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For brands and manufacturers with existing product catalogs, launching their products on ecommerce can be the start of something beautiful. It can also be a complete fiasco. Dive into this step-by-step guide to see how to successfully launch products on multiple sales channels at once.
For brands and manufacturers with existing product catalogs, launching their products on ecommerce can be the beginning of something beautiful. It can be the start of a new chapter with themes like more sales, better branding and greater customer lifetime value.
Brands launching products to ecommerce can also experience a complete fiasco. When things go wrong, it turns into a chapter written in one trailing run-on sentence, jumping from lost marketing dollars to stiff competition and stagnant sales trends.
With the ecommerce market trekking the unexplored terrain of new consumer expectations, questions like “how to launch products on multiple sales channels” are best looked at strategically. Should you even sell your products on multiple channels? Which ones? Why? And how do you launch your products with a bang?
Your ecommerce product launch is a key moment that requires care and attention, and the strategy behind it should ensure that your products are found by the consumers who need them most. Next, you have to convince them that it’s your product they need instead of the competition’s.
Dive into this step-by-step guide filled with practical tips and examples, so you can see how to successfully launch products on multiple sales channels—at once.
1. First, Assess If You Should Sell on a New Channel
Before getting into how to launch your products on multiple sales channels, the question should be whether your brand needs to consider new sales channels at all. Even if you have the motivations clear in your mind, reflecting on them in this first step will help position a smarter strategy in the following steps.
For example, one brand might be considering new sales channels with the goal of gaining a greater foothold among Millennial shoppers. If that brand is already selling on Facebook, there might be room to sell better on the platform instead of introducing a new channel.
68% of Millennials say they’re “highly influenced” by social media content, and 84% say that user-generated content impacts them even more. Therefore, gaining an influencer relationship or two to make better use out of the existing Facebook presence might be a more lucrative project for the brand than adding a new channel.
That said, distribution is the linchpin of sales—it’s how you access a market. Most brands today already use multiple sales channels, such as those selling through wholesalers or distributors and also through retail sales (in-store or online). Adding new channels absolutely can grow your market and, if done right, can grow your revenue exponentially with it.
Analyze your business goals and evaluate your existing channels to determine if adding new channels will get you where you want to go. If you want to expand your market reach, new channels are the smartest way to do it. If you want to shift your business model from existing channels to new online channels, that’s another indicator that new channels will be an essential part of your strategy.
If we’re honest, though, in today’s market environment just about every business goal will benefit from multiple sales channels (especially sales channels online). Still, this quick assessment will help you in the next step where you identify which channels you want to own.
2. Choose the Product Distribution Channels You Want to Own
There are two principal reasons why successful brands use multiple sales channels today:
- It enhances the buyer journey (since buyers average almost three touch points before buying a product). Consumers seamlessly interact with a brand’s content and product listings across channels as they research and ruminate on what they want (and how much they want it).
- It also empowers brands to use specific channels for greater strategic benefit, such as in establishing brand “personality” or in collecting user behavioral data.
The benefits a brand enjoys on one channel can be radically different from the next. Whether your goals are to reach new consumers, create deeper relationships with existing customers, or cut ahead of the competition, compare those goals with the specific benefits that each primary channel type brings:
- Direct retail distribution: This is for the brands that have a brick-and-mortar store. This channel is best for local market domination.
- Direct-to-consumer (D2C): This refers to a brand’s internet catalog offered directly to consumers on an ecommerce website. The benefits of this channel include a more optimized customer experience, better branding, greater revenue per purchase, and greater data collection on customers for targeted personalizations later.
- Online marketplaces: In contrast with an ecommerce website, this channel refers to the sites like Amazon and Walmart.com where brands can manage their unique listings on an existing marketplace. The principal advantage to this channel is that each website will already have an audience—your brand just has to stand out for consumers who go there looking for products like yours.
- Wholesalers and distributors: There are also those brands that sell bulk quantities of their products to distributors who resell them to retailers. This channel could be beneficial for any brand that wants to focus on bigger orders (and doesn’t want to mess with direct order fulfillment to consumers).
- Social channels: This one is pretty new. With the launch of Facebook and Instagram Shops and other “discovery” shopping models on websites like Pinterest, social shopping interfaces allow users to make purchases without even leaving the social platform they’re on. It’s highly addictive for consumers, and highly beneficial for brands that sell those products that clients don’t know yet that they need.
3. Make The Case for Multiple Channels
Every sales channel—from the principal examples listed above to even more niche options like mobile apps and comparison sites—has its own consumer market. If you’re selling on just one channel, you’re reaching only that slice of the pie.
Launching your products on multiple sales channels increases your brand’s reach. You expose more consumers to your products, and you catch up with the competitors who are already on each channel out there.
