The Definitive Guide to Multi Channel Selling for Manufacturers
Multi channel selling is fast becoming the go-to selling strategy among, not just manufacturers, but most businesses operating today. This is mostly due to how cheap and accessible it is now to trade online. In this article, we explore this sales tactic, how manufacturers should approach it, and the best tool to optimize this approach.
Once upon a time, it used to be that manufacturers would have to go cap in hand to retailers and wholesalers in a bid to get their products out to a wider audience.
More ambitious entrepreneurs of the past were subject to whatever fees the middleman would draft up, or even enter consignment inventory agreements.
Manufacturers were at the mercy of their resellers. A consignee could allow inventory to sit on store shelves, not encourage customers to buy them, and after the agreement ran out, send the inventory back to the manufacturer at their expense.
Thankfully, with multi channel selling, manufacturers can become DTC brands and don’t have to go the traditional route of yesteryear of selling their products through a third party.
Manufacturers can sell from a physical location, which isn't anything new. However, with the explosion of e-commerce, a manufacturer can now sell via several channels, even forgoing a physical location, and do it all for relatively cheap.
But, by avoiding the risks associated with selling via a middleman, manufacturers now take on the added responsibilities of having to juggle manufacturing, selling, and marketing their products.
That’s why we’ve delved into the world of multi channel selling so manufacturers can learn all about it and know how they can make this selling strategy work for them.
PRO TIP: Regardless of if you’re selling D2C or B2B, one of the most challenging aspects of manufacturing you will face, big or small, is inventory management. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to manufacturing inventory management to help you optimize your business.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
What is Multi Channel Selling?
Multi channel selling is a strategy in which a business sells its products on more than one sales channel.
When using the multi channel selling approach, you'll need to manage sales and inventory via your website, online marketplaces, pop-up stores, and your brick and mortar store.
In the days of yore (not so long ago admittedly), the multi channel selling tactic would have only consisted of two options:
— Brick and mortar stores; and
As you can imagine, it used to be extremely cumbersome to reach new customers when trying to market your store on traditional media outlets or through getting your company’s catalog out there.
However, since then, it’s become far cheaper and easier for manufacturers to adopt a DTC business model and get themselves set up online, allowing them to by-pass, not just the middleman but establishing brick-and mortar-stores and catalogs too.
And you’re not limited to making a website when selling online, as there are public marketplaces that attract millions of shoppers.
In 2006, $1.3 billion goods were sold via eBay, a 108% increase from the year before.
With online marketplaces, like Etsy and Amazon, you're wasting opportunities if you're not trading online. Especially since social media channels like Facebook and Instagram allow you to even sell via your pages.
A study by BazaarVoice found that 76% of Prime Day shoppers in the US visit other channels before purchasing from Amazon.
These shoppers compare pricing and reviews on various sites such as:
— Walmart (46%);
— Consumer electronics websites (45%);
— Target (40%);
— Home improvement websites (39%); and
— Brand websites (39%).
Before we go into the benefits of implementing a multi channel selling strategy, let’s very quickly explore the different channels you could use to gain leverage in your market space.
What Are the Different Sales Channels?
You may be surprised to learn that there are several different routes to take when organizing your multi channel management.
Your multi channel sales approach can consist of:
A common tactic for B2B sellers, this is where your sales team establishes contact with customers, to sell to them.
The same as above but instead using a 3rd party sales force.
Your brick and mortar store, where you sell from a shop or showroom.
From self-service to vending machines, any store which is unmanned such as Zoom Systems.
Selling online via online marketplaces, social media, websites, comparison websites, apps, games, and even mobile marketplaces such as Wish.
Businesses that purchase your products and services to sell them on, often referred to as drop shippers online.
Products bought by another company but marketed under their brand, common with outsource manufacturing.
Contacting potential customers by going door-to-door, telephone, or via email campaigns.
A company that adds something to your products and services such as the installation of a product you sell.
Original equipment manufacturer
Selling a subassembly to a manufacturer for their finished product.
Distributors who sell to several retailers and resellers, good for selling products in bulk.
Import and export
Like wholesalers but on an international scale. They import products or are local distributors who specialize in exporting products.
Mostly commission-based sellers who’re authorized to represent you in a transaction.
These types of multi channel selling methods all offer their own unique customers, marketing techniques, benefits, and challenges.
And if you want to maximize the exposure and sales of your products, you’re going to need to combine several different approaches to adopt multi channel selling as according to one survey of American shoppers:
— 74% shop with large retailers;
— 54% shop at e-commerce marketplaces;
— 44% shop at web stores; and
— 36% shop at category-specific online retailers.
