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What are Sales Channels (and Which One You Should Use)

With so many options to choose from, how do you know which sales channels are right for your business?

Jon Davis · November 7, 2023
What are Sales Channels (and Which One You Should Use)

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Sales channels work like the gears in a well-oiled machine that drives your products or services to prospects. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which one works best for your business?

Today we’re going to talk about the sales channels that you can use and how to make a decision about which one is best for you.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into the topic.

What are sales channels?

Sales channels are the methods and pathways a business uses to reach its customers and sell its products or services. There are many of them: online platforms, retail stores, and direct sales, just to name a few. Each channel takes its own strategy and approach because it targets different segments of the market.

Difference between B2B sales channels and B2C sales channels

B2B sales channels focus on selling products or services directly to other businesses. It often includes larger sales volumes and longer relationships.

B2C sales channels target individual consumers. Sales like these are typically for smaller quantities and can be more spontaneous. The approach and strategy to use here all depends on the audience.

18 sales channels you can use

Let’s dive into the options that you have.

1. Brick and mortar stores

Physical stores are here to stay. Sure, we've got all these shiny, new online platforms. But in some sectors, like clothing or furniture, people still want to see a product themselves before they buy it.

There’s no waiting for a delivery person plus, you interact with actual humans who can answer your questions on the spot.

Even some tech giants, who basically live online, are opening up brick and mortar stores. Why? Because nothing beats the real deal. So, while the physical store might be old school, it's still got some tricks up its sleeve.

2. E-commerce websites

What’s more convenient than sitting in your armchair with a mug of tea next to you, covered with a blanket, shopping in your favorite store?

That’s the power of e-commerce websites.

With just a few clicks, buyers can browse their favorite products and easily make a purchase when sitting at home.

E-commerce websites gather useful customer data that can be used to enrich the customer experience with personalized recommendations. This sales channel strategy also lets businesses reach huge markets outside their local areas.

E-shops can integrate with social media platforms and online marketplaces to promote their brands and drive more sales.

An e-commerce website is super flexible, and perfectly complements other sales strategies. As such, you can devise a multi-channel sales strategy to acquire more followers and improve customer satisfaction.

3. Email marketing

Email marketing helps you easily connect with potential customers, offering a personalized touch that many other channels miss. Write your emails carefully and keep your customer base informed about new products, special offers, and company news.

Email marketing gives businesses a chance to reach people at the right time on a personal level. How is that possible?

Capsule’s Dynamic Content, can help you easily create content targeted to specific groups of people. What’s more, Capsule makes it easy to send transactional emails, set up forms, create amazing email campaigns, and automate some of your work.

No matter what business model you have, a tailored communication plan with integrated email marketing makes recipients feel a closer connection to the brand.

For instance, a well-timed email after a customer browses an online store can spark their interest and bring them back to complete a purchase. Customers expect consistent brand messaging across all touchpoints, and email marketing helps to do this.

4. Affiliate marketing

Using the best sales channels, companies can use affiliate marketing to grow their brand and sell more without spending a lot. Here’s how.

This sales channel lets businesses collaborate with third-party sellers to promote their products or services. Affiliates (partners) earn commission for every sale or lead they generate through their marketing efforts, which make the brand readily accessible to more customers without requiring a large sales force.

Its biggest strength is its adaptability to different sales channels. Social media, blogs, online marketplaces – all of these platforms can be used as part of a multi-channel sales strategy to introduce potential customers to the brand and diversify its presence.

On top of that, the synergy between affiliate marketing and other online sales channels such as e-commerce websites can be a big plus. For example, an affiliate blog post could guide a reader to a brand's online shop and, as a result, increase sales.

5. Auction marketplace

An auction marketplace is somewhere for people who are looking for unique goods or great deals. Buyers place bids until the auction ends and the person with the highest bid gets the item.

As bidders compete to win, this can generate a bit of excitement. This is different from regular online stores because the price isn't fixed – sellers might sometimes earn more money (or less) for their items than expected.

6. Niche marketplace

A niche marketplace is a specialized platform focused on a specific category or interest. In contrast to general marketplaces with broad ranges of products or services, niche marketplaces focus on a particular market or audience.

Etsy, for example, is a niche marketplace for handmade and vintage items. The platform attracts a dedicated audience looking for specific products, making it easier for sellers to target and connect with potential customers.

Do you run a business and sell unusual or specialized items? You might find niche marketplaces to be an effective sales channel for you to reach those people who are searching for something outside of the mainstream (but not only).

7. Social media

Social media is more than just fun reels and selfies. It's a place where businesses meet their customers. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – a large portion of your audience will be there for sure.

Catchy posts help introduce your products to your client base and direct them straight to your online shop. When a business pops up on someone's feed with something interesting, it's a chance to turn a scroll into a sale.

Not quite sure how to do it? Here are a couple of tips on how to sell on social media:

  • share engaging content and stories
  • use quality images and videos
  • make deals for followers
  • engage and respond to comments
  • run targeted ads
  • partner with influencers
  • share customer reviews
  • use hashtags effectively
  • analyze metrics for insights
  • stay updated with platform trends
  • Social media can really be a fun way of selling!

