Regardless of whether you're a small start-up looking to build your business, or you're an established merchant looking to either expand your reach or test international markets, online marketplaces are great platforms to sell on.
The fact is, there are a whole host of benefits when it comes to selling on an established marketplace, but as with any business decision, deciding on which marketplace is right for you shouldn't be taken lightly. Here are six things you should consider before selecting your marketplace.
1. Marketplace traffic
As one of the biggest benefits of selling on a marketplace is the ready-made customer base, before anything else we would recommend that you check the site's traffic. While the quality of visitors is arguably more important, understanding the quantity of website traffic is still worthwhile, particularly if you're looking at the less-established, niche marketplaces.
2. Ready-made customers doesn't mean ready-made sales
While we've mentioned that marketplaces provide a ready-made customer base, don't mistake this as meaning ready-made sales. Marketplaces are essentially platforms that give you access to people who are actively looking to make a purchase, potentially for something that you sell, but it is ultimately down to you as a seller to ensure that these potential customers not only find your listing, but also convert.
So how exactly do you drive traffic to your page?
While there are a range of best practices for achieving this, some of the most common tactics include:
Optimising your listings
The search function on a marketplace operates in a similar way to any other search engine, simply by ranking your product based on a number of factors, including keywords.
In order to ensure your listings are getting found by potential customers, you should start by thinking about which words and search terms your customers will be using to find a product that you sell, and you can even go one step further and use Google's Keyword tool, which can provide you with insight into how popular these search terms are.
In order to better optimise your listings, ensure that you are also selecting the product categories and subcategories that best match your item, as this will help match your product to relevant user searches.
Boosting your item's visibility
Another factor that a marketplace will take into account when ranking your product, is your item-level sales history. If you sell high quantities of a product, it will typically be seen to be of a higher relevance to the users' search query and often rank higher.
Now, while this doesn't necessarily help if you are starting out and have little to no sales history, one of the quickest ways to overcome this is by combining related items, in other words a product that has various sizes and/or colours, into a variation listing.
This will allow for a combined score, rather than diluting your score over multiple listings.
Contributing within an online community
Marketplaces such as Etsy have communities where like-minded enthusiasts engage and promote each other's work. While this won't be applicable to every type of business, if it is a good fit for your retail company then we would recommend leveraging this exposure in order to expand your reach.
3. Fee structure
When selling on a marketplace, there are fees and costs that you will need to take into account. Start by researching the site's fee structure and determine whether they solely charge on selling commission, whether they have a listing fee, or have an entirely different structure.
You will also need to consider any potential additional fees including shipping fees, marketing fees and any other costs that could be incurred through the use of optional or compulsory support.
4. Support from the marketplace
It's worth being aware that the majority of marketplaces offer support to help merchants get the most from their site, whether this be in the form of tools for marketing and sales, or having access to a dedicated account manager.
While this may or may not be a requirement for you, we would recommend that you research what support is provided and whether ot not it comes at an additional cost.
5. Rules and regulations
Despite the benefits of selling on a marketplace, it should come as no surprise that as a seller you will have far less flexibility and control than you would have selling on your own website.
For instance, it might be difficult to effectively showcase your branding on some marketplaces, although some sites will enable you to set up your own store within the marketplace.
An additional thing to consider is whether or not there are specific rules you are required to comply with when it comes to returns. An example of this is eBay's Money Back Guarantee policy.
6. Managing multiple sales channels
If you sell on a marketplace, it's likely that you're either currently selling through multiple sales channels or you eventually will be. What we mean by this is that you are selling either on multiple marketplaces, an online marketplace and a website, or even a marketplace, website and a physical store.
While each of these options are great for expanding your reach and maximising business growth, the process of managing these multiple channels manually can come at a huge cost to your business.
Specifically, this can involve the time-intensive task of manually listing products across all channels and updating them each time you make a sale, as well as the requirement to monitor, manage and fulfill orders on individual channels.
As a result, you face the risk of human error, overselling and increased costs, which can impact customer satisfaction, brand reputation and your profit margins.
The use of an inventory and order management solution significantly reduces these risks, enabling you to synchronise your stock across all channels, automate key process and manage your orders all from a single screen. And that's barely scratching the surface.