Multi-Channel Software: Listing, Selling & Managing Everywhere Your Customers Buy

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For modern businesses, multi-channel marketing isn’t the future of ecommerce, it’s now: the incredible, irreplaceable ability to sell and market products across any platform, anytime.

It’s how you reach waves of new customers — shoppers that may never have laid eyes on your online store suddenly buying through Instagram, or through Amazon.

For attracting consumer dollars, the multi-channel ecommerce possibilities can be nearly endless. But so, too, can the headaches.

Trying to run a multi-channel strategy, checkout process, inventory management, and analytics manually is impossible.

Multi-channel software – which allows you to automate and assimilate customer recognition, store and sales data, inventory, and analytics into a single location – is the only solution.

Unfortunately, even selecting the right multi-channel software can be overwhelming.

What software do I need? What features matter most? How do I sync orders and inventory? What about multi-channel fulfillment? Will a multi-channel approach cannibalize our online store?

For all your questions, here’s everything you need to learn about what multi-channel software can do for your business. If you’re already up and running, feel free to skip ahead to part three, where we’ll walk through five must-have criteria:

  1. What Is Multi-Channel Software?
  2. Why Does Multi-Channel Ecommerce Matter?
  3. How to Select Multi-Channel Software

Are you selling everywhere your customers buy?

For an executive look at the present and future of commerce, download The Enterprise Guide to Multi-Channel Ecommerce.

Inside, you’ll get one-pagers detailing …

  • Comprehensive data on the opportunities and threats
  • Merchant spotlights for insights on top channels
  • A checklist for selecting the right multi-channel platform

Access the guide today

What is Multi-Channel Software? Finding the Center

Multi-channel software operates as the center of listing, selling, and managing different online channels to align customer experience and coordinate the flow of data – from inventory and shipping information, to analytics and marketing.

Most importantly, multi-channel software gives merchants the freedom to administer each sales channel all from the same dashboard.

Centralization is crucial in the world of multi-channel commerce, where customer experience rules. You want every one of your shoppers to have the same positive shopping journey – each time, across each channel.

But as a merchant, governing every arm manually can feel like an exercise in futility: bouncing from one app to the next; importing and exporting Excel data; cobbling together numbers accurate enough to run marketing, sales, and fulfillment.

That’s where multi-channel software comes in to …

  • Optimize inventory control
  • Leverage merchandizing templates
  • Expedite listing and updating products
  • Streamline orders and fulfillment
  • Measure channel effectiveness

In other words, you can overcome just about every operational struggle that comes with managing a business across all its outposts. Ease and peace of mind are enough to make multi-channel software a desirable solution.

Why Does Multi-Channel Ecommerce Matter? Come One, Come All

When your business offers more channels for shoppers to buy through, revenue supercharges in an almost exponential way. On average, online stores with one additional marketplace, such as Amazon or eBay, enjoy a 38% boost in revenue.

Add another channel? That figure booms all the way up to 120%.

Modern retailers are learning to expand their scope, too, finding sales forums in all manner of places to optimize their multichannel revenue:

Customers now come from all kinds of channels, and more than that they’re being driven to these channels from all kinds of sources. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, social networks like Facebook and Twitter are now the number one influencer of purchasing decisions:

The path of a customer is also changing. Before a shopper ever hands over payment info, they’ve likely visited several channels investigating a product, some of them even offline, real-world sites. Here’s how a typical buying journey can look:

Add these all up, and what do we have?

Customers coming from everywhere, influenced by everyone, all expecting the same shopping experience across every one of your ecommerce channels.

Consistency must be king.

When uniformity exists on the backend, your customers don’t suffer a disjointed experience when purchasing products from different sales channels. Multi-channel software helps flush this out, keeping your head above water, and allowing you to offer your shoppers a clean, seamless experience across all your ecommerce platforms.

But where to begin?

How to Select Multi-Channel Software: Five Must-Have Criteria

1. Diversity

Today, customers shop where it’s most convenient, so they require solutions that consolidate this broad approach into a singular experience.

That’s multi-channel software diversity – the ability to effectively sell everywhere your customers buy.

No matter your business, chances are there is an ecommerce solution perfect to get your multi-channel expansion started. Shopify Plus offers more than 20 different sales channels under one easy-to-manage ecommerce software roof.

(1) Online Stores

As the backbone of your strategy, responsive sites to give your ecommerce business a flagship home. Desktop or mobile, the easiest way to sell online.

(2) Shopify Buy Button

Sell your products on any website, or any place you’ve built up an audience online, by adding a Buy Button, which connects directly to your Shopify checkout.

