Like all business owners, ecommerce merchants spend the majority of their time striving to outperform the other sellers in their niche. Today, success in ecommerce is driven not just by determination, but by diversification. Merchants must learn to embrace an omnichannel sales strategy if they want to stay on top. Modern consumers approach online shopping in different ways – to reach them all means having fingers in lots of pies. As an ecommerce entrepreneur, how can you make the important transition from single channel salesmen to multichannel mogul?

Take advantage of online marketplaces

The ecommerce powerhouses such as the likes of eBay, Amazon and Etsy collectively rake in millions of online shoppers every week – far higher numbers than you could ever hope to realistically generate. To not take advantage of this captive audience would be foolish. The initial costs of setting up a seller profile on an online marketplace website are small, though fees often apply to sales.

Setting up a seller profile on Amazon or Etsy is a simple task – it makes sense to give it a try. With an online marketplace, the marketing side of things takes care of itself. Just be sure to clearly label and describe your products so that customers find them easily when searching. Suddenly, your business is available to thousands of new prospective buyers. However, your brand identity is undoubtedly compromised. More on that later.

With fulfillment options available you can even arrange drop shipping for your inventory, so there’s no need to store and manage order delivery yourself.

But don’t rely on them

Useful as online marketplaces are, in the long-term it’s important to remember that your ecommerce business will thrive mostly through generating repeat custom. It’s never a good idea to limit your sales platforms exclusively to online marketplaces, for the primary reason that everything about them is designed to reinforce their own brands – and not yours. This makes is hard to generate repeat business and gain a name for yourself, since for the all the customer knows, they have simply ‘bought something off Amazon’.

Using online marketplaces as a crutch can actually prevent you from developing your own coherent brand and cultivating a legitimate following. It also removes one of the most valuable assets of running an online business – access to customer information. To collect and make use of analytics and customer contact details, you need to take ownership of your online presence.

Sell through your own channel

Online marketplaces – much like real marketplaces – are crowded and highly competitive. You can do as much as provide quality information and imagery: aside from that, the only differentiator is price. But with your own online store, you have full control over everything – the branding, the experience and the profits. If you don’t have one already, there are lots of free ecommerce trials to help you figure out what you need. This is your platform to truly differentiate yourself from your competitors and gain a following of dedicated brand evangelists.

Remember that there is no such thing as an effective ecommerce store that isn’t optimized for mobile. Offer a fantastic user experience on all devices to achieve the best results and make the research and purchase process easier for your customers.

Stay on top of your analytics

Your ecommerce analytics are highly powerful. This data holds the key to telling you what about your site is working well, and what isn’t. As an ecommerce store owner, investing in a good analytics solution for your business is a must. In particular, analytics will be able to tell you how customers are behaving on your site – what they like, what they’re looking for, and what turns them off.

Keeping track of your website analytics is an ongoing process that will enable to you keep improving the performance of your site, month after month. Ever wondered why some of your customers abandon their shopping cart right at the last minute? Analytics – paired with A/B testing – can help you to solve what’s happening and why.

Maintain consistency on every channel

Multichannel selling will drive your business forward – as long as you keep consistency. If you don’t, you will not only fail to strengthen your brand: you could actually weaken it. Along with any perceived trustworthiness you’ve managed to gather thus far.

When we talk about staying consistent, this applies to everything from branding and tone of voice to your product offering and pricing. Minimize mistakes by giving everyone in the business access to up-to-date product information and pricing models, and by keeping a close eye on how sales are faring on each platform. Integrating your inventory and your supply data can be a useful way to keep track of everything at once.

There’s no shortcut to success in ecommerce: only commitment to ongoing strategy and persistence. As a multichannel seller, a keen awareness of customer trends and the evolution of online shopping behavior is crucial. Whatever platforms you decide to explore as part of your ecommerce sales strategy, the crux of a good omnichannel experience is to ensure a consistently good quality of experience for your customers, regardless of how they find you. Start small, build up gradually and learn as much as you can along the way.

Written by EcommerceTips
Patrick Foster, ecommerce coach & entrepreneur.