Lately, more and more ecommerce brands have branched out to new platforms. Customers and sellers alike are learning that there’s more to online shopping than just Amazon, and retail giants like Walmart are doubling-down on investments to disrupt their market domination. But while selling on different channels may multiply your exposure and access to new shoppers, at the same time multichannel fulfillment can multiply your workload.
If you’re not used to multichannel selling, there are a few problems that may not be self-evident until after they get in your way. Keeping all your channels in tip-top shape can be like spinning plates, dividing your focus and demanding your attention at all times.
To avoid that stress and keep everything organized and manageable, we outline the 5 most common multichannel fulfillment mistakes, and how to avoid them. Whether you’re experienced in selling on different channels or are preparing for your first time, this list explains what to expect so you can hit the ground running.
1. Inefficient Shipping and Storage Fees.
First things first, you want to ensure that your base of operations is as efficient as possible. Your shipping logistics — as well as your warehouse maintenance fees — are about to see a lot more action, so any oversights can set you back. And if you have issues with your existing operations, those same problems will increase exponentially as your business grows.
So a good place to start is auditing your current shipping processes and storage space to make sure it’s streamlined as possible. Make sure your forecasting is accurate — especially with multiple warehouses — by monitoring how much of which items are sold over 30-, 60-, and 90-day spans. Don’t forget to factor in the supplier lead time. Keep meticulous records for each quarter and review them regularly.
Also take this opportunity to reevaluate your human resources. If worker costs are too high, you can cut out non-essential employees; if processes take too long, you can hire more employees.
2. Using FBA for Non-Amazon Orders.
As a service that handles both storage and shipment for ecommerce, Fulfillment by Amazon is the backbone of many online vendors — but only if they sell on Amazon. For some channels, in particular Walmart, FBA is often prohibited.
If your entire online business is dependent on FBA, you’ll have difficulty expanding to those other markets. You could invest in a warehouse and take a more proactive role in shipping with Fullfillment by Merchant (FBM) options, but that isn’t always an option for some sellers. In that case, you may want to hire a new, independent 3PL fulfillment service — they handle most of what FBA does, but without the conflict of interest on non-Amazon sites.
3. Handling Each Shipment Individually
Expect more sales if you’re selling on multiple channels (maybe not right away, but once your presence on new channels is firmly established). And the more sales you have to fulfill, the more work you have to put into making sure they’re shipped properly.
To ease your workload, consolidate your multichannel orders and automate whenever possible. Order management software (like ecomdash) lets you create shipping defaults and rules based on data like a product’s weight, and then automatically assign the shipping carrier, package types, and delivery settings. The software handles the hard part so all you have to do is print the slip and make sure it goes out without a hitch.
Ecomdash also allows you to:
- prints shipping labels and packing slips in batches of up to 250
- combine different USPS labels into a single SCAN form
- print “pick lists” with aisle and bin locations for faster processing
On the other hand, if you aren’t fulfilling the orders yourself, a solution like ecomdash can automatically route new customer orders to a specific outsourced fulfillment option, based on the priorities you’ve set. This type of automation saves you the time needed to work on growing your business.
4. Manually Bookkeeping
There’s a lot to be said for human error. Maybe managing each sale, shipment, and budget yourself for one channel is fine, but each new channel means more work, which increases the chances of you making a mistake: a miscalculation, switching numbers accidentally, shipping the wrong product, etc. For multichannel sellers, it may be best to either hire some outside help or use an automated system that can handle these types of tasks.
You can also take this opportunity to change up your inventory accounting methods. For example, the First In, First Out method makes your performance seem more impressive to investors, while Last In, First Out downplays your success for lower taxes. See our complete list of inventory accounting methods to find the best fit you for.
5. Updating Stock Levels on Your Own.
Finally, the most harmful mistake made by sellers new to multichannel selling: stock levels. It seems so simple and minor, and yet, can quickly become one of the most time-consuming tasks if you’re selling on multiple sites. What’s worse, even a single, seemingly innocuous error could lead to scathing reviews, bad publicity on social media, and customers lost forever.
With every sale you make, you need to update your stock levels for that product on each of your platforms. If you list an incorrect number, you risk overselling — the customer is charged for the product, and it’s up to you to not only refund the money but also explain to a disappointed shopper that the product they thought was on its way never existed. Despite your best efforts, your brand comes across as incompetent, and that customer will likely never shop with you again.
But updating stock levels on every platform, for every sale, is a lot of busywork, not to mention the increase in human error. So again, the only foolproof method is to use inventory management software like ours to handle the problem on its own.
Every time you make a sale, Ecomdash updates all of your stock levels on all of your channels automatically. The software lets nothing slip through the cracks and spares you the tedious busywork. By doing less work, you ensure that your stock levels are always correct and up-to-date, no matter what.
We don’t mean to scare you off multichannel selling. The gains really are worth the extra effort, and you may even discover new, more successful niches by expanding into new platforms. But no matter how you slice it, more platforms mean more things to manage, specifically fulfillment, so it’s usually advisable to enlist more help — human, software, or technology-driven micro fulfillment centers. Think of it like expanding your business to a new physical location, with new fees, and new personnel to balance out the new customers.