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Why E-Commerce Businesses Need to Rethink Their Channel Strategy The growth of the e-commerce industry has resulted in the need for ever-evolving marketing strategies. Now, without a strong channel strategy, storefronts will fall behind their competitors.

By Ruslan Fazlyev Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Already in 2014, companies were discovering the benefits of connecting with consumers across multiple channels, including more repeat shopping and referrals. Now, with e-commerce on the rise, consumers are expecting omnichannel experiences to be even better.

For small businesses in today's competitive marketplace, meeting these expectations of seamless omnichannel services can bring great rewards, including higher customer engagement, retention and purchase rates. To diversify your traffic sources and sell on multiple channels, a good channel strategy has become essential for any e-commerce business.

Why a channel strategy is necessary

A handful of powerful companies dominate the internet today. While offering access to massive audiences, merchants must diversify so as not to be tied to any single platform. Between their constant battle for internet control and quarterly reporting to shareholders, these platforms can make policy changes or algorithm shifts that benefit them at the disruption of a seller's customer experience. Amazon has many reasons why they might freeze a seller's accounts, hold their money or make an Amazon Basics out of someone's product and become a competitor. Last year, when Apple made changes to its privacy policy for data collecting through apps on its new iPhone, Facebook advertising and the e-commerce stores that depended on this data scrambled to find new sources for traffic and sales.

Executing a strategy across multiple channels, on the other hand, makes companies more resilient. A good channel strategy seeks out new channels of traffic or sales for your e-commerce business and perfects them. Depending on e-commerce giants like Amazon, who keep customers' emails from their merchants, this strategy makes it harder for sellers to generate repeat sales through these marketplaces alone. Through multiple channels, you reach more people, collect your own data and keep full control over your customers and their experience. You can use this data to develop an email and communication strategy and drive customers to your website for additional purchases.

Related: 3 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Tailor Their Ecommerce Strategy for Maximum Growth

Where small businesses need to innovate

Fighting for their own place on each of these major platforms is a massive influx of new entrepreneurs. Cunning e-commerce marketers can easily copy all your online strategies — headlines, banners and videos — reverse engineer and even improve them to steal customers away.

To stand out from so many others doing the same thing, successful e-commerce businesses are turning to creative ways to market themselves. We see examples of big companies doing this in action all the time: those that can dominate the Amazon buy box, or put in the work to top Google search results can afford teams to do those things for them. The ad that seems to know what you want and is following you all over the internet is another popular approach companies take in their strategies to get noticed in the crowd.

Small businesses, on the other hand, tend to have their favorite method and stick to it. In 2021, 36% of small businesses still didn't even have a website. Among those who did, 82% of those websites had no social media accounts. Many still lacked the robust digital presence and marketing strategy needed to attract and engage today's e-commerce audiences.

Even more rarely do they implement great strategies for multiple channels — like Google, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Amazon — at the same time. In one survey, less than half of independent businesses said they added new channels during the pandemic. Among those who did, 80% planned to keep them, but maintaining them will require targeted channel strategies that keep up with and evolve alongside businesses and markets.

Related: Here's How AI Is Going to Reshape the Hospitality Industry

Where to start

If you want to explore additional options in traditional e-commerce marketplaces — expanded to platforms like Amazon — the best way to start is by enhancing your skills and knowledge in the most effective ways to operate each. The deeper you understand each channel's advantages, disadvantages, and best practices, the greater an edge you have over your competition. Boosting these skills can often be enough to dominate a single channel.

While there's nothing wrong with one channel becoming a primary source of traffic and sales, if it starts producing over 50% of your revenue, you should start to make backup plans. If you have product feeds for Google, try Facebook and Pinterest. If Facebook ads have brought you some success, try Snapchat or TikTok. Use strategic channel selection to figure out which platforms will be the most beneficial in reaching your audience while confronting the least competition, and include processes in your strategy to test out new marketplaces. Make sure you also have your own domain and website and implement methods to collect your own customer data. Even if you already have a website, take another look at your traffic sources and make sure your brand would survive if any single one of them disappeared.

Trends change quickly. A successful strategy today could fail tomorrow. Top Google organic rankings can disappear. The latest marketing strategies might work for a while, but that success can be short-lived. The more new channels you can bring to your e-commerce business, and the better you can perfect each one, the better your chances of success in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing field.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

Ruslan Fazlyev

CEO of Ecwid, Inc.

Ruslan Fazlyev is the founder and CEO of Ecwid by Lightspeed, a freemium ecommerce platform powering millions of merchants, and the founder of X-Cart, a leading PHP ecommerce solution.

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