Multi-channel expansion is always in the minds of entrepreneurs and founders. But expansion could mean a strain on time, budgets and resources.

With consumers’ attention split across several channels – from social media, traditional and online ads, word of mouth, brick-and-mortar stores, catalogs and online marketplaces – which channel should you expand to first? Expansion would also require upleveling marketing efforts to further build a brand and acquire a new audience.

What if we told you that expansion into marketplaces best fits the bill.

What is an Online Marketplace?

If you’ve shopped on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, JOOR, Lazada, or The Iconic, you’ve visited an online marketplace.

As the name suggests, it’s not tangible or reachable physically but can be found online. It’s a type of eCommerce site where multiple third parties and vendors provide info on products and services. The transactions are handled and processed by the marketplace operator.

Related blog: Selling in online marketplaces: Your ticket to growth

Pros/Cons of Expanding Your eCommerce Business to Online Marketplaces

Pros:

  • They’re hugely popular. Amazon alone is projected to capture 50% of market share by 2021. Almost 70% of Australians visit a marketplace every month.
  • You gain access to new audiences. You’ll find a lot of different types of people browsing them. eBay alone has 172 million active users globally. Joining a marketplace can help you break out of your current niche and sell to people who might otherwise never have known your brand.
  • Evolve from brand building to performance marketing and SEO. Most customers don’t learn about new products until they see them “stocked in shelves”. Marketplaces provide better brand exposure. This means focusing instead on garnering positive reviews and gathering customer data to better serve your customers. 

    Also listing products on a marketplace can improve SEO results, helping shoppers find your product. According to Alexa.com, 17.5% of eBay users visited Google before clicking on to eBay.

alexa-ebay

  • Earned trust. Since marketplace operators have their own vetting process before sellers can come aboard, there’s an instant level of trust gained from customers. If people trust the marketplace, therefore they trust you too.
  • Start-up is fast and simple. Since marketplaces take care of the hassles of selling – from infrastructure setup, design, hosting, order processing, handling financial transactions, and even fulfillment – you save a lot of time and money.
  • Global selling is built in. Most marketplaces operate internationally. If you decide to sell products on one, you’re given the option to expand your reach with minimal effort to other countries as well.
  • List only select products. There’s no need to list your entire catalog on marketplaces. Best thing to do is watch what’s selling and performing well. You have control what belongs and which products need to be removed from listings. Double-down on categories that are doing well with certain based on buyer-types and pricing levels.

Related blog: Amazon Inventory Management Add-On with TradeGecko

Cons: 

  • Customers aren’t yours. Many marketplaces, like Amazon, restrict your ability to communicate directly with buyers. eBay and Etsy do release information to sellers but, ultimately, they control which data is transferred to sellers. For privacy purposes, no information is passed on to you, the seller.
  • You’re up against fierce competition. Differentiating your brand is trickier in large marketplaces. It makes it easy for shoppers to compare similar products in one place, offered by competitors (e.g. “People Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed…”). There are instances where competitors may copy well-performing pages for their own, but with small tweaks.
  • Additional fees. Setting up shop in someone else’s “land” comes at a price. Some marketplaces will take a percentage of your sales in exchange for letting you sell “for free”. Others have a listing fee, a seller’s fee, a monthly fee, or a final value fee.

Online marketplaces offer different things to different kinds of buyers:

MARKETPLACE TYPE OF BUYERS
MercadoLibre South Americans in search of electronics, cell phones, home & garden, fashion. It’s the 8th most visited site in the world; can sell across the whole of Latin America.
JOOR Fashionistas searching for luxe brands, clothes and accessories.
Jumia South African shoppers can buy television sets, appliances, hardware and fashion from this Nigerian marketplace.
Lazada Largest site in Southeast Asia (owned by Alibaba) with 23 million active buyers searching for electronic gear, computer parts, motorcycle parts, homeware, toys & fashion accessories.
Wayfair Homeowners and apartment dwellers in need of furniture and home accessories delivered to their front doorstep.
Houzz Started as an inspiration platform among architects, interior designers, and homeowners. Now lists furniture, decor, lighting, storage and more.
Etsy Buyers looking for handcrafted, artisanal goods.
Alibaba Provides C2C, B2C, and B2B sales services via web portals, including electronic payment services, shopping search engines, and cloud computing services. Beauty was the fastest moving product. China’s middle-class are looking for high-quality products to satisfy discretionary spend and increasingly sophisticated lifestyle.
Fnac Large French eCommerce site with 15+ million unique monthly visitors. Europeans looking for consumer electronics, eBooks and media shop here.
The Iconic Australian online fashion and sports retailer with more than 1,000 local and international brands and 60,000 fashion and sports products for men and women.


How to Succeed in Online Marketplaces and Beyond

Starting your multi-channel expansion with online marketplaces first can provide your business with additional streams of income, access to new audiences and high volumes of traffic, and a well-funded and marketed infrastructure.

However, in order to stand out in saturated markets, you need a strong brand and a fantastic product that people will write home (or on social media) about.

Put the customer in the center of your channel expansion strategy and drive them back to your eCommerce store for repeat purchases.

Here’s how:

1. Improve values derived from online marketplace

    • On Amazon, for example, take the time to place your products in the right category. This  way, your products will be in the right search areas.
    • Create unique and compelling product descriptions. Address customer pain points or frequently asked questions. This will help differentiate your products and businesses in a crowded market. Don’t scrape from others.
    • Use high-quality, well-photographed images to help your product page stand out.

2. Encourage customers to transition from your online marketplace listings by:

    • Including your marketplace link and web store URL on your social media profiles.
    • Offer incentives – such as coupon codes, discounts, loyalty points or free gifts – to get customers to order from your web store instead.

3. Create a positive emotional feeling with fun packaging

    • Delight customers with fun and environmentally-responsible packaging, which could also encourage them to share the unboxing experience on social media. They will love the extra touch.

4. Mind your parcels

    • Don’t forget to include branded content in your parcels. If you have full control over the shipping process, put your website address on the shipping label and the invoice. Inside the package, include your business card, a postcard, branded stickers or magnets, or a handwritten note to help drive their attention to your website. Let them know they could go straight to you the next time they order.

5. Include a personal note and your contact info with returns and exchanges

    • With returns and exchanges, most marketplaces allow sellers to include a personal note in email correspondence. Write the copy from a personal perspective as a business owner. Don’t forget to include your email address, website URL and social media links.

As you expand, continue to experiment. Ensuring you have inventory, product listings and orders flowing smoothly is the key to your success.

Having the ability to forecast demand will help you estimate your future sales quantity and place purchase orders for your stock on time to meet the demand. This will help to prevent your products from going out of stock or from over ordering variants that aren't selling well.

Inventory management and highly advanced demand forecasting technology can be at your fingertips. 

TradeGecko is a powerful platform for managing your commerce business.

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