8. White label sales

Some businesses create great products for other brands to sell under their own name. It's a sales strategy where the creator stays in the shadows while another brand shines.

If a company is looking to expand its product range without great effort, this is one of the possible options. For the original creators, it's a chance to generate sales indirectly. They let other businesses handle the customer experience and brand promotion.

It might seem like being a ghostwriter or a voice-over actor, but white-label sales can be a great way to diversify and reach new markets.

9. Display advertising

These are visual ads such as banners, videos, and interactive graphics that you see while browsing websites, social media platforms, or online apps. Such ads are designed to promote a brand, product, or service and often encourage the viewer to take a specific action, like visiting a website or making a purchase.

Luckily, the process of buying and placing displayed ads has become far easier than before. Businesses can set their preferences, budget, and target audience, then leave algorithms to handle the rest.

10. Television shopping channels

Television shopping channels bring products to life right in the living rooms of viewers. Presenters demonstrate a product's functionality and benefits, often sharing limited-time offers or deals to entice viewers to purchase on the spot.

They create the experience – viewers get to see the product in action, hear testimonials, and even call in to ask questions or share their own experiences.

5.41 billion people watched TV in 2023 – the majority of 65 year-olds watch more than five hours of TV on a daily basis, compared to less than an hour among 16 to 24 year-olds. So, if elderly people are your target audience, TV might be one of your main sales channels.

11. Catalog sales

Remember flipping through pages of products, circling your favorites? That's catalog sales. Businesses showcase their products in a printed or digital catalog, and customers can order directly from it.

Sales team members compile the best products, design the layout, and ensure the catalog gets delivered to the right people. Sales agents are often on standby, ready to assist customers who have questions or need help placing orders.

Even with the rise of online shopping, many people still love the feeling of flipping through pages and discovering products at their own pace.

12. Multichannel sales

Not a sales channel per se but more like a sales strategy that you can apply.hy rely on a single sales channel if you can use several of them? Online, in a physical store, or through a catalog – the idea is to be present and accessible across multiple sales channels, wherever your clients are.

An effective sales team (or salesperson), that each channel operates as it should and that there's a consistent message and brand identity across all platforms.

Don’t be afraid of trying out a new sales channel. Experiment and have fun, but ensure that the channels you choose are suitable for your target audience.

13. Radio advertising

Did you know that radio has a weekly reach of around 82% among adult Americans?

People can listen to the radio while driving, working, or just relaxing at home. It's a direct sales method that speaks straight to listeners, grabbing their attention between songs or talk shows.

And a catchy jingle or a compelling ad can stick in someone's mind for days. So, despite the fact that there are tons of ways to sell and promote, don't underestimate the power of the airwaves to get your message across.

14. Personal selling

It is a one-on-one connection between a salesperson and business customers. The idea is to focus on individual interactions instead of broad advertising or digital campaigns.

Personal selling brings a human touch to the sales process, which is why many people consider it attractive and effective. What does it look like?

Even though it is a one-on-one approach, there is a sales team behind it. They strive to build relationships with clients (a customer relationship management tool or contact management software is key here), develop a strategy to present products in the best way possible, close deals, and provide after-sales service.

This sales channel is used in real estate, automotive, pharmaceuticals, financial services, B2B, and other industries as well

15. Print advertising

Print advertising is a classic sales channel that has been a staple in the marketing world for decades. The choice of distribution channels for print advertising includes newspapers, magazines, brochures, and flyers that businesses can use to convey their message directly into the hands – quite literally – of potential customers.

It makes a link between brands and consumers and perfectly complementing other sales channels.

16. Retail sales

Selling goods and services to consumers is called retail sales. Businesses use multiple channels to sell their goods, including websites, apps and typical stores. It's one of the primary methods for consumers to purchase goods for personal use.

In the retail industry, sales prospecting has changed a lot. It's not just waiting for customers to walk into a store – retailers actively target potential customers through online ads, social media campaigns, and personalized email marketing.

It’s worth discussing the distribution costs of retail stores. These are the costs of getting a product to end customers from the manufacturer or supplier, which might be high because it covers transportation, warehousing and storage, inventory management, packing, insurance, and more.

17. Wholesale

Business-to-business transactions are one of the main sales channels that businesses use to sell products in large quantities, mostly to other businesses or shops. It's the middle step between creating a product and it reaching store shelves.

The way wholesalers operate has changed a bit recently. They used to meet buyers in person or at big trade events. Now, they also use online channels like e-commerce websites, apps, and online marketplaces.

By using multiple channels such as both in-person meetings and online sites, wholesalers can connect with more buyers and thus sell more. Sales strategies here are quite varied, but very often effective (if done right).

18. Telemarketing

The business model for telemarketing is pretty simple: companies have a list of prospects and they call them up to sell products or services. It's direct, personal, and can be tailored to the individual, providing a unique customer experience.

There are many marketing channels out there, but telemarketing is unique due to its personal approach. A real conversation can sometimes make a difference.

However, it’s not always that easy. People sometimes find telemarketing annoying or intrusive, so being skilled enough to avoid this is a must.

