Volo Know Your Data Series – Channels and Cross-Border

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In our monthly Know Your Data series, penned by Scott Bagnall, Head of Product at Volo Commerce, we are looking at how you can use data to grow your business. Detailed in a webinar earlier this year, if you’re a Volo customer then the reports are all available to you in the Vision reporting and analytics module, but for non-Volo users you should still be considering the same factors in order to scale and grow your business. We are collating all of the articles here so if you missed one you can find them all in one place.

So far in this series we’ve looked at data analysis and reporting for best sellers, product sales velocity, your slow or dead stock, your margins, stock forecasting, refunds and your top customers. Today we’re looking at the channels you sell through and to which countries or regions.

A lot of what we talk about with customers and prospect customers centres on ‘resilience’. This seems to have dominated the conversation in 2020, the idea of spreading risk in the face of inevitable future uncertainly. And here we are in the teeth of peak period, with barely a couple of days to take a breath before Brexit changes the way we interact with customer and suppliers from other countries in Europe.

Being resilient takes the form of being present on multiple channels, and selling to multiple regions. And it’s not just a case of having a token presence in other channels or regions, since having 90% of your sales come from one marketplaces or one country doesn’t really reduce your exposure. Ideally we want a reasonable spread across channels and across our cross-border activities. We also want this coverage at a level of cost that makes it worthwhile, otherwise we’re spreading ourselves too thin and not making any money.

We can make similar recommendations for both channels and cross-border, which is why we’ve lumped them together. Firstly, then, at a high level, what sales are we doing across each channel and to each country? How do orders break down? Do we have a decent spread? Are we recently established on one channel or in one country and what might we expect the growth to be? How is the distribution of sales or orders trending over time and what conclusions can we draw from that? What new channels or regions are a good fit for us to expand into?

As with many things data-related, the devil is in the detail, so we need to go beyond a high level analysis to see where the opportunities or problems lie. There is a range of areas that should attract our attention.


Look at your top selling products and see how they perform across the marketplaces and other channels you sell on. Filter your best sellers for countries too. Perhaps some products are selling well in some areas but not others. If there are glaring shortfalls, check that your product information is optimised for the poorly performing channel. If a best-selling product is performing poorly in one region, perhaps the localised listing could be improved. Perhaps there is a cultural reason for poor sales and you could substitute it for a better alternative.


Analyse how your best customers buy, which channel or channels they prefer to use. It might be that your best customers prefer to buy from a channel that doesn’t deliver great margins. Depending on the channel, you might be able to market special offers to them to be redeemed on more profitable channels, like your own web store.


It’s important to keep an eye on returns and refunds statistics across both channels and regions. If one channel is characterised by high return/refund rates over time, you may need to build that cost into your pricing. Similarly, if particularly high returns plague one particular country you sell to, it’s time to consider what you can do to fix that or whether that country is unprofitable and not worth your investment. Don’t forget suppliers too; highly returned goods may relate to a specific product that you can address with the particular supplier.

Shipping Costs

Shipping costs and reliability will vary among the countries where you deliver your orders. Again, it’s important to be on top of this so that you can see which countries are more profitable than others. High shipping costs to a particular country might cause you to examine options around warehousing and the use of 3PL companies or else look to other countries. We can make the same argument for channels.


And while we’re on the subject of costs, modelling all of your cost contributors will help you see the margins you’re actually making on which products across which channels and countries. Margin is everything, yet it’s surprising how few businesses know what margin they’re really making, except as a whole or averaged out. If you can figure out your margin on your orders, this tells you which channels or countries have high competition for your products, and which have lower competition and therefore opportunity for expansion.

To discuss any element of this Know Your Data series, please get in touch.


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