With E-commerce growing at around 19 percent year on year across Europe, it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes and in all verticals are looking to do more online.

For many organisations, this means increasing the number of channels they sell through. Research conducted at the recent ChannelAdvisor Catalyst 2011 conference in London found that 87 percent of firms are looking to increase the number of online channels that they sell through within the next three years.

Whether you are setting up shop on eBay or Amazon Marketplace, creating a paid search campaign through Google or Bing, or establishing a presence on price comparison sites, adding new channels to your business can be a great way of reaching into new markets and promoting your products to a wider audience.

However, making a success of any new channel is never easy and the world of E-commerce is already a pretty complex place. The majority of retailers are already selling through five or more online channels and, in an increasingly competitive industry, retailers are understandably wary of spreading their resources too thinly. It is therefore vital that businesses can start to generate sales from any new channel quickly and cost-effectively.

Given this, it is not surprising to see that retailers are primarily focusing on established and proven channels. For instance, Amazon was identified by one in four retailers as the channel with the most potential to increase sales, putting the site ahead of eBay, paid search marketing channels, comparison shopping sites and even brands’ own e-commerce sites.

While there is plenty of potential for growth in these established channels it is important that businesses also look to embrace new models and technologies. The rapid growth of social media, and the increasing prevalence of smartphones, are creating fantastic new platforms for businesses to engage with their customers. These platforms have huge potential and those retailers that can crack social commerce will have a chance to put themselves way ahead of the competition.

Encouragingly, our research found that social commerce is becoming more widely adopted; 40 percent of retailers are currently active on Facebook and 32 percent have a presence on Twitter.  Already, one in five retailers (21 percent) see social networking as a sales channel in its own right, and the majority is using social media as a tool for marketing (64 percent) and community engagement (32 percent).

While embracing these new channels might seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that you don’t need to go it alone. There is an abundance of help and support out there; by researching thoroughly, engaging with experts and making use of the myriad online tools that are available it is possible to maximise your investment while significantly reducing the legwork required to get up and running.

James Scott

James Scott


James Scott is MD, EMEA for ChannelAdvisor.