Multichannel Retailing: How to Sell Your Products Online and Offline

Multichannel Retailing: How to Sell Your Products Online and Offline
Selling your products in more than one place, or multichannel selling, dramatically increases the odds that you’ll make a sale. Learn how multichannel retailing can help you reach more customers and increase sales.
by Kira Deutch Jun 16, 2021 — 15 min read
Multichannel Retailing: How to Sell Your Products Online and Offline

Multichannel retailing, or multichannel selling, is when you sell your products across more than one sales channel. From a neighbourhood store to an Instagram Story, selling your products in multiple places dramatically increases the odds that you’ll make a sale.

Think about it — if your products can be seen, experienced and purchased on more platforms and places customers enjoy, they’ll be more likely to add them to their physical or virtual shopping carts. While expanding to selling online was the biggest challenge for retailers in 2020, 88% of the 500 retailers we surveyed are now selling online, according to our Future of Retail report.

With multichannel retailing, you can set up shop on online and offline channels, and it’s more doable than you might think.

Multichannel retailing is when customers have the ability to buy your items in multiple places, which could include channels like an online store, a social media site like TikTok, a marketplace like Etsy, or a physical pop-up shop.

Publishing your product catalogue across channels doesn’t have to be a huge feat. Multichannel retailing starts with preparing your product lineup so you can easily start selling in the places your future customers are — whether that’s on your website, through social media channels, email, text, or in a physical location.

Using an inventory management system that connects your stock and orders in real-time, and in one central place, can make multichannel selling seamless for both you and your customers.

“The sellers who have been most able to adapt are the ones who have the best handle on their inventory,” says Megan Karande, Product Marketing Manager for Square for Retail. “Getting your inventory counted, well photographed, and tagged with proper descriptions really affords you a lot of flexibility for selling online, in person, or on social media.”

Multichannel retailing example

Let’s look at an example of multichannel retailing. Picture a lifestyle store that sells laidback home goods, jewellery and wellness items – a tribute to the beachy community they call home.

And they sell their popular goods across multiple channels: inside their physical store, on their Instagram account with shoppable posts and through their online store with the option of in-store pickup or delivery.

Each touchpoint is connected to the brand. So, no matter where customers shop, they know they’re getting that same beachy vibe as the physical store, yet custom for each platform.

What are the advantages of multichannel retailing?

Multichannel retailing allows your brand to show up on more sales channels, which can help your business accomplish a variety of things. Here are a few of the biggest advantages of multichannel retailing:

Those are just a few of the benefits of carrying your products on different channels. In this guide, you’ll learn how to get started with multichannel selling by preparing your products to sell in the places where customers are just waiting to be reached.Whether you have a physical shop, an online store, both, or neither, there are some best practices to follow when selling items in person, online, and everywhere in between.

Select the best products to sell on different channels

If you have a large product catalogue, you don’t need to get every item ready to sell online. Instead, focus on items that are your top sellers or set your business apart. Products that are unique, niche, and probably point to why you started a retail business in the first place can be a good place to start.

Niche products are purchased by a smaller group of people who are hungry to get their hands on them, and they’re sometimes made in small batches or runs. Examples of niche products include essential oils or T-shirts with sayings that apply to a particular geographic area. Going with niche products over broader products helps you narrow the competition.

To get a handle on exactly which products make sense to sell on different channels, try the following exercise:

Once you know what could sell well on different channels, see if your current business setup allows for expansion. For instance, if you produce the product on your own can you increase production? If you resell items, are your suppliers able to deliver more? These are a few of the questions to think about when determining the best products to feature on new channels.

Choose the best platforms to sell on

No matter your business, selling on a new channel can help bring your goods to an entirely new audience. You can go with an eCommerce platform, social media site, or a tool that allows you to sell over email. Depending on the type of business model you have, there are also various online marketplaces and apps where you can sell your products, along with listing software you can use to automate the process. Here’s a breakdown of the different channels to consider selling on.

Learn more about how to start a free online store from your Square account.

Learn more about creating pay links.

Learn more about selling on social media with Square.

Remember, you don’t have to try just one channel and you can easily pivot if it doesn’t work. Depending on your current audience and the customers you’re trying to reach, you may find that selling with an online store, a physical location, and through social media is your best bet. Or perhaps selling on social media alone fits your needs. These are your options at a glance but select the collection of channels that work best for the goals of your business.

Set up your new channel with multichannel selling software

Once you decide on the channel you want to try out, the next step with multichannel retailing is to set it up with software that lets you sell across multiple sales channels. Here’s how to get started with some of the most popular eCommerce tools from Square:

You also want to make sure that the channel you choose either works with your existing systems or it comes with the tools you need to count inventory and fulfil orders. This is crucial to look into before orders start flowing in, because if you don’t have the systems set up you won’t be able to process and fulfil any orders. Keep an eye out for the following capabilities and features when looking for tools that help you sell in multiple ways:

Count your inventory

Once you figure out the channel to try, the next step is to get a read on how much inventory you have. Taking stock lets you see if you need to reorder, source from new suppliers or, if you create your own products, manufacture more. Having a real-time view across all your channels also makes it easier to manage, allowing you to create a better customer experience.

