The ultimate guide to choosing the best ecommerce sales channel
Sales channels are your means to engage with customers over the whole lifecycle of your buyer-seller relationship. Each of the phases in this journey involves several sales channels, which are either direct or indirect (that’s via third parties).
Essentially, sales channels are pathways to your target audience, an identifiable route to their attention—albeit some are more roundabout than others. So, developing a presence across multiple ecommerce channels means more avenues through which to reach potential customers.
Sounds good, right? But how do you pick the right ecommerce channels for your business, understand the different types, and figure out if you want to take an omnichannel or multichannel approach? This guide will walk you through all that, alongside some helpful FAQs.
Let’s jump right in and look at:
- What are ecommerce sales channels?
- How to select the best ecommerce sales channels for you
- Different types of ecommerce sales channels
- How about multichannel and omnichannel?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are ecommerce sales channels?
Ecommerce channels get your products and services in front of your target audience. They exist irrespective of whether you’re B2B or B2C focused.
Think about sales channels like your daily commute. Sometimes you can make your way to your destination by foot and other times you’ll need to hop on public transport to complete the journey. Sales channels are the course your customers take towards purchase.
When the sales channel is direct, your business conducts its sale in direct contact with the customer. For example, via purchase from your online store. An indirect sales channel is through a third-party merchant like a retailer or online marketplace. If you list your goods for sale on Amazon, for example, any sale you make would be indirect as your own sales team isn’t in contact with the customer.
How to select the best ecommerce sales channel for you
We all know that in order to make a sale online, you have to be where your customers are. So, if your target demographic spends most of its time on social media apps like Instagram, your brand needs an ecommerce presence there.
Different channels reach different audiences. If your main customer base is aged 18-24, for example, you wouldn’t create a Facebook store as your primary channel to connect with customers. The average age range for people using that social network is estimated at between 25-34.
The right channel strategy for your business will be informed by your consumers and their habits. However, there are also other factors to bear in mind.
Do you run your own manufacturing? Sell your items wholesale? Follow a dropshipping supply model? All these things will determine the right sales channels for your business.
For example, if you’re a manufacturer, you’re likely to need a variety of sales partners to reach key market segments and their end-users. Similarly, wholesalers will often sell to brick and mortar stores and online retailers, rather than direct to consumer.
Knowing your brand position can go some way to helping you identify which sales channels will be appropriate for your business. Selling luxury goods might require a specialist distributor. If you choose to pursue direct to consumer channels, an ecommerce platform should deliver the personalised experience luxury buyers expect.
To support the customer experience, you might consider a solution like Ve’s Digital Assistant. Behavioural insights, targeted relevant engagements, and recommendations can all contribute to making your ecommerce site a more effective sales channel—winning new customers and retaining existing ones.
Are you ready to accept a variety of payment methods? Paypal, Apple Pay, etc.? If so, your own ecommerce site is a viable sales channel. For indirect online sales channels, make sure you’re up to date with sellers’ fees and policies.
Your cash flow will determine which marketplaces to sell through. At $29 a month, Shopify suits businesses with the budget, where WooCommerce is an affordable option for all.
If you sell a specific product that targets a niche consumer, you need to be aware of which sales channels are most likely to reach this audience.
Conversely, if you’re selling items that are popular with the average consumer, you can be less discerning when it comes to choosing your sales channel. Here, casting a broad net is a winning strategy.
When you’re weighing up your sales channels, it’s always important to consider your end goals and your potential for future growth. You need channels that can scale with your business and should keep in mind options that might not be viable now, but could be in the future.
Search engines can be really effective sales channels if they’re used correctly. To generate more online traffic, you’ll need to optimise your ecommerce store with SEO (search engine optimisation) and content management. This might not be possible for smaller businesses but would be a channel and marketing strategy to keep in mind as your revenue increases.
Different types of ecommerce sales channels
Now that you know how to pick the right sales channels for your business, let’s consider the various options available:
Own shopping site
When you look to expand your sales channels, you should begin with your own ecommerce site. It should engage visitors and guide them in their customer journey. Connected Media can funnel more traffic to your site and thereby improve the functionality of this sales channel.
With Ve’s Connected Media, you can increase the performance of digital ads and ask direct user-intent questions based on browsing preferences through digital ads or when users first land on your site (using the Digital Assistant). The need to navigate can be completely eliminated. Just by answering a few questions, customers are directed to the product they’re looking for.
Don’t miss out on customers browsing from their devices either. Make sure your site is mobile compatible or has a mobile app—that’s another sales channel!
Marketplaces act as an intermediary between buyer and seller. There are a whole host of online marketplaces to choose from, and each has its own audience. You should get to know each one to figure out which offers the greatest sales potential for your products.
A general marketplace like Amazon is the best place to sell products that have mass appeal. These platforms draw in a large and diverse audience, so your product listings have a wide reach.
With delivery options like Amazon Prime, they also cater to impulse purchasing which could work in your favour. On top of this, by picking well-known online retail conglomerates you ensure your goods have credibility by proxy.
