What preoccupies you the most in your ecommerce business? On a day-to-day basis the two things at the top of your list might be getting the orders out and keeping your customers happy. Or maybe it’s a case of getting the orders in and keeping your suppliers happy! But when you get a chance to step back from the business for a few moments, perhaps you start to think about your business as a whole, what you want to do with it next quarter and where you want to be with it this time next year. Is it time to start thinking about channel coverage.
What channels should be covered?
If you’re active on one channel, perhaps your website, or Amazon or eBay, you probably consider yourself to be an expert on that channel. You know its rules, how it operates and how to be successful on it. Unfortunately, you’re also acutely aware of what might happen if there’s a problem and it stops working for you. To avoid this unpleasant scenario, you could look at making your stock available on a second channel. You can spread your risk between the two channels and get some balance. That sounds easy, but this second channel is different. It works in a different way. You have to start from scratch to learn it, which takes time, money and sweat, all of which you could be expending on your single channel.
There are of course, many other channels, in many other regions and many other countries, each bringing their own effort and reward, depending on your business and the products you sell and the categories you operate in. There are platforms that will manage your website or websites, global multi channel marketplaces, regional or national marketplaces, vertical marketplaces, price comparison sites, daily deal sites, flash sale sites, aggregators, B2B exchanges. The list is long, and doesn't even take into account traditional channels like bricks and mortar, telephone order and mail order. There are opportunities in all of them, and costs and risks too. What’s the right balance, the right channel coverage? How much is enough?
Companies that are great at channel coverage have worked very hard to get great. They didn’t get lucky at leveraging the right channels for their business. They reap the benefits of spreading their risk not only across channels, but also within the channels. They have multiple seller IDs in the same channel, with each ID selling different – but perhaps complementary – sets of products.
Do your research!
Great companies do the research into each channel to find out if it’s for them. How it works, how its categories are structured, what its policies are, its pricing, its rules, its requirements for joining, its terms and conditions, its market share, its attitude to sellers, its customer base, its ethos and so on. If they can’t get the answers themselves, they ask someone who can.
Once you’ve decided a channel is worth investing in, the next thing to figure out is how it will work with your existing channel. How will you manage your stock across the marketplace channels? How will your listings work? How will you keep tabs on what you’ve sold where? How will you make sure you don’t oversell anywhere? How will you manage customer service? If you’re not careful, you might find that doubling your channels simply doubles the amount of work you have to do, and you may not have that kind of time.
Read the second part of our Channel Coverage blog series here