How to get started selling on marketplaces

The way we sell products online has drastically changed over the years. Single-store online storefronts are increasingly dismissed in favor of platforms & aggregate storefronts or as you may better know them, marketplaces. Some examples include, Amazon, Ebay, Zalando & Etsy to name a few.

Considering that 90% of shoppers begin their product searches on digital channels, this is hardly surprising. What’s even less surprising, is the year-on-year increase of these numbers.

As it currently stands, around 40-50% of shoppers now start out on marketplaces such as Amazon or Ebay. At the current pace, practically everyone has or will have shifted to the marketplace ecosystem over the next few years – if not sooner.

The clearest difference between traditional online shops and marketplaces boils down to one thing: Customer Choice.

Since its conception, User Choice has always been an integral part of the internet. In the early days however, this freedom of choice was celebrated. As of right now, the freedom of choice we truly have has been drastically diminished, a lot of the time monitored, and all of the time, contested.

Right now, everyone is fighting for choice dominance. Fighting to ensure that our clicks are going to – or will be going – to them. Taking steps to encourage our return if we do end up straying. It’s only natural that this choice would expand to the realm of online shopping, to marketplaces – and so should you.

Marketplaces have the innate ability to benefit both the users / sellers / online shops as well as the marketplace itself.
By listing your store or products, and depending on your desired goals, marketplaces can help with a plethora of desired objectives such as brand awareness, product visibility, or customer outreach.

How does one begin their marketplace journey?

At the beginning of course! And by that, I mean the beginning of your marketplace career.

Like with any new endeavor, you should first consider what your objectives are – and the methods in which you will attempt to reach those heights.

Speaking strictly of marketplaces, there are various goals which can apply to different situations, depending on where you are in your seller journey.

For example, you can make your marketplace endeavors focus to:

  • Increase sales – By offering a wider range of products on the marketplace front and focusing on getting those products more exposure & to a larger bracket of users, you may be able to increase sales exponentially.
  • Increase Brand Awareness – By using the marketplace to focus on a specific item – or subset of items – you can largely tailor the experience to complement your brand, rather than focus on sales and distribution specifically. Think of it as a way to guide customers further down your conversion funnel by offering another point of entry.
  • Access New Customer Segments – By pushing a specific product category that was otherwise restricted to you with brand limitations, etc., you can run experiments and test these products that could allow access to entirely new customer segments, which means, more… brand awareness, sales… more everything!

Ultimately, the goals and objectives you set are entirely up to you and what exactly you want to get out of the marketplace paradigm.

Once your goals and objectives are set, developing an air-tight plan of action is your best bet for success.

There are often misconception when it comes to marketplaces and their structure, thinking that it’s an easier venture, or requires less planning. While for slightly different reasons than usual, this is not true in the slightest.

A lesson to learn early on in the lucrative world of online shopping is that nothing should ever be underestimated.

Marketplaces are no different.

If you run, heck, fly, before you learn how to walk, then you are in for a rude awakening, my dear readers.

There are a lot more elements to take into account than one might think. Too many to risk rushing into  it without consideration and planning beforehand. For example, how will you deal with:

  • Customer questions
  • Negative Feedback
  • Finance
  • Legal Issues
  • Ad Campaigns

These are all the constantly moving parts that make up the core marketplace experience – and like any machine, it will only run as well as the sum of its parts.

Before we dive into the how, let’s quickly look at the what (to avoid).

Some common mistakes include:

  • Setting unclear objectives.
    We touched on this briefly. Think about your marketplace approach, don’t just start listing and selling, guns blazing.
  • Pushing the Wrong products.
    Consider your marketplace audience. Some items may simply be unsuitable for the way the marketplace is structured (or may simply be unsustainable altogether, based on competition, price, or market saturation)
  • Inconsistency between different channels.
    This is arguably the most important factor to be aware of as it pertains directly to your image as a brand. If different channels (Facebook, Amazon, etc.) are managed by different departments, it could lead to discrepancies such as brand image inconsistencies, or more importantly, fluctuations in pricing. This is particularly important as the customer journey is now more fluid than ever, often moving from one channel to the next for more ideas, more content, I guess you could call it an enhanced buying experience. In cases like these, differences in pricing can have incredibly negative effects on the customer so be vigilant of this possibility.

Now that we’ve looked at what to look out for (and what not to do) let’s discuss the steps for success.

Choosing the right marketplace

We’ve mentioned this a few times already but that’s how important it is. Choosing the right marketplace is integral to your success. It won’t matter if you have the greatest product in the history of products if you list it on a platform that won’t support its success.

Furthermore, pay close attention to the entry requirements for each marketplace. Each has varying criteria that you’ll need to follow to avoid possible account suspension.

Next you should very carefully select your products. They should be fewer in number to begin with, easily identifiable to consumers, and should sell well (in a general consumer sens). Ideally these should also be products with low return rates and high ROI.

Creating Your Account

When creating your account, look into all the settings and tools that could help you in any way or give you an edge over your competition. For example, if you are an already-established brand, you can let the marketplace know and they could give you more control or access over your account.

Listing Your Products & Optimising your content

When listing your products, make sure you do everything by the book. Make sure they are in the right category, have appropriate tags and stand out.

Remember, you will now be constantly competing directly with other brands & suppliers, meaning that you want to stand out as soon as possible.

You want to tailor these optimisations (images, titles, keywords, descriptions & tags) to your customers. Specifically towards the audience you’re targeting on the specific platform you are on.

Green Means GO!

Now that the stage is set and everything is in place, you are finally ready to press that Green button that has so intently been staring you right in the eyes for the past few weeks. Congratulations! You are now ready to start selling! (which is arguably the point where the real work starts…) So, what now?

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!

One of the most integral parts of selling online, especially within a marketplace. You could say that reviews are the currency of online marketplaces!

This means that as soon as you start making sales, it is important to start gathering reviews immediately. This includes finding ways to engage your customers and guide them to various ways to engage and review your products.

Ad Campaigns and You

Once you have reached a comfortable stage in your current marketplace, it’s time to run some ads. No matter how well you are doing, you could always be doing better (especially if your sales are going well to begin with).

By running these ad campaigns and reviewing the overall results, you can then further optimize both your listings and your ad campaigns based on the data you collect. This data is invaluable as it will not only allow you to better your image, but also allow you to bolster your sales, reach a wider demographic / audience and more importantly, allow you to expand beyond your norm.

Reaching this stage is a wonderful thing as it allows you to start experimenting. Maybe you have a new product you’re not quite sure of and want to see how well it engages with a segment of your current audience. Most marketplaces have analytics and tools that allow you to run any test you like & be the judge of what works and what doesn’t.

More is more

There are limits in what you can achieve per marketplace. As each marketplace targets different aspects or may be more focused on certain objectives over others, you’ll never quite achieve everything you’ve imagined by limiting yourself to one marketplace only.

Thankfully, now that you’ve set everything up, run tests, seen what works and what doesn’t, optimized your content & products and are finally comfortable in this one marketplace, it will be much easier to take what you have learned – and apply it to other marketplaces that are compatible with both your objectives in place & the new challenges that these new storefronts may allow you to overcome.

How to get started selling on marketplaces