Working out how to successfully juggle the demands of a growing workload is a key challenge for all businesses who have made, or are making, the transition from single to multi-channel online selling.
For those already there, there are many practical things you can do to make things better for yourself. For those considering the move, it's worth giving some thought to the challenges you may face as your new business approach beds in.
Am I multi-channel selling?
There is so much lingo surrounding online retail, from SEO to SKUs so let’s make sure we are on the same page from the start. If you sell products in one or more online marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon or Etsy, and you have your own website with a shopping cart embedded in it, then you are multi-channel selling. You may also be selling through a traditional retail outlet, although a vast number of businesses do not.
Is everyone having the same issues?
Ask multi-channel online retailers everywhere what their biggest struggle is and they’re likely to give you one or more of the following four answers.
1) Keeping my listings up-to-date on each of my channels is a nightmare.
It’s true. Making that step from single channel to multi-channel adds more than just another platform to log into every day. You may have gone from 500 products listed on your first channel to now a total of 1,500 listings when you add three channels together. Each product must be managed on each channel you sell it on, each listing separately modified. Prices must be updated. Most laborious of all, stock must be manually updated which brings us onto the next answer.
2) I can’t keep up with the manual stock changes.
Sell something on one channel and the stock must be updated across all your others or you risk overselling. Overselling drives poor customer feedback and threatens to undermine your online reputation. So you spend hours manually updating stock on each of your channels when you sell something on another.
3) Picking, packing and shipping my orders is taking far longer than it feels like it should.
Multiple channels mean multiple screens to log into and check, and multiple places to record your actions as you pick, pack and ship. Logically you might want to pick all your green t-shirts first but you can’t easily, as one is on Amazon, one is on Ebay and the third through your webshop. Same with packing and shipping.
4) Administration is now 90% of my job.
This is an amalgamation of the three above in a lot of ways. But it also encompasses the stresses and strains of understanding the nuances of each of the channels you are working on. You have mulitple interfaces, multiple ways of achieving the same thing and different terminology associated with each channel. You have to learn each of these and become proficient with the interface of each channel.
How can I get control?
The following tips work whether you have been multi-channel selling for some time or are newly considering it.
Step 1: Look at your product portfolio. Do you really need all those products?
Odds are on that the 80/20 rule applies to your portfolio. That is, 80% of your profit is coming from 20% of your products. This can be a good time to slim down your offering. And fewer products = fewer listings to keep up-to-date cross-channel.
Step 2: Select your key runners and invest in ensuring the right stock levels
If you have slimmed down your portfolio and have a more manageable number of SKUs, you now know and understand where your profit is coming from. You can now look at selecting your key runners and investing in making sure you are holding the right stock level against them. You might want to calculate what your stock turn rate is for your fast moving products and stock accordingly. This may enable you to reduce the number of times you have to log on to your platforms and manually update them.
Step 3: Organise your warehouse or stock storage area
Use SKUs to organise products on your shelves. Make sure your fast-moving items are quick to pick. Store them next to your packing areas, open bulk packaging etc. Do the same for your packing area. Consider the steps you need to take and organise your workspace accordingly.
Step 4: Consider a multi-channel software solution.
Much can be done to streamline your business without looking at improving the computing systems behind it, but at the end of the day, there are great reasons why almost all larger online multi-channel sellers used multi-channel software. It lets them centrally manage their listings, products, inventory, orders and shipping and makes it easy to post their sales through to accounting software at the end of the month.
Can SMBs afford multi-channel software?
Traditionally multi-channel software was the preserve of large companies as costs were prohibitively high and setup activities long and laborious. That isn’t the case today. There are small business solutions out there with small business price tags attached to them that provide the feature set the small business needs.
To find out more click here to download the gated e-book on choosing multichannel management software: http://expandly.com/choosing-multichannel-management-software/
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