10 Common Mistakes Retailers Make When Going Omnichannel


Click, click, click: that’s the sound of another successful purchase.

From a consumer’s point of view, we are in the golden age of retail. With just the click of a few buttons, shoppers have infinite possibilities on what they can ship directly to their door, meaning more freedom—and motivation—than ever before to spend money with retailers from all over the world.

This new age of retail brings huge possibilities for retailers of all sizes as well.

Omnichannel retailing is the best way to find new customers, meet their on-demand needs and grow your business, but you cannot simply set up shop on more channels and expect to see immediate results.

Expanding your business takes a lot of planning and investment.

Not only should consumers have a consistent brand experience, no matter how they shop with you, but you also need to make sure you are truly prepared to manage more business streams seamlessly.

Take these ten common mistakes retailers make when going omnichannel into consideration before expanding.

1. Failing to prep inventory
It’s already difficult to determine how much stock to keep on hand for most retailers with one channel. If you’re not the least bit anxious about how you will figure out inventory once you expand, you may need to think again before going omnichannel.

Overselling is a mistake many retailers make, and the consequences stack up fast: poor customer experience, negative reviews and lost sales. Some channels will even penalize you for inventory mistakes, like Amazon.

It’s your responsibility to keep an eye on sales and adjust stock to meet demand and find balance for your business. Stock too much and you pay for extra storage; stock too little and your brand and sales pay the price.

2. Using the same copy across channels
It’s tempting when you’re listing items to pull product copy straight from the manufacturer. But this seemingly small detail can actually make or break a sale.

Audiences on different channels have varying wants and needs, and your copy should cater to these unique audiences if you want to stand out from the competition.

For marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, shoppers are overwhelmed by a multitude of similar options. Use bullet points to get straight to the point and focus heavily on product features and details.

On your own site, shoppers are likely looking for a more personal, traditional shopping experience, so feel free to create copy with personality that is a reflection on your brand.

For social sites like Facebook and Pinterest, aim to create shareable content with attractive images and use hashtags to increase organic traffic.

3. Ignoring channel rules
Read the fine print: each channel has its own set of rules determining how products can be sold and ignoring these rules can get you temporarily or permanently banned from selling on the channel.

In addition, some rules may make a channel hardly worthwhile depending on your business.

For example, if you’re a wholesaler, you must list the brands of your products on Pinterest posts. This could cause potential customers to go to the brand’s website rather than your own, meaning you are essentially spending your time to promote another brand.

Amazon is also particular regarding product descriptions and customer reviews. They will not hesitate to ban rulebreakers, as preserving their customer experience is their number one priority.

Don’t waste time on a channel if you aren’t going to play by its rules.

4. Not measuring ROI–or lack thereof
Sales aren’t the only metric that matter. Though you can’t examine a customer’s physical behavior online like you would in a brick and mortar shop, likes, comments and return visits all contribute to a channels’ value by telling you what your visitors are interested in.

Take advantage of these data points to market directly to visitors and their preferences to build loyal, returning customers over time.

Also, don’t overlook hidden overhead costs when evaluating the ROI of a channel. For example, Amazon’s Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) charges you to house your inventory, so compare this to how much you would pay to house it on your own to get a true picture of the total cost.

5. Failing to prep and plan for shipping
Even after you’ve figured out how much to keep it in stock, how in the world are you going to keep up with the fulfillment demands of multiple channels and increased sales?

A customer’s experience doesn’t end until they have your product in hand in a timely manner and are happy with the end result.

Not planning for shipping ahead of time can render the other elements of your expansion, no matter how carefully planned, essentially useless.

Amazon Prime’s quick shipping options can make your products more appealing than your competitors’, but this requires complying with FBA. This can be an attractive option to save yourself time and stress on fulfillment, but comes with a price tag; make sure it makes sense financially for your business.

Also, consider if you are truly ready to go global. Selling on eBay can open your store up to international customers, but this requires shipping products quickly and safely worldwide. Make sure you know how to fulfill international orders, which comes with its own set of specific rules, and if it’s worth the cost ahead of time.

6. Keeping products stale
You wouldn’t simply set out inventory in a brick and mortar and let it collect dust, so don’t let your online stores become stale. It can be tempting on some channels, like Google Shopping, to simply upload your products and not update the channel until you are out of stock.

It’s important to update your stores with any product or price changes and constantly share new products with your audiences to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Continuously updating product offerings can take quite a bit of time, so use an integrator with your ecommerce platform that allows you to mass import and edit products with just a few clicks.

7. Thinking growth will be free
If a farmer wants to harvest more crops, they must plan, plant, water and monitor more seeds; the same principle applies to sales.

Growth requires quite a bit investment on your part, in terms of both time and money, so make sure you are ready to take on the extra work. There are tools to help you grow, but what you save in time may cost you financially. For example, FBA can save you time on packing and shipping, but comes with a price tag that may be too hefty for smaller businesses.

You’ll also want nurture streams in place to segment your audiences and build loyalty. AB testing to create custom audiences on Facebook is a paid tool, but worth it for most businesses to be able to target their most valuable visitors. Calculate these costs when determining the ROI of channels to make sure features like these are worth it.

8. Failing to assign goals to each channel
How can you decide if omnichannel selling is working for your brand if you don’t set goals and measure benchmarks along the way? Goals will differ for various industries and brands, but every retailer should set channel goals regardless.

For example, the cost of customer acquisition for each channel is something you can–and should–measure. Extensive AB testing and tweaking can help you find your cost of customer acquisition sweet spot, and this cost will vary by channel.

If you are paying more to find customers than they are returning to you in profits, this is a huge warning sign that a channel may not be right for your business.

9. Not doing it at all
Omnichannel expansion brings a lot of moving parts to consider and can feel overwhelming, but the fact is that today’s consumers are shopping across platforms. If you’re only selling on your webstore, you are missing out on a huge opportunity by not adding at least one more channel.

Consider the pros, cons and costs of each channel and expand to the most attractive option for your business to test the omnichannel waters. Try at least one new channel at first, following the proper planning and goal setting measures we’ve laid out here, before jumping into other channels with both feet.

10. Failing to create–and stick–to a strategy
You’ve probably caught onto the recurring theme of this blog post: plan, plan, plan.

Set a specific merchandising strategy for each channel, including the target audience, what products you will sell there, how you will manage everything and how you define profitability. Every channel may not be right for your business, so part of your strategy should include figuring out which channels are best.

Once you’ve laid out your strategies, stick to them. Success doesn’t happen overnight, so give yourself a trial period of at least six months on each channel before calling it quits.