As you can see, it’s important to sell in several areas at once, but what are the benefits and challenges you’ll face?
Multi Channel Selling Advantages and Disadvantages
1. Increasing your brand's recognition
As the previously mentioned studies show, customers do a lot of research before making a purchase. Having your products listed in several places is going to increase the likelihood of a sale and make your brand more recognizable as consumers see it in different places.
2. Being ahead of the competition
Online and offline, by using multi channel selling, you can be where your competition is and where they’re not, ensuring customers find your product wherever they look.
3. Leveraging your presence on online marketplaces and search engines
The biggest online marketplaces are all competing against each other for the e-commerce market share. Being on multiple platforms allows you to still sell should one channel lose dominance over the market space.
Plus, according to one survey, 65% of consumers felt comfortable buying from an unknown seller on marketplaces.
1. Selling on the wrong channel
Having leverage across different selling points is great. However, if you get set-up on the wrong channel, it can do more harm than good. That’s why it's important to research to see if a channel is right for your business.
2. Building a multi channel selling infrastructure
You may start too early and struggle to handle the increased workload, or maybe you don’t have the wholesale software in place to support your endeavor.
3. Managing Inventory
Managing inventory at one location is tough enough, but when you have inventory going out to different locations and being stored at different warehouses, it can quickly become hectic monitoring inventory movements, especially if using inefficient spreadsheets.
Top Tips for Manufacturers Using a Multi Channel Selling Strategy
When you embark on your journey with a multi channel selling strategy, you’ll be able to hit the ground running if you follow these points:
1. Start with the right channels
You should assess all the different channels above to determine which ones are more likely to contain your target audience, which is in line with your brand, and to begin selling on the new channel will be easy to integrate with your current selling strategies.
2. Provide exceptional customer service
Some e-commerce platforms will have strict guidelines when selling with them. However, you want to develop a customer service strategy to improve the customer’s shopping experience and increase the chances of repeated purchases.
3. Automate Your Processes
As we mentioned, keeping up with your sales and inventory across multiple sales channels can quickly become difficult without the infrastructure in place. That’s why it’s important to find a tool that can help you automate your orders, manufacturing, and inventory management.
The third point is crucial, because without the proper tools in place, you’re going to start hemorrhaging your business’s capital trying to stay on top of your multi channel management.
But why is automation so important?
Multi Channel Selling software
Multi channel selling software, like the Smart Manufacturing Software that’s offered by Katana, is a tool that can take all your e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce and centralize them with offline channels, into one easy to use visual dashboard.
But not only will Katana be able to organize the chaos of multi channel management, but it will also be able to give you the power of process automation, from your sales to production planning, to even your inventory management.
But, how does it do this?
Real-Time Finished Goods and Material Availability
Katana’s unique auto-booking system automatically allocates finished goods and raw materials to open sales orders and manufacturing orders.
This means if you receive a sales order, but there isn’t any product in stock, Katana will immediately let you know if you have the materials to produce it.
Priority-Based Production Planning
Manufacturing is automatically scheduled in the order the jobs were created. However, should you receive an order from a VIP customer, and you want to complete it as soon as possible, our nifty drag and drop feature will allow you to redesign the production schedule.
And not only that, but Katana will also redistribute the allocated materials to fit the new workflow, and generate new deadlines, meaning you to stay on top of your order fulfillment.
Multi Location Management
Katana has been built to also help multi channel sellers track their inventory at all of their warehouses, stores, or locations. That means your inventory for each location is plain to see, in real-time, and following your production schedule.
Fun fact, if you’re running out of inventory at one location, but have a surplus of inventory at another location, you can easily and quickly perform a stock transfer to the relevant locations, and your quantities will be updated automatically.
If you’re more of a visual learner, feel free to check out the video below, explaining more about how the multi location feature works.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about multi channel selling and how you can approach it as a manufacturer.
When you’re deciding if your business is ready to take on the challenges associated with this tactic, make sure you ask yourself the following questions:
— Is the sales channel appropriate for the company's brand image and target audience;
— Do we have the resources to support a multi channel selling strategy; and
— Do we have the proper infrastructure and tools in place to manage the increased workload?
Regardless of which channel you start with, it’s certainly a no-brainer to be established online, and multi channel selling could see you only trading online as it’s cheap and easy to do so.
That’s why it’s important to find a tool that can integrate with all the popular e-commerce platforms and handle your production and inventory management.
Why not see the importance for yourself? Katana offers a 14-day free trial, so you can experience firsthand what the power of multi channel selling software can do for your business.
That’s all we have for today, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below, or shoot us a message over on our social media pages.
And until next time, happy manufacturing.