For most online retailers, adopting a multichannel eCommerce strategy is one of the most effective ways to grow their business. However, expanding online businesses across other channels and/or geographies is challenging. Core to successfully scaling is maintaining a great multichannel customer experience whilst navigating all these new changes.
Our team of industry experts from Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment, ChannelAdvisor, and eDesk took a deep dive into what’s needed to simplify growth complexity without compromising multichannel customer experiences.
For Abhi Tiwari, Director Product Management and Technology at Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment, creating a solid foundation to support a high quality customer experience starts with trust. He believes that to be successful at establishing trust, online sellers must prove themselves to be reliable by meeting the different requirements of the customers.
For Amazon, and FBA in particular, this means fast, reliable delivery, at cost effective rates. The best sellers recognise this and are using Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment to achieve the same results, off brand.
For Darren Heaphy, Head of Product at eDesk, how effectively customers feel your business communicates and connects with them is key when building a solid foundation to support a high quality customer experience. He believes it’s important to listen to customers and be where they are. Buyers rarely stick to just one channel when shopping so sellers need to bring their products to where their customers are. Today’s customers are shopping on websites, social media and marketplaces, and they also expect brands to deliver answers to their questions quickly, no matter which marketplace they are in.
eDesk conducted consumer research with CitizenMe that revealed 51% of US marketplace customers say a speedy response is fundamental for good service, and 64% of those people wanted it to be within one day. The right software tools help online businesses stay on top of those incoming messages and deliver extraordinary support to customers and make the connected multichannel customer experience a positive one.
Agreeing with Darren, Alison Held, Senior Product Manager at ChannelAdvisor says established online brands and retailers are looking for ways to effectively scale their business across multiple channels without sacrificing the customer experience. ChannelAdvisor’s most successful clients typically have three primary themes in common.
- They are super intentional about how their brand is represented online and they’re focused on creating a unified, consistent story across many different buyer touchpoints, whether that’s an ad on Instagram or a selling channel.
- They seek to have a diversified channel portfolio that ensures they cover as much of the eCommerce journey as possible. The key point here is to maximise their brand’s exposure online.
- They want to grow without sacrificing operational excellence. Removing friction is critical to multichannel success and supporting new products and geographies.
So because expansion is critical to growth and success, having systems that support a business’s ability to consistently update branded content, product data, and fulfillment partners is essential to making additional channels not incrementally more expensive.
Abhi believes FBA sellers face two main challenges when they look to expand into different sales channels or geographies: how to manage inventory across multiple channels, and adhering to differing marketplace guidelines.
As a result, MCF enables multichannel sellers to combine their entire inventory pool across all their different channels so they can hold less inventory, and it provides end to end customer tracking information. Their unbranded packaging programme means deliveries do not show Amazon branding and are not made by Amazon logistics as a carrier because a lot of alternative marketplaces do not allow that. This makes multichannel fulfillment as efficient and simple as possible.
Alison agrees that meeting lead times for new marketplaces is critical and that the last thing online businesses should do when they expand to new channels is over promise and under deliver. Failure to meet customer expectations is a terrible multichannel customer experience and can seriously compromise seller ratings. As such, inbound inventory calculations should take into account any anticipated increases in demand or lift in sales from new channels. And when expanding into a new region, businesses really need to prepare ahead of time from a tax and business perspective, as these typically have the longest lead time to set up.
For Darren, omnichannel customer support is key to multichannel success and scaling reach without sacrificing customer experience. For online businesses expanding into new marketplaces, maintaining a consistent customer experience across multiple geographies and channels can be tricky, but a customer centric approach allows businesses to maintain a connected and cohesive multichannel customer experience.
Doing this means various factors working together seamlessly:
- A unified look and feel regardless of what channel your customers use to purchase or communicate. All interactions should have the brand’s traits at their core.
- Digital infrastructure that ties all channels together to reduce the complexities of managing multiple marketplaces and geographies. For example, a dashboard view of all customer interactions alongside agent, channel and product performance helps businesses to spot and correct anomalies more easily.
- And while consistency is important, identifying channel based nuance is equally so because certain products may cause issues in one geography and there may be a need for a more localised approach to that product.
So an omnichannel approach to customer support when expanding to other marketplaces improves customer satisfaction, reputation, loyalty and ultimately, revenue.
Alison agrees it is helpful to centralise as much as possible from an operational perspective, when expanding into multiple selling channels and trying to make that experience consistent. For her, knowing where a business’s constraints are can help inform next steps across the board because negative multichannel customer experience can hamper growth. Any type of expansion means taking on more, and businesses need to be able to do that without doubling their efforts. ChannelAdvisor is really a hub for the management of things like quantities, pricing, content fulfillment across many eCommerce touchpoints.
eDesk and CitizenMe research into the key areas that drive customer queries supports Alison and Abhi’s points of focus. Almost half of all customer queries are reporting product problems, while about a third are about shipping or delivery.
Darren believes insight into the data behind customer queries allows businesses to make informed decisions about particular products or channels, for example split testing two different suppliers of the same product and quantifying their impact on multichannel customer experience by measuring the difference in associated support tickets raised.
Abhi agreed that having data about customers’ pain points can really make a difference when trying to optimise customer experiences and brand loyalty while growing into new channels like building webstores, and having DTC channels as a brand owner. Amazon supports sellers looking to diversify and grow across these other channels with multichannel fulfillment that meets sellers needs in the most efficient way.
According to Alison, ChannelAdvisor’s most successful clients retail on at least five major eCommerce channels, but they are seeing faster growth and increased adoption of more niche marketplaces as businesses target very specific buyers, and outside of the US the market is less concentrated still. Establishing viable operational processes on a single channel and replicating those best practices makes growing successfully into multiple channels much more straightforward and cost effective.
In Darren’s experience, many eDesk customers do just that – hone their customer service processes until they are confident about scaling as they expand, then embrace the opportunities and customers that other marketplaces offer using eDesk to streamline their operations and ensure success.
If you’d like more detailed advice from our experts on scaling your online business inline with multichannel growth, you should check out our How to provide an extraordinary multichannel customer experience webcast. The recording includes answers to audience questions about how Amazon, ChannelAdvisor, and eDesk can help you compliantly grow into multiple marketplaces, across the globe. You can access the recording here.