Sell

Effective Business Strategies for Selling on a Marketplace

Phil Forbes
12 min read
Feb 11, 2021
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Marketplaces are a powerful tool in the ecommerce world. Whether you need a place to test the popularity of your product or you're looking to tap into a new audience with an established brand, a marketplace can do the trick. 

Here are a few things to consider when using a marketplace for both a new and established brand.

Launching on a marketplace

An effective go-to-market (GTM) strategy is critical to launching a new product and/or brand on a marketplace. A GTM strategy plans for the effective use of your business resources and increases the likelihood of fast sales and creating a substantial presence on the marketplace. 

A GTM addresses:

A simple GTM strategy is to market your product to a small percentage of your SOM. A SWOT or PEST analysis helps you create your brand's and products’ unique selling points (USP) to help differentiate yourself from your competitors. 

Remember that on a marketplace, you're selling under someone else's banner, making it harder for customers to remember your brand name and build loyalty. Upload brand logos, imagery, and other unique content to your marketplace storefront so that a shopper can’t miss the name of your brand. 

Customize automated emails, and use a tone of voice in messages with your customer that will make you worth remembering. When your customer gets their purchase, your custom-branded packaging will have to make a memorable first impression. 

custom-branded packaging

Expanding to a marketplace

If you already have a stand-alone website and are looking to grow your sales, launching on a marketplace can help you do just that. In fact, nearly half of Amazon shoppers say they always check prices on Amazon before buying from another site. 

Simply put, you may be losing sales by not selling on a marketplace. By placing your products on marketplaces, you’ll literally be putting yourself next to your competition. 

Ask yourself the following:

The answer is in the way you differentiate yourself from your competition. Your USPs are the points that you already communicate in your marketing for your online store. These USPs can be directly related to your product, like benefits and features, as well as your brand, such as a lenient returns policy or a lifetime guarantee. 

Marketplace expansion examples

The Groomed Man Co. is an Australian men's cosmetics company launched in 2012. 

marketplace examples - the froomed man

The brand produces high-quality beard oils and other men's care products. A few years after launch, the industry became very competitive, flooded with brands using low-quality products targeting men that knew nothing about skin or hair care. This made it incredibly hard for the boutique, an understated minimalist brand, to stand out against the noise of manly lumberjacks and burly Vikings. The brand's target customers weren't these kinds of men, and a flood of cheaper products took away some existing loyal customers. 

The team then entertained the idea of selling on a marketplace to get the name in front of ready-to-buy customers. Initial apprehensions were about degrading the brand's reputation by trading on a communal marketplace and whether or not they'd stand out from the crowd, which was their initial problem. 

Comprehensive research of marketplaces was done as well as long-term observation of similar products and brands that had expanded into marketplaces. The call was made that they'd list their most popular products, beard oils, on the Urban Outfitters marketplace. 

After going through an extensive vetting process, The Groomed Man Co. was given the go-ahead to have their products listed on Urban Outfitters

marketplace examples - urban outfitters

To the joy and surprise of the team, they sold their initial delivery of beard oil in a matter of hours. The brand also saw a large number of inquiries from U.S.-based shoppers asking where they could buy the products in-store. 

The golden takeaway from this is that selling on a marketplace presents opportunity. Finding the right marketplace can revolutionize your business. 

Marketplace marketing

When you think "SEO" or “Organic marketing,” your brain automatically goes to “Google.” While Google is the biggest search engine out there, Amazon is the third most-used search engine in the world, after YouTube. 

eBay, Walmart, Etsy, and a host of other marketplaces have their own search engine, each having its own ranking factors just like Google. It pays to read up on search engine optimization tactics for these marketplaces in order to get the most traffic to your listings. Sponsored ads put you at the top of the search results in your marketplace's search engine when users search for a keyword that's relevant to your product, also just like Google.

marketplace examples - ebay

This is an excellent way for you to get initial traffic and sales. While sponsored listings do cost money, they can bring in traffic, and ultimately sales, a lot quicker. On the other hand, SEO is a longer game with a wide array of ranking factors that vary from marketplace to marketplace. 

