By Lauren Carter
Multi-Channel Selling: Common Pitfalls to Avoid
Whether you begin selling on Amazon, eBay or anywhere else online, at some point you may decide to expand your business to a second marketplace. This is a smart business move and can allow you to reach a much greater customer audience, increasing your sales and therefore your profits. Multi-channel selling has become the norm for many sellers, from small time traders to retail giants. You may be aware that even brands like French Connection, Mothercare and Homebase now sell directly through eBay as well as their own websites and physical stores.
Whilst the benefits are obvious, the decision to move to multi-channel selling is not one to be taken lightly. You need to think carefully about how you will manage your incoming orders and manage the shipping process. There are lots of multi-channel inventory management software solutions available which can help you out but these can be expensive. If you choose to do things manually you need to consider the extra time you will need to do the work and decide whether this is feasible for you. We’ve put together a list of considerations you need to undertake before you dive in.
Make sure you know the marketplaces and their differences
Selling on Amazon is very different to eBay; just because you know one inside out you might run into problems with the other. Make sure you’ve done lots of research so you know what you are signing up to. Fees vary across the marketplaces so it’s worth calculating how much it will cost you to sell your stock through a new site, you might need to adjust your prices to account for extra fees and this will eat into your margins. As well as getting to know the fees you need to understand the rules of the marketplace, selling used clothes is perfectly acceptable on eBay but forbidden on Amazon for example. Make sure you can sell your stock through the marketplace you are looking at and understand what your limits will be.
Understand listing processes
Selling on two marketplaces means twice the listing time. The method for listing on Amazon and eBay is very different. eBay is very flexible in letting you customise your listings whereas Amazon has a very set structure which you need to adhere to. This makes this much more than a copy and paste job! One good example of the difference is the item conditions, if you are solely selling brand new products this won’t be an issue but for used products the condition categories differ. On eBay, products are generally new, used or refurbished whereas on Amazon there is a spectrum of conditions; new, like new, very good, good and acceptable. You need to look at the two platforms and work out how your product should be listed on each one. This can be a time consuming process. If you have a large amount of inventory already both Amazon and eBay offer bulk upload features to save you time listing products one by one. You will still need to check each listing for any errors after you have uploaded your bulk listing file.
If you are selling on multiple platforms it is easy to lose track of how much stock you have left. You might have 20 copies of a DVD and you list all 20 on Amazon as well as eBay. When you make a sale through eBay you’re inventory on Amazon will still say 20 in stock. You need to stay on top of sales and make sure you don’t end up selling more products than you actually have as you will then need to cancel orders which is damaging to your customer metrics.
Managing incoming orders
When you are selling on multiple marketplaces you will need to keep an eye on where orders are coming from and keep on top of what needs doing. With Amazon you need to dispatch all orders within 48hours of receiving them, this includes weekends and you need to make sure you confirm the dispatch once you have shipped the product or you will be penalised. On eBay you set your own dispatch speed but you need to make sure you stick to it to avoid negative feedback and unhappy customers. You need to make sure you keep on top of which orders you have and have not shipped. It’s easy to think you’ve shipped something when really you’ve missed it. Come up with a system, perhaps you will set a time of day when you will go through your Amazon orders then your eBay orders, don’t get mixed up!
Work out where you need help and find the best solutions for you
There is a lot that can wrong when you start multichannel selling so it’s important to take your time to work out how you will manage each aspect. The good news is that there are lots of software tools which can help you out. If you are selling through Amazon using their FBA programme then making the move to another marketplace is easier than you would think. You can continue to store all of your stock in the Amazon fulfilment centres, when you make a sale through another marketplace all you need to do is go on to Amazon and create a fulfilment order, tell Amazon your customer’s name and address and what delivery method they have paid for and Amazon will dispatch the order for you. This is a little time consuming and you need to be careful not to make errors but it saves you managing the orders yourself. It also means your Amazon inventory levels are kept up to date; this makes it much easier to avoid overselling your products.
If you are fulfilling orders yourself it’s worth looking at multi-channel inventory management software. There are lots of solutions out there with varying features but in general they will add your listings to your chosen marketplaces from their interface, collect your orders into one place and adjust your inventory across the marketplaces to make sure you don’t oversell. This of course comes at a price; you need to make sure the extra revenue you make from selling on multiple platforms is enough to cover the fee for the software and still leave you with some extra profit.
As long as you take time to plan your next move, the change to multi-channel fulfilment should be a profitable one. We’d love to hear how you organise your multi-channel business. Get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.