances of winning more sales.

How to Update Stock Levels on Multiple Channels

Of course, we have to address the biggest problem multi-channel sellers face: keeping stock levels up-to-date.

Even on a single channel, listing outdated stock levels leads to backorders or cancelled orders, which are disastrous to your brand reputation as well as your budget. And the more channels you have, the harder it is to update the stocks on each.

Every time you make a sale, you have to go through each of your channels and update the stock levels to make sure you don’t oversell. This can be a very time-consuming task, time your team could spend on more pertinent tasks, such as product sourcing or marketing. On top of that, the more sales you make, the larger the possibility of human error when inputting stock levels.

To avoid doing this manually, you can enlist the help of a inventory management software like Ecomdash. Every time you make a sale on a channel, Ecomdash automatically updates the stock levels on all channels, ensuring you don’t oversell and make an otherwise satisfied customer angry.

Conclusion

Multi-channel selling can seem intimidating, especially if you’ve built a routine around selling on only one channel. That’s understandable — multi-channel selling does come with a learning curve and involves some creative problem-solving skills. However, all those obstacles are well worth the price of admission.

As more people worldwide start to rely on online shopping, more channels open up and allow more accurate niche targeting. It’s getting to the point where you can’t reach all of your customers on just a single channel. Multi-channel selling lets you branch out to meet your customers where they are already, and gives you the chance to charm some new customers that never would have found you on your original channel.

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