Inventory counting can be done once a year through a full physical inventory count or on a more regular basis through cycle counting, which can help you improve your inventory accuracy. A best practice for counting your inventory is to use inventory management software, which can streamline the labour-intensive process. For example, Square’s inventory management system can help you make it easier to conduct a count with a barcode scanner and real-time software.

Build your item profiles in your inventory management system

After taking stock, you’re ready to set up your listings. You’ll need to set up a product listing on whatever platform you decide to try, so look into the channel-specific resources to learn exactly how to create and manage items on the channel you go with.

In this section, we’ll cover how to create product listings that will make shoppers more likely to buy from you. As you go through this section, you may also want to check out product listings from competitors to see what’s working and identify opportunities where you can stand out.

Price your products

Trying out new sales channels is a good time to revisit your pricing strategy. When thinking about how to price your products, you want to ensure your prices are competitive, keep you profitable, and help shoppers feel like they’re getting value out of their purchase. There are also some considerations when pricing items online vs. in-store and pricing for eCommerce.

Here are a few pricing strategies to look into:

Keep in mind that you can always update the prices of your products, but it’s good to have an understanding of your options as you’re expanding into new channels.

Take quality product photography

Well-photographed products make customers feel more confident when making a purchase. For example you might create an immersive experience through product photography, videos, and detailed descriptions on each product page.

Photographing your products doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. With Square Photo Studio, you can send in your items and receive retouched images that you can upload directly to the channels you’re selling on.

If you’re taking photos on your own, here are a few pointers:

When uploading your photos, make sure your photos are high resolution. You can also add alt text to each one, using a simple explanation with keywords that describe your product, which helps increase the odds that your product pages will appear on search. For instance, if you’re selling coconut wax candles, you can add “orange bergamot coconut wax candles” as your image alt tag.

Write compelling product descriptions that sell

Your product descriptions are a powerful way to help customers make more informed purchase decisions, and they can also help you minimise returns and customer service issues. Make your descriptions scannable with bullets so customers can quickly get what they need and make a purchase.

If you use Square for Retail, you can scan your items and it automatically populates a product description. Learn more about how the item creation process works with Square.

Ensure your product descriptions cover things like:

You also want your descriptions to answer common customer questions and include any keywords you’re trying to get your pages to rank for.

Think through your fulfilment options

When selling physical items across channels, fulfilment is a big piece of the puzzle since you need to figure out how to deliver products to your customers. And if you’re selling products online for the first time, that impacts both how you manage inventory and fulfil those orders. The size, weight, and packaging of your product will influence the fulfilment option that works best.

Here are a few fulfilment options to consider:

Depending on the fulfilment option you choose, that may require you to use a shipping carrier. With delivery, you could offer free shipping, discounted shipping, or a host of other options. If you’re just getting started, consider using the rates calculated by your shipping partner so you can ensure you’re setting a fair rate that doesn’t eat into your profits.

Double-check that your shipping provider also offers shipping speeds so it’s easy for customers to decide how they want to get their items. Read more about how to ship products to your customers, along with this overview on shipping with Square Online.

Upload your inventory

Once you have your photos, product descriptions, prices, and fulfilment methods, you can upload all those details to your inventory management system. An inventory management system that works across different channels is your hub, providing all your information in one place so you don’t have to use separate tools across the various channels you’re selling on.

After you upload your items, make sure you publish each one so they’re live on your new channel. Take a look to ensure that each listing shows up correctly once you hit publish.

Categorise your products so they’re easy to find

Depending on the channel, you want to make your products easy to find for shoppers who are casually browsing, wherever your products show up. If you use Square, you can add and edit categories in the Site Editor.

There are typically two ways to organise your products: through a flat or hierarchical taxonomy. A flat taxonomy puts all categories on the same level, while a hierarchical taxonomy divides categories into sub and sub-subcategories, helping visitors quickly see what’s more important.

To set up categories, go through the following exercise so you can easily translate your taxonomy to your online store, social media channels, and other channels you’re selling on. You could even use this exercise to help you organise your in-store merchandise and revisit your store layout design.

Publish your new store or page

Once all your items are uploaded, make sure you publish each one so they’re live on your new channel. Take a look to ensure that everything appears correctly once you hit publish.

See what’s working. Iterate.

Diversifying where you sell can be thrilling because it opens up your business to new possibilities. However, a surge in sales can also be hard to handle if you’re not set up to process and fulfil orders with increased demand. As you try out new channels with multichannel selling, use your POS system to help you measure how each channel is performing so you can quickly adapt where needed.

Think about what’s next

As you expand to selling on new channels, think about what else you can do to drive growth for your business. Here are a few areas to explore:

Getting your products ready to sell in different places gives your business a competitive edge. Now if you’re ready to try something new, you’ll already have done the prep work so you can easily get your goods into the hands of the customers that want them most, no matter where they shop.

Kira Deutch
The Bottom Line is brought to you by a global team of collaborators who believe that anyone should be able to participate and thrive in the economy.


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