(3) Shopify Wholesale Channel

Sell directly to high-volume customers, with countless ways to cater to your buyers. Provide tiered or discounted pricing, password-protected storefronts for select customers with pre-negotiated deals, and set up customer loyalty and reward programs.

Then, there are native integrations to start selling directly on the biggest social platforms your customers are already on:

(4) Facebook Shop

Enable instant purchases through your merchant Facebook page, allowing customers to check out without ever leaving the social network.

(5) Facebook Messenger

Connect with customers one-on-one through Messenger to deliver notifications, support, and even recommend products.

(6) Pinterest Buyable Pins

Enable Pins with links to your approved Shopify products available for purchase, and even use Pinterest Tags to track how customers interact with your store.

(7) Shopping on Instagram

Make any Instagram post a point of ecommerce by introducing shareable, shoppable items that can be purchased right through the app.

(8) Shopify POS

Take your store anywhere and provide an immersive, end-to-end shopping experience in real life. Test new products and markets, all without losing track of inventory, order histories or customer data.

More direct integrations also include some of the world’s biggest websites, marketplaces, and networks: Amazon, eBay, BuzzFeed, Wish, Wanelo, Houzz, Kik, Lyst, SiBi, linkr, Trendly, Mothership, Curate, Ebates, and more.

All told, these add up to more than 22 separate channels, each just a few clicks away.

Access to all the channels is great, but it says more about your ecommerce strategy if you can isolate and target the platforms that work best for your unique customers ...

2. Specificity

If diversity is about ensuring your multi-channel software enables you to list everywhere, then specificity is about ensuring that same software is designed to manage the select channels that matter most:

  • Where do your shoppers browse?
  • What type of content do they value?
  • How do they prefer to buy?
  • Who are your customers, really?

Knowing this is never easy, but it’s crucial to identify the channels that make the most sense to reach your shopping audience. Learn who they are, what resonates with them, and then craft an approach to reach them first through a handful of select multi-channel options.

Let’s say you’re Pura Vida, an ecommerce rock star moving millions in bracelets.

Pura Vida’s core audience exists of those on the cutting edge of trends, on the cutting edge of cool. Aside from its online store, Pura Vida focuses almost exclusively on social media shopping, leveraging a killer Facebook and Instagram presence to drive desirability and broadcast the brand’s core identity to a legion of shoppers. Customers can buy right from their Facebook page:

All fine and good if you’re a trendy company with a target audience to match.

But not all channels are created equally. If you’re a fine furniture outfitter, like Shopify Plus merchant Danish Design Store, perhaps social media isn’t the right outlet for your products.

What then? Easy enough. Houzz integration allows you to reach thousands of smart, educated, and fashionable home-furnishing shoppers.

Each outlet or sales channel has its own perks. Whoever your customers are, and whatever their shopping preferences may be, selecting the right channel can help focus your marketing strategy and ensure you know precisely who you’re selling to.

If multi-channel software diversity means selling everywhere your customers are, having multi-channel software specificity optimizes your company’s ability to target those channels that make the most sense for your unique product or market.

3. Unity

Because selling across multiple touchpoints can create a logistical nightmare, you have to be able to consolidate and centralize your internal operations.

You want to unite all of your selling, marketing, and distribution around a single point — a hub.

That way, you don’t need to leap between disparate systems to see the whole picture. You don’t need to manually update customer data. And you won’t have inventory management hiccups as buyers jump from channel to channel.

And the best way to augment this smart multi-channel software unity? With smart data analytics.

Most every multi-channel merchant faces the same quandary: when attempting to prove return on investment (ROI), how can you precisely attribute social and content marketing to revenue generation?

Fortunately, that’s also a problem multi-channel software is designed to solve.

The best software will allow you to track all channel activity in a simple-to-digest dashboard. So, you’ll get analytical metrics like lifetime customer value, average cost per conversion, customer retention rate, and any other KPIs that your marketing and sales team have decided on, all at a glance.

In Google Analytics, users can track how sales channels are performing, and which channels are lagging or thriving in terms of customer conversion.

Through the Assisted Conversion platform, for example, you can generate reports that gauge the role and contribution level of each channel. Know which outlets merely assist in conversion, and find which outlets have been proven to convert visitors directly into sales.

Or you can use attribution modeling to determine the relative value of your marketing channels in terms of conversions and ROI.

Map out the performance of all your channels into a comprehensive visual that tells the true story of your multi-channel store:

Shopify Plus users can also view sales by channel in their dashboard. That means you can instantly compare performance on an apple-to-apple basis.

