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Single vs. multichannel buyers: Which are better for your business?

With Amazon accounting for 26% of all online sales, traditional retailers are recognizing the need for a multichannel sales strategy to capture a greater share of the market.

But while more than half of US consumers have shopped at eCommerce marketplaces, not all customers are created equal in terms of spending habits and behaviors. So, should you be focusing on multichannel buyers or their single-channel counterparts?

Let’s take a look.

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Single vs. multichannel buyer behaviors

Traditionally, single channel buying was the standard because customers generally had fewer options to choose from (especially pre-internet), and buying from a single location offered convenience and familiarity.  Today, single-channel buyers are less common than multichannel buyers and are actually less loyal than multichannel buyers to particular brands.

Multichannel buyers account for 73% of all online consumers today,  which is no surprise considering the explosion of eCommerce stores and online marketplaces over the last decade. They also spend more: an HBR study found that multichannel shoppers spend an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers.

For multichannel shoppers, technology is everything. The same HBR study found that these consumers readily use smartphone apps, interactive catalogs, and price-checkers, as well as O2O services like click-and-collect for purchases. Those who conduct online research and price comparisons prior to making a purchase decision actually end up spending 13% more, on average, which contrasts with the perceived wisdom that impulse buying increases customer value.

single vs multichannel

So I should only focus on multichannel buyers, right?

Not so fast. Although multichannel buyers spend more on average and tend to be more engaged with their brands of choice, it’s speculated that these customers aren’t inherently more loyal, but rather are likelier to spend more and advocate for a brand based on being provided with a better shopping experience.

In other words, your eCommerce growth strategy should focus on enabling a convenient and streamlined multichannel experience for all customers. We know that multichannel sales environments lead to increased customer value, so it makes sense to develop a growth strategy, supply chain ecosystem, and inventory management approach that enables you to provide a sophisticated multichannel experience for customers.

Just how do you provide that experience? In our next blog on multichannel selling, we’ll walk through the various options for sales channel expansion – including online marketplaces, eCommerce channels, wholesale, and more.

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