Geared for growth: An introductory guide to multi-channel selling.

Feb 26 2021 | PayPal Editorial Staff

Selling products through more than one channel isn't anything new. There was a time not so long ago when we could purchase things via mail from a catalog, as well as in an actual store. Sure, we still had to wait a few weeks for those items to arrive, but at least we had a choice – and, let's be honest, the anticipation made it pretty exciting.
Now, we've evolved even further into creatures of convenience – the easier it is, the more likely we are to buy something. And thanks to online shopping, there are all sorts of ways businesses can expand their reach by selling across multiple channels, making it simple for consumers to shop with their brands.

So, what does a successful multi-channel approach look like?

Going multi-channel means making your products available via a range of platforms, including your website, an online marketplace, or social media. But why should your brand consider this multi-faceted approach?

Well, it lets your customers engage with your business on their preferred channel. And then there's the fact that, by 2023, it's estimated that global e-commerce sales will be worth $6.5 trillion – and 22% of total retail sales.We're guessing you'd like at least a small slice of that.

How multi-channel selling can help your business grow.

Big brands have proven how selling in multiple channels online – social, mobile apps, websites – can have huge advantages. Here's how you can use similar tactics to grow your business.

1. Attract new customers.

Selling across more than one online channel can give your business access to wider audiences – and that means more potential sales. In 2019, U.S. online retail sales of physical goods amounted to $343.15 billion.2

But since online shoppers aren't all in one place, your sales strategy shouldn't be either. By making it easy for potential customers to shop via their preferred channel – while scrolling through Instagram, for example – you have more chance of converting buyers who wouldn't otherwise discover your business. After all, we're not only creatures of convenience, we're also creatures of habit.

2. Add new revenue potential.

Adding new channels to sell also means adding more potential touchpoints for you to reach customers so you can attract more spending from them overall.

3. Sell internationally.

A multi-channel approach can help expose your business to international markets, expanding your reach beyond local customers. There might be a strong demand for your products in another country, but if they don't know you exist, you may not be uncovering your products' full market potential.

But before you set your sights on world domination, remember you shouldn't be attempting to sell to everyone and anyone. So, rather than trying to sell your products on all channels, all the time, think about the markets you'd like to grow in. Then choose the channels that are most popular with people within those markets.

Online selling channels for small businesses.

As a small business or startup, you need to be smart about where you put your resources. Here are some of the most common channels that can work well when you need to be nimble.

1. Social commerce
No matter what industry you're in, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest can all be great platforms for sales. Let potential buyers discover your products
 through an influencer, by shopping directly via 'buyable pins' on Instagram and Pinterest, or by targeting buyers through paid campaigns.

Social channels generally have low overheads, a readily available customer base, and are easy to set up. But engagement with followers drives engagement with your brand, so it's crucial to have the resources and time to be available to respond, connect, and post frequently. Social media management can be overwhelming if you don't have a plan, so make sure you have a strategy in place before you dive in (it'll save you time and stress later on, especially when business starts to boom).

Tip: Even if you don’t have a website, you can sell your products and services directly on social media by creating a product listing right from your account with PayPal. It only takes a few minutes to create a listing, steps here.

2. Websites

New research from PayPal showed that 40% of consumers are shopping online more and shopping in stores less as a result of the pandemic.3 With ease of setup, access to bigger markets, and the ability to drive traffic and sales directly, a website can be a great place to start for small businesses.

It's important to remember, though, that mobile payments are on the rise and are only expected to keep growing – smartphone ownership increased from 84% in 2018 to 90% in 2019.4
But it's not enough to translate your desktop website into a mobile-optimized version. A mobile experience needs to be designed with a
 mobile-first mentality. This means simplifying navigation, having 'Add to Basket' and 'Checkout' buttons on-screen, supporting a wide range of devices, and a streamlined mobile payment process. During Cyber Week 2019, more than 73% of online traffic was generated via mobile devices, with U.S. shoppers using smartphones for browsing, buying, and tracking orders.7 So it's important to make sure customers can do it with ease.

Another important factor for your mobile site is a seamless, secure payment solution. The last thing you want is a customer turned away by a clunky payment process. With the PayPal Commerce platform for Business solution
, which uses data-driven intelligence to optimize the end-end experience, checkout is frictionless. Your customers are automatically presented with the most appropriate mix of payment options (including credit card, debit card, PayPal, Venmo (US only), and international payment methods) to encourage them to complete their purchase.

3. Marketplaces
You know the big ones like Etsy and eBay, but don't be afraid to embrace growing marketplaces like 
Swappa. Free delivery, low prices, and protected purchases like buyer guarantees and free return shipping are the top reasons for buying on a marketplace. But don't jump in without doing your research, because not all marketplaces are a good fit. It's important to consider their fee structures, how customizable your store and listings can be, and the payments processes involved.

Taking the first step.
When it comes to choosing the right channels for growth, consider your business's current infrastructure. Will it be able to support selling on multiple channels? Resources including time, budget, and skills are all important factors, particularly when it comes to inventory management across multiple channels.

Rather than trying to do it all, remember it's about delivering a great customer experience on the channels you do select. There are also plenty of resources and tools to support you, including the PayPal Commerce Platform for Business solution
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.  

1. eMarketer, Inc, Global Ecommerce 2019 Report, June 2019.
2. Statista, Retail E-commerce Sales in the United States from 2017 to 2024, July 2020.
3. Report: How We Shop – Measuring the Rapid Digital Shift, and PayPal study of 2,163 U.S. consumers, September 2020.
4. How We Will Pay 2019 Edition, study of 5,000 U.S. consumers, September 2019.
5. Statista, Holiday Season E-commerce in the United States, April 2020.

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