  • Here’s what telemarketers/sales agents can do in that regard:
  • make a targeted list to reach a relevant audience
  • practice and practice
  • stay updated on regulations
  • truly know the value of the product or service

It’s a great sales channel for B2B and B2C businesses to generate leads.

19. Franchising

Unlike traditional retail or direct sales, franchising allows individuals or entities to use a company's business model and brand for a specified period. This sales channel has gained popularity among businesses looking to expand without the costly process of setting up new outlets from scratch.

The sales team is instrumental In franchising – not in selling products, but in marketing the business model itself. They engage with potential franchisees, explaining the benefits and responsibilities of joining the brand.

Among many types of sales channels, franchising provides both independence and support. Franchisees get to run their own business but with the backing of a recognized brand and its resources.

Distribution channels in franchising are therefore somewhat streamlined, as everyone follows the same rules set by the main company. Customers receive the same products or services, at least in theory, no matter which franchise they visit.

There are more types of sales channels, but we’ve listed only the most popular ones. Depending on the industry you work in, you may need different sales channels.

How to choose the right sales channel for your business?

Below are some tips on how to choose the best sales channels for your business.

1. Think about what you're selling when picking a sales channel

Keep in mind that different products or services often sell better on specific platforms. This depends on the customer demographics and where your audience is. For instance, if your target audience is young adults, maybe you should consider online sales channels such as social media.

2. Try direct sales for one-on-one selling

Instead of waiting for customers to come to you as with online marketplaces or online stores, you can use direct sales. First, you need to understand the target market and know how to present a product or service in the best light, then connect with them in an interesting way.

3. Look at what similar businesses do for their sales strategies

Use them as a benchmark, but also check up on similar businesses to identify any gaps and areas that may need to be tweaked a little. What could work better than offering a sales channel that your competitors have missed?

If many are selling via online shops, it means customers probably like shopping there. But if they're using sales agents a lot, this shows that talking directly to customers works well for them.

4. Find out where your customers like to shop

Doing a bit of research via, e.g., surveys or feedback forms, will give you a clear picture. Once you know, you can change your strategy to meet prospects in their favorite shopping spots. It's a simple way to make shopping easy and convenient for your target market.

5. Check how much each sales channel will cost

Budget is one of the most decisive factors when choosing a sales channel because each has its own associated costs. Setting up an online store, for example, may incur fees for website hosting, while hiring sales agents means paying their salaries or commissions.

Selling on online marketplaces means listing fees or paying out a cut of each sale. If you are thinking of selling in physical stores, there are rent and utility bills to consider. Before committing to anything, check how much money you are able to spend.

There's more to it than just money, though. Think about time and effort too. Managing social media sales can take a lot of time, whereas some online platforms handle things for you.

6. Choose channels that can grow with your business

As a business owner, pick those that you can scale. As your business grows, you'll want channels that can handle more customers, products, or services without any (big) hitches, right?

If you start with a small online store, be sure that it can handle more traffic and products as you expand. If you're using sales agents, think about how you would train additional agents or enter new regions in the future.

Use platforms or places that can adapt to your growth so you won't have to keep switching or starting over in future. Doing so will almost certainly save you time, effort, and often money in the long run.

7. Different sales channels can reach more people

Selling on a platform that your customers already like is great, but if you have the resources then why not try out new sales channels that your audience might also be interested in?

Selling in many places gives you a better chance to meet all kinds of buyers. An online shop might get the younger crowd, but a market stand could attract those who like to see things before buying.

Of course, you should verify who your clients are before making a step like this.

8. See how well each channel works and make changes if needed

If you don’t have much expertise in analyzing data, hiring a data analyst consultant or using Capsule might be a good move. Its sales analytics tool gives you insightful reports to monitor every step of the selling process.

Perhaps your site is getting lots of visitors but not converting many of them into sales, or maybe the sales pipeline has got bottlenecks. Capsule will provide you with insights about what needs to be changed.

Make checking on your performance metrics a habit in order to figure out what's working and what's not. If one approach isn't doing great, you can try something new or make the necessary changes.

What's hot today may not be tomorrow. Check on what's popular right now so you can adjust and try different approaches. If you see that a new online marketplace is becoming a hit then maybe it's worth setting up shop there right away, or if people are shopping through live video sales you could give that a try, say.

Remember that this doesn’t mean jumping on the bandwagon for every trend, but picking the ones that fit your brand and your customers.

10. Pick channels that feel right for your brand and customers

When you're selling luxury items, a high-end boutique might be a better fit than a flea market.. Your brand has a certain vibe or image, and picking places to sell that match this vibe makes your brand feel more genuine.

Also, think about where your customers like to spend their time. If they're young and have tech skills then online channels or trendy pop-up shops might be the way to go, whereas more traditional, classic retail spots or direct sales may work better for older generations.

Conclusion

There are many sales channels available, but it’s hard to detail and track all of them. We hope that this list has given you a broader look and you’ve figured out some new sales channels for your business.

However, different sales channels take different strategies. That’s why you need to stop for a moment to think if you are ready to implement these strategies.

Try Capsule CRM free for 14 days and see how it can help you manage your sales.

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