When Jeff Bezos set up Amazon in 1994, no one could have predicted that not only would it usher in the era of e-commerce, but also that it would create the whole marketplace economy that in many ways drives retail today.
Online marketplaces have revolutionised e-commerce in two ways. First, they have levelled the playing field and allowed all manner of small- and medium-sized retailers and niche offerings – such as ‘mom and pop’ brands that whittle artisan crafts and eclectic retro clothes sellers – to play in e-commerce. Secondly, they have allowed all retailers the chance to grow and develop their stock portfolio in an almost limitless way.
From a consumer point of view, marketplaces have also delivered unparalleled choice, competitive pricing and the ability to pretty much buy anything at the touch of a single smartphone button from anywhere in the world.
A successful marketplace must always be based on getting both these things lined up. The shopper must have more product choice, highly competitive pricing and better service, while the sellers using the site must have a lucrative new sales channel, and the operator needs increased traffic, sales and profits.
However, marketplaces are a ‘frenemy’ for sellers. On the one hand they deliver vast amounts of potential shoppers to you’re a seller’s door, but on the other, they kill repeat business and loyalty as the customer sees the marketplace as the brand they have dealt with, not the seller. And sellers want them to fall in love with them. Sellers can’t afford not to use marketplaces, so they should follow these six steps to help them become a ‘super seller’.
1. Take pride in listings
The most important thing for sellers is that they take pride in their listings and how they appear on marketplaces. Above all, it must be easy for the customer – the consumer feasts first with their eyes, so listings must be awash with good, clear images that really sell the product.
2. Be concise
Opening paragraphs about the product must be clear and to the point. By all means, list the products’ many features – and even tell the customer about the business – but there is only a tiny amount of time to get consumers’ attention, so use it wisely.
3. Spread your wings
Sellers should put themselves and their products on as many different marketplaces that seem appropriate. Marketplaces are designed to suck customers up, so it’s essential to get information in front of as many people as possible. However, it’s important to tailor messaging and product display to fit the nuances of each site and marketplace.
4. The tipping point
Sellers should identify the triggers that get customers to buy particular products and make sure that they are listed at the top. They should also make the most of encouraging reviews, recommendations, feedback, star ratings and anything else that endorses them.
5. Build trust
This will all help the marketplace see the seller as a trusted brand and propel them towards the much-coveted ‘super seller’ status. It is a little publicised fact that marketplaces will preferentially push customers towards trusted sellers and ‘super sellers’ in particular, so to get the most from using marketplaces each seller must ensure that they are liked by as many customers as possible. This will help drive the much needed repeat business and build loyalty insofar as is possible on a marketplace.
6. Build loyalty from a marketplace
The key to any retail business is repeat business, but marketplaces are designed to bring customers back to the marketplace, not to a specific seller so it can be hard for them to build a loyal customer base. However, great customer service, speedy delivery, positive reviews and feedback can help. Also, something simple like putting a “X% off when you shop with us again” voucher (ideally that drives them to the seller’s own site) in with the delivery can be an effective way of turning that customer who accidentally found the seller on a marketplace into a regular customer and advocate for the brand.
Many smaller retailers are abandoning the idea of having their own websites, as they see them as an unnecessary expense when marketplaces are bringing all the traffic – often stealing any traffic away from the retailer’s own site to boot. But this is a mistake.
Ultimately, sellers need to build a brand and to do that, they need their own identity. The key is to use marketplaces to sell their products, but through exemplary service based around price, delivery flexibility, returns and general customer service to can drive consumers to start using their site.
Using marketplaces in a smart way
Let’s not forget, marketplaces essentially deliver first-time customers every time anyone shops with a seller, making the cost of acquisition quite high. In the past, the cost of acquiring a customer was spread over subsequent visits and the ability to build a relationship that allowed for repeat, up- and cross-selling. Marketplaces don’t drive that; they simply drive customers loyal to the marketplace to return. When they do, they may or may not find a particular seller. Using all the above tricks and tips, sellers can drive consumers back to their own site – or even into their own store – and start building a beautiful relationship.
The latest trends in e-commerce, market strategy and technologies will be discussed in April 2016 at the InternetRetailing Expo in Birmingham, UK. To find out more and register for free, click here.
Paul Skeldon is mobile editor for InternetRetailing
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