This brand ubiquity is attractive to consumers, too. If they see you everywhere, they perceive greater legitimacy in your content and offerings. Then, they buy from you.
Making the case for multiple channels to key stakeholders in your organization is an essential step in the process, because you’re about to undertake a bit of work. Launching on multiple organizations requires time, organization, strategy, and sound decisions. Preparing everything from the marketing to the product data for even one channel takes months for most brands. The opportunity cost that your brand loses by not doing it is steep, too.
The cost-benefit analysis of selling on multiple channels will ultimately come down to your brand’s priorities, but only to the extent that you can choose which channels you want to launch on. The competition today is fierce, and in the face of new consumer expectations, the real question whittles down to “how” to launch on multiple channels.
4. How to Launch on Multiple Channels At Once
Choose Which Channels to Sell On
Choosing the right channels starts with defining the needs of your customers. For example, before buying your product, do they need specific guidance or training? Do they typically need products to be shipped immediately? For D2C online sales, based on the shopping needs of your customers, you can choose an ecommerce platform based on its functionality along with which of these options you need it has built-in.
When it comes to choosing marketplaces, the question can be just as easy. Ask which audience best matches your target audience and determine which marketplace(s) that audience shops on.
Create Your Channel Plan
Define your plan for each channel based on the benefits that first attracted you to it. What is the purpose of your launch on the channel? How will your brand benefit the end users there?
Next, outline the channel logistics. What is required for your brand to sell on each? What other stakeholders will be involved? Who will handle inventory? What will the other accountabilities be?
Answers to these questions can be turned into a channel plan where you map out the “to-dos” for successful launch. Be sure to consider:
- Channel support
- Sales support
- Marketing support
- Credit management
- Order placement
- Order processing
- Marketing planning and tools
Create You Channel Pricing Strategy
Channel pricing is a subject of strategy in itself, especially for brands just beginning to sell D2C. An estimated 30% of pricing decisions companies make each year fail to deliver the best price, meaning you will have to take this step into serious deliberation.
When it comes to launching on multiple channels, the main focus of your pricing strategy should be minimizing pricing conflicts. This means carefully mapping out the price for each step of product delivery on each channel.
Once you have those cost variables identified, compare the end-user pricing for your products required to make your target profit on each channel. Where there’s a big discrepancy, consider adjusting prices so that all channels show similar pricing, or you could jeopardize your whole distribution strategy.
Product Data Clean-Up and Preparation
Once you have your strategy lined up, the operational requirements for launching on multiple sales channels will kick in. This is the pivotal step in ensuring your strategies are well-executed and that you can launch across new channels at once.
When we’re talking about multichannel management, this step comes down to product data.
Product data, or everything from SKUs and descriptions to product photos and video content, should be optimized for every channel you sell on. Amazon will have its own requirements and “best practices” for product data, while Google will require something else.
You also have to consider the buyer frame of mind on a given channel—social shoppers will be “discovering” products whereas a marketplace user will be typing in search strings with the intention to buy that product.
Thus, selling on multiple channels means optimizing your product data for each of the channels you sell on, even though the products are the same. This means creating channel-specific versions of each product’s essential and enriched data. It all has to be optimized for each channel’s requirements, search algorithm, and user experience (UX).
Optimizing this data is an enormous undertaking for any brand preparing a product launch, but there are tools designed to streamline the process. Product information management software (PIM), specifically, is designed to aggregate your product data and help you optimize it for every channel. Then, the same software allows you to export selected products or product groups for whichever channel you need to upload the data to.
Almost half of consumers have returned an item bought online because it didn’t match the product description. Product data should be optimized for each platform, but most brands today haven’t even ensured that data is complete and accurate. This oversight results in bad marketing, erroneous purchases and high return rates.
PIM software eradicates these kinds of discrepancies by storing all product data in a single source of truth. This enables better collaborations between departments, also, positioning brands to share information across marketing, finance, sales and fulfillment silos for a truly successful multichannel strategy.
Launch the Marketing
Go back to your channel plan to prepare for the launch of all the marketing for each channel. Perhaps your marketing focus for your ecommerce shop, for example, is SEO while your focus for your Amazon listings is Facebook ads.
Once your marketing is geared up, just get ready to flip the switch. As soon as your product data is loaded and your listings are ready across channels, your marketing goes live, and you’ve officially launched on multiple new channels.
Product distribution channels make up one of the “4 Ps'' in marketing. These include product, promotion, price, and placement (i.e., distribution). These are the foundational blocks of launching products, and now we’ve covered each within a bigger multi channel launch strategy.
Global online sales have reached a quarter of all retail sales by 2021 (from 14% in 2019), meaning the channels brands are concerned about launching on today are digital. From social selling to ecommerce shops and marketplace behemoths, the channels you choose could be the channels you own if you follow these steps. So get going!
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