14 October, 2021

Multichannel Sales: Understanding the Dynamics of a Post-Pandemic World



It’s no secret that the pandemic disrupted retail, forcing businesses to reevaluate their entire operational models. Now that we are finally transitioning out of the pandemic, eCommerce merchants need to rethink their approach towards their sales and distribution channels.

Besides the degree of disruption faced by retailers, life during the pandemic has also altered consumer behavior to a great extent. Multichannel sales are one of the best approaches to deal with the change in buyer behavior as it increases the number of sales touchpoints. It also helps you gather large and more relevant datasets regarding your customer base and increases your odds of retaining them.

As we continue to ease out of the pandemic, wisdom dictates that there may be unseen risks associated with over-expansion and the intricacies of multichannel sales. As the resurgence in online purchases over the last two years transitions into the next “new normal,” any significant changes that you decide to make should be taken slowly and weighed against expert advice from leaders in the inventory and order management space.

In this article, we will evaluate the multichannel seller landscape and see how you can make the most out of opportunities as they arise.

Risk Mitigation Strategies For Multichannel Sales

Online sellers need to revisit their multichannel sales risk mitigation strategies in order to stay relevant with evolving market conditions. Many industries have observed changes in consumer behavior, supply chain, finance, socio-economic presets and selling platforms. This has, in turn, impacted how different players compete and collaborate when it comes to online sales.

Cin7’s recent large-scale study found that 82% of 4,000 product sellers across the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are adding two or more sales channels in the coming months. Our latest ebook on multichannel selling has even more of these deep insights that point out why businesses are expanding their sales reach.

Let’s dive deeper into the risk factors and the counter efforts that current times require.

#1 Demand Forecasting

Successful online retailers need to integrate their backend systems (e.g., inventory management, order management, accounting) with their eCommerce website, social media, marketplaces, portals and third party logistics provider, and be able to do so at scale.

Each sales channel poses the inherent challenge of accurate demand forecasting and each channel needs to seamlessly interface with inventory to avoid over or underselling.

Another important factor that online retailers need to consider is that consumer behavior on each social media app is driven by an entirely unique set of motivators. Using a ‘one size fits all’ approach can sabotage demand forecasting capabilities. The best approach is to only sell on marketplaces that you fully understand.

Making an instantaneous change to your selling strategy to accommodate new sales channels like heavyweights Target or Walmart isn’t always advisable. The smart approach is to develop a foolproof sales forecasting strategy for every channel individually and cultivate an understanding of their performance as a collective over time.

#2 Branding Consistency Across Sales Channels

Brand consistency across sales channels is another challenge that continues to baffle businesses. Maintaining brand consistency on your own website is within your direct control, but when it comes to various marketplaces and social media you need to put in extra effort.

Product sellers need to ensure that their branding is consistent across all touchpoints. Failing to do so may cause your customers and prospects to distrust your brand as they might suspect counterfeiting. The same applies when you are communicating with your customers. This calls for an umbrella solution that groups your sales channels under a common strategy and provides you with a modular approach.

Creating a content stack is a powerful and cost-effective solution since it ensures that your branding stays consistent through a well-planned distribution strategy. Even your replies in comment sections and private messages on social media should follow standard templates and you can use inbox chatbots to serve this purpose.

#3 Inventory Management

Efficient inventory management is the primary challenge for product sellers looking to build or expand their presence over multiple sales channels. As discussed earlier, it’s important to synchronize your inventory seamlessly across all your sales channels and this is only possible with an inventory management system that allows for this type of integration. Ideally, when you confirm an order on one sales channel, inventory data is updated on all other sales platforms, maintaining a single source of truth.

Real-time inventory synchronization will also help you get a comprehensive picture of overall sales, thereby preventing overselling and overstocking. Better order fulfillment creates another advantage, but the post-pandemic inventory management strategies will need to go beyond these factors. Our recent survey also found that over 52% of online product sellers are planning to add four more sales channels in 2021 making them even more dependent on a reliable inventory management system. You can get more insights on this topic by simply downloading our new multichannel selling ebook.

Additional factors that sellers need to consider are smart automation and the ecosystem of solutions that cater to different target audiences and deliver the functionalities they seek. Big data, AI-enabled decision making, predictive customer queries and reduction of operational issues by moderating human intervention are among the top priorities, especially for SMBs.

#4 Customer Relationship Management

Customer experience is the ultimate differentiator when it comes to online selling, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to curate and measure. The reason is simple: a huge number of sellers have surfaced in the current eCommerce boom and it’s increasingly difficult for your brand to stand out from the others unless you are ready to spend.

Your spend should focus on a redesign of your CRM workflows, documenting new SOPs and orchestrating client-facing functions with fresh customer journeys. But before you start making drastic changes to your customer relationship management strategy, you should reach out to your customers to understand their motivators.

At the same time, make sure to invest in the right people and train them to handle customer inquiries. Taking an iterative approach is best to prevent making sudden policy changes. Allow time to reveal how a post pandemic consumer adjusts.

#5 Handling Shipping And Returns Management

The post-pandemic scenario will require you to rethink your shipping and returns management strategy to mitigate bottlenecks. This requires choosing the best third party logistics provider to meet order demand most efficiently.

Contracting with a third party logistics provider also requires seamless integration between your backend processes and sales channels. To begin with, you need to strategize your shipping and returns policy while also designing an automated framework for returns processing if you don’t already have one.

This should be followed by optimizing your internal operations to meet the fresh requirements of your shipping partners. This may also be the time to update your pricing policy and make sure to evaluate special cases like product bundling since it is one of the most common trends we’ve witnessed in 2021.

Summing Up

Throughout this article, one aspect remains constant: The need to expand in a sustainable manner. Successfully managing your sales ecosystem is going to be the key to success in post-pandemic eCommerce.

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