Order your traffic data by source, and then further segment by referrer name, to get an accurate, up-to-date image of the orders and sales brought in by each of your channels.

To make reporting easier, you can also create preset filters for specific categories like social selling:

This data allows you to better manage inventory and make marketing and sales decisions, while also improving the overall buying experience for customers in the same way as if you were managing a single channel.

4. Partnerships

Think of each of your multi-channel sales arms as a partnership, a union with that channel allowing your business to list and sell products through its platform.

In a perfect world, operating across channels is seamless. No integration hits any snag. Every design is replicated beautifully. Sit back, enjoy, and relax.

This is possible, though only under just the right conditions.

For one, does your listing software integrate directly with the channels that matter to your business, or do they require custom development to test, launch, and sell across each arm?

On Magento, for instance, each multi-channel integration either requires custom backend work or a third-party extension, a considerable undertaking that comes paired with not inconsiderable costs.

If you’re not pleased with the integration, all that time, money, and work become sunk costs. You’ve devoted so many resources to your new channel that you have almost no choice but to stick by using it.

And what about agility?

The latest and greatest sales channel can pop up almost overnight. Because of that, you need multi-channel software that can adapt quickly, without bugs or monster development costs to slow you down. The market is always moving, and with that the best ecommerce operations must be able to keep up.

The benefits to listing with a partner-rich multi-channel ecommerce platform cannot be overstated. Shopify Plus hits all the preferred outlets you want to sell through (Amazon, eBay, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), and all with native applications that look and feel like the real deal.

Not only that, but Shopify Plus can push updates like new channel integrations to you instantaneously. No messing with your site’s core code. No costly overhauls. Just easy, real-time updates to keep your backend ahead of the game.

It’s part of simplicity and serenity, the ease that official partnerships with ecommerce’s top channels, and the ability for them to move and expand alongside advancements in the market, can provide any merchant.

5. Automation

When all your multi-channel software is in place, let it work for you.

For this, there are tools like Launchpad, Shopify’s task-devouring app that allows users to schedule front-end customizations, track performance in real time, and automate event checklists for each sales channel.

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re planning a flash sale. You’d like to map out the parameters of your sale, decide when to launch it, and choose on which channels you’d like to make the sale available.

Use Launchpad to do all this, including the ability to select whether you want prices reflected on all your ecommerce outposts or simply a few of your choice. Choose themes for how you want your sale to look, apply any discounts you’d like to make available to shoppers, and top it all off by deciding when you’d like the flash sale to end.

Or there is Shopify Flow, which helps automate all the tasks you need to ensure seamless service across all your channels.

When product inventory gets low, use Flow to perform a number of processes, like sending a Slack message to your team to have an item unpublished from your store, or like letting your marketing arm know to halt a product’s promotion until new stock comes in.

With multi-channel software that automates your workflows and data tracking, you and your marketers will be more capable of spending time moving your business forward instead of trying to keep up.

Are you selling everywhere your customers buy?

For an executive look at the present and future of commerce, download The Enterprise Guide to Multi-Channel Ecommerce.

Inside, you’ll get one-pagers detailing …

  • Comprehensive data on the opportunities and threats
  • Merchant spotlights for insights on top channels
  • A checklist for selecting the right multi-channel platform

Final Thoughts on Multi-Channel Listing Software

Customers hopping from one channel to the next, a lousy experience between devices, internal systems that have too many cracks, gaps, and leaks …

Doesn’t it all sound like a nightmare? It doesn’t have to be.

We know that multi-channel selling results in more customers and more products sold.

But it’s virtually impossible to pull off without specialized software.

Instead, you need something that’s diverse enough to reach customers where they are, with official partnerships for a seamless experience. You need something that unites your back-of-house processes, automates where possible, and provides at-a-glance sales data so you can make better, faster decisions.

Multi-channel software isn’t just a clever add-on or isolated platform. It’s the underpinning. It’s the right way to better growth.

Multi-Channel Listing Software FAQ

What is multichannel listing software?

Multi-channel listing software is a tool to help streamline changing and updating product listing across sales channels. Users input the new data and then it is reflected across all marketplaces the product exists on.

What is the best multi-channel listing software?

The best multi-channel listing software depends on your business needs. Each software has unique features that supports different aspects of a business.

Why is multichannel selling important?

Multichannel selling is important because it pushes your business in front of many customers at once. Through multichannel selling merchants can reach customers after different points in their purchasing process.

About the author

Jason Buckland

Jason Buckland is a content marketing manager at Shopify Plus. His feature writing has appeared in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Playboy, Time, the Toronto Star, and elsewhere.