Adding Marketplaces to Your Selling Game: Tips from a Market Leader
Selling online without selling on marketplaces means missing huge revenue streams. This entire landscape has undergone a massive transformation in recent years. Today, more than half of buyers skip search engines like Google and go directly to marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Target or Houzz to find the products they need. There are now well over 100 marketplace options for brands and retailers, each with its own set of rules, requirements and built-in audiences. With billions of product listings competing for the attention of millions of consumers, the stakes are higher than ever.
That means it’s no longer enough to simply list products. Any online merchant who wants to maximize opportunities on these channels must first master a mountain of mission-critical steps. From competitive advertising to automated pricing and fast fulfillment, there is a lot to consider.
I had the chance to sit down with Derek Conlin, Senior Director, Global Business Development, Strategic Alliances, and Corporate Development at ChannelAdvisor to get expert insights into how businesses can take advantage of online marketplaces. Here are his six tips for success.
Take Advantage of Comprehensive Advertising Options
Success with selling on marketplaces starts when listings land in front of the right, ready-to-buy customers—at just the right time. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Every marketplace is unique and offers different advertising opportunities. For example, sellers who advertise on Amazon tend to grow two to three times faster than those that don’t.
“In leveraging the full range of marketing options on Amazon and other marketplaces, successful sellers understand it is not a one-and-done process,” said Mr. Conlin. “They continually monitor campaigns and make adjustments using a wide array of advanced strategies: targeting competitor ASINS, mining keywords, setting up budget notifications during peak sales days and more.”
Create Optimized Product Content
Why do some products get stuck at the bottom of the page, with low ratings and fewer sales, while others rocket to the top of the product results and have hundreds of reviews? A big part of the equation comes down to optimized product content.
It’s not just what merchants list that matters, but how their listings are structured. Product titles, images, descriptions, keywords and categories have a significant impact on how often your products show in marketplace search results. Furthermore, accurate, rich product content is often what compels consumers to make a purchase.
“As your product data is fed to marketplaces and transformed into listings, high-quality content can be the difference between a product that stands out and one that gets buried,” said Mr. Conlin. “That is why a growing number of retailers and brands are relying on algorithmic data feeds to ensure product information not only meets the unique standards of each marketplace but gets noticed as well.”
Engage with Consumers
More meaningful interactions with consumers on eCommerce marketplaces can have a direct impact on sales and revenue. According to ChannelAdvisor estimates, 54% of consumers make decisions based not on product price or features, but on customer service. 19% say it is the most important factor when deciding which brands and retailers to buy from.
“Taking steps to provide exceptional consumer experiences isn’t just good for a brand’s reputation. It’s also a way to capture repeat purchases,” said Mr. Conlin. “On marketplaces, this will take many different forms. For one, companies need to proactively monitor their reviews. Recent research reveals that 80% of consumers trust companies with a lot of customer reviews. It’s not just the positive reviews that matter; responding quickly and effectively to negative customer comments will increase trust for 80% of consumers.”
Solid returns processes also go a long way in securing customer loyalty. While many consumers avoid sellers with strict return policies, the opposite is true of the more generous ones: 96% will continue to buy products from a brand after having a positive return experience defined by hassle-free policies, free return shipping and automatic refunds. Better yet, more than 60% will purchase new products to replace the items they’re returning.
Diversify Your Carrier Strategy
Having consistent access to the most competitive carrier pricing and delivery options is imperative to stay ahead of consumer demands for lightning-fast deliveries. It’s important to have a full range of options to offer the quickest, most affordable delivery method for each order. For many shipping scenarios, it’s best to use private carriers like UPS and FedEx. For others, a lower-cost option like USPS may be ideal.
Diversifying carrier strategy, rather than relying on one single option, is now a necessity when selling on marketplaces. There’s no one right way to deliver orders, but as a general rule an online merchant should test out different options until a mix that consistently gets the job done is identified.
Amazon may be the go-to marketplace for many eCommerce consumers, but it's far from your only avenue for growth. For example, did you know that Walmart Canada gets more than 23 million unique visits each month? Or that Shop.com has over 3 million loyal customers and 180,000 Independent Shop Consultants? These and dozens of other marketplaces can open the floodgates to millions more purchase-ready shoppers around the world.
“That’s why, if you’re serious about growing an eCommerce business, marketplace expansion is a must,” said Mr. Conlin. “Different consumer needs are met on different marketplaces and having a presence across channels keeps your inventory flow strong.” According to Channel Advisor data, successful brands and retailers have been known to increase sales as much as 1,250% after listing on niche channels such as Facebook, Sears, Walmart, and eBay.
The key is to determine which marketplaces are the best fits for your product catalog. Getting products in front of the right consumers might mean moving beyond the marketplace giants. Before expanding to new marketplaces, have a process in place to keep marketplace management from becoming overwhelming. For most eCommerce companies, the easiest solution is to leverage a marketplace integration that brings all their inventory, sales, and product content from dozens of different marketplaces to one, unified portal.
Automate to Accelerate Fulfillment
To truly excel at selling on marketplaces and increase eCommerce sales, fast and affordable fulfillment is critical. However, in the era of same-day deliveries, it can also be incredibly costly and time-consuming. That’s where automation comes in. Successful sellers often use advanced Pack & Ship technology to increase rapid fulfillment processes, like:
- Intelligent order routing to have each order sent to the most effective fulfillment partner based on shipping speeds, delivery fees, warehouse locations and other factors
- Automated inventory management to ensure inventory levels are always up-to date across multiple marketplaces
- Automated shipment tracking to automatically mark packages as “shipped” as soon as delivery is initiated, and to ensure buyers have the most accurate, up-to-date information on package locations
Integrate with Your Business System
Manually managing orders from marketplaces, especially when selling on several platforms, can quickly overwhelm your business. In times of seasonal order hikes, the lack of integration might trip up even a meticulously planned online retail campaign. Integrated solutions create a seamless connection with your ERP, which is crucial to reduce manual order processing that results in inevitable delays, errors and unnecessary returns.
Organizations can mitigate the risk of customer disappointment by selecting a unified commerce platform that integrates key order, fulfillment and inventory data between all marketplaces and ERP, third-party logistics (3PL) and/or warehouse management systems. This option makes it possible to accelerate your growth and maximize the strategic value of online marketplaces by processing those orders and managing associated inventory much faster and easier, from a single location.
The benefits of this approach include:
- Enhanced efficiency and automation with cloud-based, plug-and-play data integration between over 100 of the world’s top online marketplaces and an array of ERP systems
- Near-real-time data visibility across orders, fulfillment details and inventory positions between all marketplaces and business system
- Consolidation of multiple portals and ad hoc/homegrown processes into one, cloud-based platform that is simple to implement, cost-effective and highly scalable
The Future of Selling on Marketplaces
Marketplaces are amazing channels that can elevate your online presence and boost your performance. But standing out from the crowd with so much competition is a common challenge for brands and retailers. Following these proven practices will allow you to connect with more customers, optimize operations and, ultimately, grow sales like never before.
*Data pulled from 7 Best Practices for Selling on Marketplaces eBook.
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About the Author: Yegor Kuznetsov is a former international news agency editor and a marketing communications veteran who loves telling customer success stories. Over the last 20 years, he has been working for an array of dynamic technology companies, most recently with TrueCommerce, a global provider of trading partner connectivity, integration and unified commerce solutions.