Trends and buzzwords come and go; what works this week will quickly fade and become replaced by the Next Big Thing, especially in marketing and merchandising. However, there are some marketing practices that take firm root and become The Way to Do Business. Brick-and-mortar store owners learned the importance of digital marketing, web designers learned the importance of cross-platform and mobile optimization and online retailers discovered that providing a quality customer experience has become the number one determinant in how your eCommerce website is ranked. Among this year’s trends is one that will continue to see an increase in importance for e-merchants: multi-channel shopping.

What is Multi-Channel Shopping?

The natural progression of eCommerce has gone from billboards and banners to fully interactive websites and focus on the importance of branding. Big retail and wholesale outlets like Amazon and eBay have made it easy and inexpensive to hang out a digital shingle. The good news is that instead of eclipsing individual sellers, these platforms provide another way to better serve customers, and that leads us to multi-channel shopping.

Multi-channel shopping makes it convenient for consumers to get everything they need at one website, through one checkout portal; it’s one-stop shopping at its best. The reason that it’s referred to as multi-channel is because the consumer has the ability to access the same company even while leaving one website completely to browse another. Traditional multi-channel sales referred to a business owner who has a physical and an electronic location, or one who does business through a variety of means, such as via mail and phone ordering. Now it means providing your customers with a range of sales portals; they won’t have to look for your sole eCommerce site if you’re everywhere they shop.

There’s also a trust factor involved. Names like Etsy and Amazon are established brands that people know. If you set up shop on a comfortable, familiar platform, customers are more likely to view your business favorably, and that translates to more sales. This is a consumer-driven trend, and instilling confidence while providing convenience is a big part of capitalizing on it.

How to Maximize Multi-Channel Merchandising

A great trend only works for you if you know how to work it. There are three key things you can do to maximize the potential of multi-channel shopping. These are things you are probably already doing, so implementing them on a larger scale should be easy.

  1. Establish a uniform look and tone so that your brand is easy to recognize in any setting
  2. Give the customers a consistent experience across all platforms, using the same format, templates and policies
  3. Use the latest eCommerce automations to integrate data and make customer analysis faster and more meaningful

The latest shopping cart eCommerce software can easily handle multi-channel payment processing with the help of eCom back end managers. This is especially true since the major online retailers and re-sellers all utilize the same mechanisms and platforms for checkout. There are also apps that will allow eCommerce merchants to compare sales data over a range of platforms, from one dashboard, and integrate their marketing efforts so they don’t have to synchronize their branding manually, site-by-site. The key to remaining competitive as an online retailer is spotting – and keep on top of – the right trends in marketing.