Mature businessperson processes an online sale in a stock room
Successfully selling your product on multiple sales channels isn’t as simple as it sounds, but there are strategies you can try to broaden your selling horizons. — Getty Images/svetikd

For small e-commerce businesses, there are countless platforms and channels for reaching customers. In addition to a branded website storefront, sites like Amazon, Etsy and even social media platforms offer multiple avenues for driving online sales. The challenge, however, is knowing which ones your business should prioritize — and how many different platforms to sell on in the first place.

Jacqueline Snyder and Minna Khounlo-Sithep, co-founders of The Product Boss small business coaching platform and hosts of the marketing podcast of the same name, always advise their students to explore multiple online retail spaces for their products. That doesn't mean being everywhere, said Khounlo-Sithep, but it does mean establishing a strong retail presence in more than one place.

“Even if most of your eggs are in one basket, if that gets tipped over, you still have revenue [from alternate sales channels],” she explained. “You have to be on more than one platform to ensure your business has a safety net, but also, [it impacts] your ability to grow right now — two times, four times, 10 times. It can get you to a whole different level.”

[Read more: 10 E-Commerce Business Ideas]

You don’t need to sell every single one of your products on each of your sales channels. Start with just one or two cross-platform products and analyze your sales data so you can understand what customers want on each platform.

Why sell your products on multiple platforms?

A multichannel sales strategy is a great backup plan in case your primary sales channel takes a hit, but there are some other obvious and good reasons to sell your products on several platforms.

Create more sales opportunities

The more places you sell your product, the more opportunities you create to make sales and increase your overall revenue potential. Multiple e-commerce channels can also help pad your brick-and-mortar sales as consumers increasingly choose to shop online.

Increase your audience

Online retail sales have been increasing by approximately 1.5% each year over the last five years. By opening up various online shopping platforms, you’ll have access to a wider, more diverse audience.

“Being on more sales channels allows you to get on other people's platforms and audiences,” Snyder told CO—. “Amazon is not right for everybody, but [that's a platform] that sells to everyone.”

Bypass certain platform restrictions

Certain online platforms have restrictions as far as what they will and won't sell, where they'll ship and what their take of the income is. When you diversify your e-commerce channels, you can get around some of these potential selling issues.

“Etsy can decide [your product] infringes on something and shut you down at any time,” said Khounlo-Sithep.

The challenges of multichannel e-commerce

Positioning your business for success on multiple sales channels isn’t as simple as creating an account and uploading your products. You’ll need to be strategic about the platforms you choose and expand when you’re in a position to do so.

“You have to be systematized and stable,” said Snyder. “You need to know your pricing, your bestsellers, how to do inventory, how to ship — you can't just go and do it as a new business.”

Khounlo-Sithep agreed and noted that new e-commerce businesses shouldn’t try to get on too many platforms at once.

“If you try too much at once, [you may not] know what's working,” she explained. “You have to test, track and see if this is the platform ... to lean into.”

Here are few additional challenges you may face when signing up for multiple sales platforms:

  • It can be time-consuming. Building out, managing and monitoring multiple e-commerce platforms can be time-consuming. Without the proper systems in place, you may get bogged down in day-to-day platform management rather than business growth.
  • Each platform has its own rules. No two e-commerce platforms are exactly alike, and sellers are subject to different rules and policies for each one. Some platforms will handle shipping and its costs, while others will leave that for the business to handle.
  • There may be more competition. Businesses that sell on popular sites like Amazon and Etsy face a lot of competition for consumer attention. Sellers need a solid plan to differentiate themselves and make connections with their target audience.

[Read more: How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform for Your Business]

Tips for expanding your online sales channels

If you’re looking to get onto additional e-commerce platforms, Snyder and Khounlo-Sithep offered the following tips.

Start small and analyze results

You don’t need to sell every single one of your products on each of your sales channels. Start with just one or two cross-platform products and analyze your sales data so you can understand what customers want on each platform.

Create a direct tie to your customers with an email list

If your primary sales channel is a third-party site like Amazon, Etsy or Instagram, it’s wise to encourage customers to sign up for an email list that you own and manage. This allows you to stay in touch with your customers and communicate with them directly in case something happens to one of your sales platforms.

Lean into what’s working (but be willing to pivot)

Once you start gathering data, you can start to see sales patterns emerge, like which products are your best sellers and when you make the most sales. Lean into what’s working on each platform, but don’t be afraid to make a change if your numbers start trending in different directions.

“It's starting with what works [and] repeating and refining,” said Khounlo-Sithep. “Start small and see if there's a spark there. If not, then try something else.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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