— October 30, 2017
Anyone new to the world of ecommerce knows that starting your own online store feels more like running a 7-Eleven in Hopkinsville, Kan., than running a store in the ever-busy “Mall of America.” Driving adequate (and targeted) traffic to your own store and your products in other marketplaces is always an uphill battle, but it can be done!
Autumn is one of the best times to perfect your multichannel strategy and restock inventory before the holiday season’s final dress rehearsal, “Black Friday.” To meet sales goals this holiday season, you’ll need to experiment with sophisticated tactics. For example, Rick Vogt, who owns SweaterChalet.com, has an excellent approach. Vogt’s multichannel strategy factors in shopper expectations, an international footprint, commissions paid and available inventory.
ShipStation sat down with Vogt to pick his brain on the best multichannel strategies, SEO tactics and marketplace choices that have led to the growth of his online business.
How much of your business is driven by Amazon?
Vogt: If you’re not on Amazon, you’re not doing ecommerce. It’s 50 percent of my order volume, as much as my other five channels combined. On Amazon, I only list products with sufficient inventory across all sizes and colors. I earned Prime Seller status in March, and it changed my entire company. The pressure for speed is significant, but it’s so worth the effort.
What are the steps to earn Prime Seller status, and how has it helped your business?
Vogt: Amazon invites sellers based on potential they see. They asked me to qualify by shipping 50 orders within 30 days, all 2nd day. I paid $ 1,000 in FedEx labels out of my pocket to upgrade these orders — best money I’ve ever spent. It’s been a total game changer. You get so much more visibility. Amazon’s ad program did way more than Google AdWords — because people are shopping and not just looking. In fact, my search engine results, in general, went through the roof.
Any other marketplaces that have worked for you?
Vogt: I’ve seen mixed results on eBay. Shoppers seem to be confused about listings — Which items are new? Which ones are used? Do I have to bid or is it a fixed price? However, I still list items there since the pressure to have all sizes and mail items same day is much lower.
How is your own store site differentiated from your other marketplaces?
Vogt: Shoppers can find the biggest selection of handmade European sweaters, caps and gloves on our site. This is where I am truly my own boss, can be creative with design and provide the customer experience I envision. I can also communicate with shoppers without restrictions, put items on backorder or suggest better alternatives.
While Vogt’s strategy of utilizing marketplaces to acquire new shoppers — and simultaneously perfecting his own store and branded shopping experience — is a smart multi-channel strategy, it isn’t the only one. New businesses may need to solely rely on third-party marketplaces at first to establish a reputation, credibility, and a solid cash-flow.
It’s always wise to strategize based on the nature of your products, target audience, products prices, etc. Some sellers may add “deal sites” to their channel mix in order to keep their main store focused on full-price new items. Smaller marketplaces may also be a great addition if you are looking to tap into a niche audience. Depending on exchange rate and product availability overseas, listing on the eBay and Amazon international sites can also boost sales.
You may also want to consider ShipStation’s newest marketplace partner, Jet.com. It’s the fastest growing platform — 60 percent in Q2 — and it already lists more products than anyone could possibly want to sell. Merchants compete on price to fulfill an order. This may sound complicated, but ShipStation and Jet do all the heavy lifting. With no fees until merchants actually sell, this is a no-brainer to try out.
Whichever multichannel strategy you test this fall, make sure your ecommerce platform has the capability to integrate with as many marketplaces as possible so that you can find the most relevant places to sell your product. Dolly Parton said it best, “Some people say less is more. But I think more is more.”