The only drawback of a larger general retailer is that it provides few opportunities to build your own brand or connect with your customers on that level. Customers rarely associate their Amazon purchases with the third-party seller nor build long-term relationships with brands.
If you’re looking to improve customer loyalty or have a specialist product less suited to the general marketplace, your own ecommerce business website or one of the below options would be a better choice.
On a typical ecommerce platform, visitors choose items from product pages, add them to their basket, and checkout to complete their purchase. On an auction site, by contrast, users bid on items against the clock to win the chance to purchase them.
eBay is probably the best known of these websites and is a great place to start if you’re a purveyor of collectables, rare and big-ticket items, or one of a kind products.
Sales on auction sites are neither as fast nor as consistent as on general marketplaces. It can be difficult to garner the level of attention required to make regular sales, so eBay sellers have to be savvy marketers.
Handmade & crafts
If you have a penchant for handicrafts, a marketplace like Etsy is your best fit. There are wholesale options for those that want to sell in bulk and single listing options for unique and handcrafted items.
Most of these marketplaces charge a listing fee and collect a commission from your sale price (remember to factor that into your pricing). Etsy offsets the carbon emissions from all their deliveries, so they’re a suitable choice if environmental issues are an important part of your brand image.
On-demand production marketplaces (think Rebubble and CafePress) sell products with a printed design that they produce as orders are received. Your business designs the print and sells the product through their website.
The marketplace manages every aspect of the purchasing journey from the manufacture to purchase and delivery. It’s best suited to artists or small design companies that want low manufacturing costs and don’t have the capacity to store their own inventory.
Essentially, affiliate programs see online merchants employ an affiliate who promotes their products in return for a commission on sales. They bridge the gap between marketing and sales channels, driving ecommerce traffic and conversions.
They’re a useful option for quick business growth, but can be quite expensive and you might find social media marketing to be a cheaper alternative when you’re first starting out.
If you can leverage search engines to your advantage, they make very successful sales channels, and they appeal to an entirely different audience to other marketplaces. Customers of search engines are usually actively looking for a specific product, so they’re already interested in the product you’re selling.
Search engines like Google and Bing prioritise listings and adverts that are optimised with the right structure and content. So, you’ll likely need to employ an SEO expert to achieve significant results.
From the Instagram store to Facebook marketplace, there’s no shortage of sales channels on social media. These tools can integrate with your own ecommerce shop and sell directly through your social media pages. Promote a product in your Stories and thanks to fully integrated shopping functionality, a customer can purchase in one tap.
They’re an essential tool if your target audience can be reached through a particular social platform. Facebook and Instagram also let businesses customise Dynamic Ads that pop up for users that have previously engaged with their social pages or who have abandoned a shopping cart.
Comparison shopping sites
Comparison shopping engines like Google Shopping and Shopzilla list your products against high-ranking competitors. Here again, optimising your shop content and design is essential. This time, to stand out from the crowd and win that purchase for yourself.
It’s crucial you pair this sales channel with competitor marketing tools so you can monitor rivals’ pricing and promotions, and stay competitive.
How about multichannel or omnichannel?
Put simply, multichannel (as the name would suggest) means multiple channels of communication, while omnichannel means integrated channels. Taking a multichannel approach would mean pursuing multiple different sales channels.
For an omnichannel approach, you’d still sell through several avenues, but these would be integrated to offer a unified shopping experience to your customers. For example, it would mean that a consumer could buy a product online and return it to your retail store, or contact customer service via social media about an order placed online.
In theory, then, you don’t really pick between a multichannel and omnichannel approach, it’s about the level of seamless integration you’re able to achieve.
Be wary that an omnichannel approach can be demanding. It’s difficult to offer a consistent quality of service on multiple different channels. Start by picking the sales channels that best suit your unique business offerings and diversify into different channels as your company expands.
Whichever sales channels you choose, the factors for success remain the same. Above all else, make sure they suit your audience, your business model, brand position, cash flow, product offering, and business aspirations. Considering these factors makes picking the appropriate sales paths simple, and increases your chance of success.
There are a plethora of online retail partners to choose from in 2021, appealing to a vast and varied audience, but don’t forget to dedicate attention to direct channels like your ecommerce store. With the right ecommerce strategy and digital optimisation resources, your own website can be your best sales channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What are ecommerce sales channels?
They’re the route your target consumers take towards purchase. They can be direct—involving only you and the consumer, or indirect—also including a third party.
What ecommerce sales channels options are available?
The options are almost endless. They include your own ecommerce site and marketplaces like general online stores, auctioneers, handmade and craft focused retailers, or other channels like affiliate services, on-demand production sites, search engines, social media, comparison shopping sites, and many more!
Which sales channel should I use?
Pick your sales channels based on your specific business needs. These should be the best places to reach your targeted buyers, channels that suit your business model and brand identity, and that work with your cash flow, products, and future goals.