By Andy Balan
The selling process has changed dramatically over the last 20 or so years. Handshakes and signatures have turned into mouse clicks and keyboard strokes. Driving to the mall and taking three carts to the parking lot are now just opening 29 different browser tabs and feeling bad for the delivery driver’s lower back. These changes have made shopping easier for customers but scarier for the small businesses trying to stay afloat with limited resources. Now more than ever, business owners are looking for additional avenues to bring in sales. At eSale, we provide an easy way for smaller, independent merchants to share their passion across multiple online channels and be seen by more customers. I chose to build eSale on that path because of my experience working with small businesses and because of the benefits they can realize.
My digital experience began at Amazon. I spent the first half of my Amazon tenure working with billion-dollar electronics manufacturers to optimize everything for their products – price, descriptions, promotions, inventory, everything. I then shifted focus to work with over 100 small mom-and-pop shops, artisan makers, and restaurants on the AmazonFresh grocery delivery platform. It was this experience that made me realize that small- and medium-sized businesses are underserved when it comes to the tools and knowledge needed to succeed in the digital realm. eSale was born from this experience.
“Multi-Channel” Does Not Mean “Too Intense For Me”
It sounds scary, but “multi-channel selling” simply means selling products in more than one location. For a product manufacturer, this may be having multiple retailers sell those products in their stores. For the retailers themselves, this may be selling products in multiple stores. Manufacturers and retailers sell across multiple channels for a number of reasons, and that same thought process applies to the online space as well. The business owner who sells their products only on their own website is losing out on three main benefits to their business:
1. Reaching New and Different Customers
Despite what some scientists may say, I exist in multiple places. I live in Chicago but I exist in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Boston, and maybe in Omaha. I might even exist in both Portland, OR and Portland, ME…. Ok, well maybe not me exactly, but someone like me – someone who has the same interests as I do, someone who shops for the same products I do, someone to whom local businesses here in Chicago would love to show their stuff. Unfortunately for these local businesses, unless they’re selling online there’s a very slim chance that my many-me’s will ever become their customer. And if they’re only selling on their website, that chance improves only slightly.
Let’s say that I’m an aficionado of fun seasonings like bacon-flavored salt. If I search on Google for “bacon salt” with the intention of finding one to purchase, I’m bombarded with various websites connected to my search term – websites that sell it, websites that tell me how to make it, websites that tell me about other websites that sell it. I’m overwhelmed, and the poor small business owner on the second or third page of those search results won’t get my attention. If I search for “bacon salt” on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, I see product after product of exactly what I want. I can easily compare prices across products and even see all those smaller merchants that I would have never found before. Now while Chicago-me knows to look on all three of those marketplaces, maybe Boston-me only shops on eBay and Omaha-me only shops on Amazon. Different channels receive different traffic and by selling across multiple channels simultaneously, business owners can increase the likelihood of finding someone to buy their product. It’s simple supply-and-demand. You have the supply, now go increase the demand for your products.
2. Reinforcing Your Brand Name
Think about a popular brand name for a product. Any brand – electronics, food, clothing – it doesn’t matter. Now think about how many times you come across that brand name throughout a week and in how many different places. The corner store, the other store down the street, TV commercials, billboards, friends talking about it, an online marketplace, the mall near your office, an online advertisement – those are all different channels but somehow that brand name has come through across all of them. When you sell your products via multiple online channels, you’re reinforcing your name just like that popular brand. I’m not recommending that you should take out a six-figure loan to begin a massive advertising campaign, but the more places in which potential customers see your name and your products, the more legitimate you become as a seller, even if you make your own products. We as potential customers are absolutely flooded with products to buy at every corner, and it’s the names of those that we see often that can drive our purchase decision. Repetition = Legitimacy = Sales.
3. Distributing Your Eggs Across Many Baskets
Financial advisors will very often advise you that the key to investing successfully is a “balanced portfolio,” one in which your money is spread out across different types of investments. Why? Because a balanced portfolio hedges against something bad happening with one of them and you losing all of your money. Selling products online is no different. Let’s say that you sell on your own website but one day your server goes down and in an effort to re-boot it, you accidentally delete all your files and it takes a month to fully get back up and running. Or imagine that you’re selling only on one marketplace and are being investigated for possibly violating their terms of service, during which time you’re not eligible to sell anymore. In either case, the negative effects of the situation could have been not as bad if you were also selling your products across multiple channels in addition to the one.
I remember vividly a conversation I had with an artist towards the end of a local art fair this past summer. When I asked him how the art fair went for him, he told me that “while the weather was great and I received a lot of interest in my products, I only sold one painting over the two days. I absolutely love talking to potential buyers but I’m getting older and can’t afford to keep traveling to fairs to only sell one or two items. I need to look to other ways to sell my art and I believe various online channels is the way to go.” By selling his products across multiple channels, this artist is now balancing his portfolio to ensure his success.
The Multi-Channel Future
No one knows what commerce will look like in another 20 years. Maybe we’ll wear a thimble on each of our fingertips that when touched to a product, automatically sends that product to our living rooms. Or maybe we’ll all be wearing contact lenses and with the blink of an eye, holograms of business owners will appear in our living rooms to talk about their products. Until that time comes though, small businesses can improve their chances of success by selling across multiple online channels to reach new and different customers, reinforce their brand name, and distribute their eggs to many baskets. A platform like eSale makes this process easy to complete and can drastically improve your changes of efficiently growing your sales.