History has taught us that change is the only constant in the universe, and every change is accompanied by many twists and trends that shape our progress. During this era of globalization, the advent of e-commerce is one major trend that has made a lasting impact on our lives. The huge glass doors in front of your showroom are no longer the only doorway to sales and growth.
Nowadays, more people prefer e-shopping over conventional shopping due to the availability of better choices, cheaper prices, and quicker deliveries at their fingertips. Despite the situation sounding grim for conventional retailers who are solely dependent on direct sales, new doors such as online sales channels and windows such as social media, have opened up for you, giving you new opportunities, presence and reach well beyond your country's borders. If you are wondering how to make use of these channels to your advantage, relax! you are not alone.
Let's begin by taking a look at this BRISK pentagram that represents the five major challenges of making the shift from single channel sales to multi channel sales.
B - understand your customer Base & Behavior.
R - dedicate enough Resources for all your sales channels.
I- centralize and Integrate your data transactions.
S- plan and implement channel Strategies.
K - evaluate your marKets.
These are not just individual challenges; they are intertwined. Now let's take a look at what they are and how to turn them to our advantage.
Understanding your customers is one of the core foundations to running a business. In a retail scenario, it's easier to analyze what your customers look for in your products and services as you deal with them in person. However, in a multi-channel sales landscape, you interact with a large number of customers whose preferences and perspectives will vary.
For example, customers from one country or a region might prefer step-by-step support while another would consider any communication from you as spam. Understanding your customer through feedback(not the intrusive pop-up kind, but using subtle methods), surveys and adding a personal touch to all your communication will come a long way in expanding both your customer base and your retention.
In this fast paced world, time is money. While being resourceful, you also need to have the right talent, right equipments and necessary funds in order to thrive.
As Steve Jobs famously put it, "Great things in business are never done by one person, they are done by a team of people."
Build a great team, provide enough resources, and nurture them. This will come a long way when you grow beyond your current establishment.
The "I" here is not about you; its about your Inventory. When switching to sales through multiple channels, your stock flow and cash flow not only increase, but also become more difficult to manage. Therefore, efficient management of your products, orders, and transactions becomes the key to being a leader in the industry.
All this might sound tricky, but you will be fine as long as you take a few precautions and organize your inventory. To do so you need:
a neatly maintained warehouse.
to sort the items in your inventory based on different types, categories, and sub-categories.
to switch from pen - paper stock taking to digital stock recording.
to have a set of product codes for your items (be it UPC, EAN, or QR codes) to quickly monitor the stock coming in and going out.
software to store and monitor your stock flow.
a reliable network of vendors and suppliers.
an account with popular shipping carriers (for e.g. FedEx, DHL etc.) to ensure the safe delivery of your packages.
Now that we have understood customer behavior(B), acquired the right resources to manage each sales channel(R), and centralized our inventory management(I), let's head to the phase where we overcome these challenges. S here stands for Strategy.
Every channel or medium you use for selling your goods has a specific tone, purpose, and reach. Study your mediums thoroughly. The simplest strategy to turn the odds in your favor is to focus on building your product value. When you do that, your value as a seller will increase on its own.
We have now come to the crux of the scenario. The moment you start selling through multiple online channels, you become a cog in the machine as your interaction with your markets is a continuous process. Therefore, it's very important to obtain feedback from your customers, do what's necessary wherever you have room for improvement, and keep studying your markets.
Oscar Wilde once said, "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."
This applies to market trends as well. They are never a constant and consumers tend to flock to different places whenever something exciting pops up. The easiest way to adapt to these changes is by being the source of their excitement. If you ask me how, well you do it:
- by aligning yourself with the highest work ethic.
- by following it up with relentless effort.
- by never being consumed by your short term successes - focus on taking inspiration from them.
- by understanding that your short term setbacks are not failures but lessons to be learnt.
- by believing on good people and abundant possibilities.
All the best!