We’re all familiar with the startup phase of any business: You have an idea. Then, you test assumptions against market demand, acquire customers, iterate, scale and hope to achieve growth. Among these steps, acquiring customers and keeping them  can certainly be challenging.

But online marketplaces – such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Etsy, JD.com, Lazada, JOOR, The Iconic, Wayfair and many others – have disrupted what it means to start a business.

 Now there are 1.79 billion people worldwide purchasing goods online, which has become common practice for convenience, competitive prices and to have a variety of options.Statista-Digital-Buying-Growth

Digital buying is on the rise and predicted to continue with steady growth

There’s no denying that online marketplaces are becoming the favorite destination for online shoppers. Almost 70% of Australians visit one every month, and revenues for marketplace platform providers around the world are predicted to reach $40.1 billion in 2022.

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The benefits of marketplaces

1) Visibility - Your products now have the opportunity to be seen by millions of people. Not only do marketplaces have a huge online presence, they also get a ton of daily traffic. eBay alone has 172 million active users globally. Certain marketplaces, like Etsy, can also provide you access to a large but highly targeted customer base of 33.4 million buyers searching for handcrafted, artisanal items, for example.

2) Infrastructure - You no longer need to worry about hiring a marketer to establish your brand or a web developer to create a website. Marketplaces have been developed to host a huge variety of products to reach and sell to millions of buyers every day. Online shoppers visit these marketplaces for the convenience of all-in-one shopping, product and price comparisons, and a streamlined checkout and shipping experience. As a seller, marketplaces also have the infrastructure and tools to ensure the transaction from the warehouse to the buyer’s hands is a seamless one.

3) Credibility and trust - Marketplaces like Walmart, JOOR, and Amazon have terms and conditions (and employees) in place with sellers to ensure their customers can expect quality goods and service -- from the payment system to the return policy.


Selling on LazadaLINK / Lazada site for Singapore shoppers

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The challenges of listing in marketplaces

1) Marketplace fees - Setting up shop on someone else’s property comes at a price. Most sites take a portion of your sale as a fee in return for letting you sell “for free”. Others have a listing fee, a membership fee, a monthly fee, or a final value fee. They can amount to as much as 25% of a sale. It’s crucial to review these sellers fees to understand how much money you’ll keep -- and how much you’ll pay -- to sell online at top-selling marketplaces.

2) Getting lost in the crowd - If your products are popular and easy to source, there may be hundreds (if not thousands) of other sellers competing with you. Since it’s also easy to sell on these platforms, expect a ton of competition and even from the marketplace itself. For example, Amazon not only allows businesses to sell on their platform, but they also have their own branded inventory promoted to the same customer base. To differentiate their products, some sellers go through customer reviews to assess wishes, complaints, and other feedback. These insights help improve their own product in time for manufacturing, branding and site listing.

3) Little to no branding - Marketplaces exist to better their brand, not yours. Moreover, when customers are browsing, their focus is finding the perfect item, not necessarily your brand. Starting May 2018, eBay phased out custom store designs. But now that more buyers are shopping on their mobile phones and tablets, marketplaces want to ensure their websites load blazingly fast without getting bogged down by Javascript or CSS just to make branded pages look pretty.

4) Customers aren’t yours - You read that right. When a shopper makes a purchase on Amazon, all customer information is handled by Amazon and used for the benefit of Amazon. For privacy purposes, no information is passed on to you, the seller. Yes, you made the sale, but you haven’t acquired the customer; disallowing you from re-targeting them for future sales. eBay and Etsy do release information to sellers but, ultimately, they control which data is transferred to sellers.

Selling on Etsy

Plan for growth

If there’s one factor that drives an exceptional customer experience, it’s operational excellence. True operational excellence refers to achieving a high standard as a result of continuous improvements and practical business principles.

With ratings and reviews as the currency of marketplaces, it will be crucial to deliver on operational excellence. Poor operations = poor reviews.

According to research by IHL, ineffective inventory management costs eCommerce businesses a huge $1.75 trillion in lost revenue every year. These global losses fall into three categories:

ineffective inventory management costs eCommerce businesses a huge $1.75 trillion in lost revenue every year

That means that your business needs to be able to:

  • manage multichannel orders, even with third-party logistic providers;
  • seamlessly track inventory and fulfillment;
  • accurately predict product demand with forecasting tools;
  • increase revenues by avoiding stock-outs or overstocks; and
  • provide customers with protection against scams and terrible customer service.

Without having these things in place, you’ll enter a perpetual cycle of catch-up and potentially hurt your brand in the process.


At the end of the day, marketplaces are a huge opportunity for brands to dramatically increase sales volumes and expand their customer base.

Regardless of which platform you choose, do your research to ensure it’s the best fit for the long-term growth of your brand. Rather than treating these channels as isolated sales points, make absolutely sure that your overall sales, marketing, and technology strategy are designed to deliver maximum customer value and delight, ensuring that your brand will stand out, compete, and grow.

Lesser known marketplaces to consider:

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.


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