4 Secrets to Multichannel Success

Navigate the complex world of online marketplaces to find new customers and build your business.

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By Benjamin Kabin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Having an independent online store can be great. But with so many vendors competing for attention, it can be hard to get noticed. That's why many online retailers who do have their own online stores also choose to do business on large marketplaces, even though it means relinquishing some control and some of their profit margin.

We talked to three experts in multi-channel sales for their tips on how to make the most of both platforms. Here are their 4 takeaways for ecommerce entrepreneurs.

1. Be strategic. Having your own independent site can be great at connecting you directly with customers. As Dave Huckabay, an e-commerce veteran with more than two decades of ecommerce experience explains, "When you sell on your own platform you have control. When you use other platforms you always have to give them a cut."

But even Huckabay, who sells industrial and scientific equipment, does a healthy chunk of his business on Amazon and eBay in addition to his five e-commerce sites. Says Huckabay, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to make the sale, even if it means sacrificing some profit margin.

Some secrets to making it work? Huckabay doesn't list everything from his independent site on Amazon or eBay. He also modifies product descriptions from marketplace to marketplace to better suit that customer. Having something different from your own site can also help the item perform better in search results, Huckabay explains. He suggests you study competitors with the same or similar product to see who is beating you on price and who is offering free shipping so you can adjust where it makes sense for your business.

Related: 5 Tips to Stand Out When Selling on an Online Marketplace

2. Capture customer information. While established marketplaces are great ways to complement your own online store, many don't share customer data or contact information outside of basic shipping information, says Terry Lin, the founder fashion accessories company Baller Leather. Lin says, "This makes it difficult to build your customer list and communicate with them in the future about marketing campaigns or promotions."

To combat this, Lin suggests adding custom inserts when shipping a product. "Ask them to visit your online store for a freebie giveaway in exchange for an email address," says Lin, who actually got his e-commerce start by selling used college textbooks on Amazon. "This freebie could be a guide, short e-book, audiobook, or content of similar nature."

3. Be distinct. Since eBay and Amazon make money off transaction fees, it's in their interest to put your competitors' similar or even identical products right next to yours so make sure to differentiate your offerings.

"You can no longer just slap a product up and hope it will do well," says entrepreneur and e-commerce educator Ezra Firestone. "You have to be willing to invest time and energy … You have to have a face, a name a brand and content around what you're selling."

Huckabay says he bundles items to create a unique package of products. In one example, he says he bundled a Mantis microscope, which has many uses, with a lens kit designed for circuit board repair. He branded it as the Mantis Rework kit. In other instances Huckabay offers his own replacement warranty when he thinks added value can move the needle.

Related: The 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Launching an Ecommerce Startup

4. Be selective. Have a reason for each marketplace you use and re-evaluate it seasonally. Not every channel makes sense for every business. For instance, certain luxury retailers who don't sell in volume such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, never officially list their products an Amazon, eBay or Etsy because it dilutes their brand's image, Lin explains.

"While marketplaces offer a large number of eyeballs, it isn't always the right customer," Lin says. "Utilizing platforms in the right context is the job of the business owner."

Benjamin Kabin


Benjamin Kabin is a Brooklyn-based technology journalist who specializes in security, startups, venture capital and social media.

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