When Jeff Bezos set up Amazon in 1994, no one could have predicted how it would not only usher in the era of e-commerce, but also how it would create the whole marketplace economy that in many ways drives retail today.
Marketplaces have revolutionised e-commerce in two ways. Firstly, they have levelled the playing field and allowed all manner of SME retailers and niche offerings – Mom and Pop artisan craft brands, right through to eclectic retro clothes sellers – to play in e-commerce. Secondly, they have given 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. First, the shopper has to have more product choice, highly competitive pricing and better service. Additionally, the sellers using the site must have a lucrative new sales channel where the operator has increased traffic, sales and profits.
But, as a seller, marketplaces are your ‘frenemy’ – on the one hand they deliver vast amounts of eyeballs and potential shoppers to your door and help you sell stuff, but they also kill repeat business and loyalty as the customer sees the marketplace as the brand they have dealt with, not you. And you want them to fall in love with you.
In this day and age you can’t afford not to use marketplaces, so how can you best use them? Follow these six steps to help you on the road to becoming a super seller.
1. Take pride in your listings
The most important thing is to take pride in how you appear on marketplaces. Above all, make it easy for buyers. The consumer feasts first with their eyes: make sure that you are awash with good images that really sell the product.
2. Be concise
Make sure that your opening paragraph about the product is clear, to the point and not a load of waffle. By all means, list the products’ many features – and even tell the customer about your business – but leave that for later. You only have a tiny amount of time to get their attention, so use it wisely.
3. Spread your wings
Don’t be shy; put yourself and your products on as many different marketplaces that seem appropriate. Marketplaces are designed to suck customers up and so to get in front of as many people as possible, you need to be everywhere. Tailor what you say and how you display to each marketplace’s nuances as you see fit. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
4. The tipping point
Understand the triggers that get your customers to buy particular products and make sure that they are listed at the top. Also, make the most of encouraging reviews, recommendations, feedback and star ratings.
5. Build trust
This will help the marketplace see you as a trusted brand and propel you 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 you need to make sure that you are liked and loved by as many customers as possible.
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 you specifically. So how do you build loyal customers from a marketplace? Well, it’s hard; however there are some things you can do. Great customer service, speedy delivery, great reviews and feedback help. But simple things such as putting a ‘X per cent off when you shop with us again’ voucher (ideally that drives them to your own site) in with the delivery can be an effective way of turning that customer who found you on a marketplace by accident into a regular customer and advocate for you as a 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, you need to build a brand and to do that you need your own identity. The key is to use marketplaces to sell your products, but through exemplary service based around price, delivery flexibility, returns and general all-round customer service you can drive them to start using your site – and the building of a beautiful relationship can commence.
Ian Jindal is an experienced multichannel retailer, Editor-in-Chief of Internet Retailing and board-level advisor.