If you're selling a product that has a lot of competition, consider how hard it is to rank high for relevant keywords as well as the cost to advertise on those keywords. This can help you decide which strategy is best for your product. 

Finding the right marketplace

The “department store” marketplaces, such as Walmart, Amazon, and eBay, are household staples because they're exactly that: department stores in the luxury of your own home. However, there's an ever-increasing number of niche marketplaces. Those are marketplaces that specialize in selling a specific type of product to a particular type, like engaged and ready-to-buy, of buyer. Some of them include:

Treatwell - Hair and skin care.

Society6 - Artist-designed printed products.

Folksy - British handmade crafts.

Stockx - Sneakers and trading cards.

Houzz - Interiors and remodeling services.

Petit Vour - Vegan brands.

Rebelsmarket - Goth and alternative products.

Lab Viva - Life science.

It's also worth noting that local marketplaces may also be a great way to “niche down” into a specific part of the world. For example, if you're trying to establish yourself in the Australian market, Amazon has a presence there, but Catch may be a better option. 

Outside of English-speaking countries, a study by CSA found that 75% of customers want to buy products on an online marketplace in their own language. A further 59% rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Rakuten is the Amazon of the Japanese market. With a culture that’s very westernized with high internet penetration, it may be the ideal marketplace for your business. 

Rakuten Japanese market

Niche marketplaces like those listed above are a great way to get your product in front of warm buyers. However, niche marketplaces also have to market themselves. Thoroughly assess reviews of competitors on your niche marketplace and how the marketplace promotes itself to the broader world. 

Social media marketing

For brands selling on marketplaces, social media is a fantastic channel to reactive past buyers. Depending on your experience with social media marketing, the challenge comes in two parts:

However, the strategy of using social media to drive traffic to a marketplace is questionable. If you've done the work to get your follower's attention, the last thing you want to do is push that follower to a website where your product is listed right next to a competitor. Because of that, it makes more sense to drive traffic to your stand-alone website where you can control the user experience much more. 

That being said, brand advocates may flock to your marketplace listing when you've used social media to show them a promotion. Chatbots are a great way to use Facebook Messenger to not only market these types of promotions but to also share content to previous buyers. 

Pricing

In 2018, 65% of customers said that better prices were the main reason that they do their shopping on a marketplace. However, as marketplaces are breeding grounds for fraudsters, this can often lead to having to undercut yourself to stay competitive. In this case, high-end boutique brands may see marketplaces as an advantageous way to reach more customers without having to sacrifice their luxury pricing model. 

Automatically repricing your product according to demand fluctuations can help you stay competitive when you're selling a large number of SKUs. Automated repricing tools also give you access to historical prices, helping you plan for seasonality. Many veteran marketplace sellers swear by the power of price promotions combined with automatic repricing

Fees

Most marketplaces have fees associated with them. Some standard marketplace fee models may include:

While it's simple to get your head around these, the problems begin when marketplaces start to combine fees. For example, selling on Etsy has a listing fee as well as a commission. Should a customer decide to pay using Etsy's payment gateway, there's a commission fee on that, too. Ultimately, the point here is to be aware of fees. If left unchecked, you'll burn through any profits incredibly quickly. 

Reviews

In a world where you can't touch, hold, and feel a physical item before buying it, the opinions of those that have are essential. So much so that customer product reviews have shaped the way brands market and ultimately operate online. A strong majority of customers, 80%, gradually developed loyalty for a brand over time. This was also due to positive customer reviews and other things like excellent products, good customer service, positive interactions, and staff knowledge and advice.

Most people, 84%, trust online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation. One study went on to say that consumers need to see 40 online reviews before they believe its average star rating.

With this in mind, it's simple to see how reviews and opinions build trust, aid conversion, and help customers commit to the purchase. So, how can you encourage more positive reviews in your marketplace?

More often than not, it's as simple as asking. Automating an email to ask for a review a week after the order has been fulfilled is a good place to start. Include any order numbers so that your customer can validate their review, and make the process as easy as possible. Make the process even easier by incentivizing customers for a review. Just ensure you leave clear instructions on how to write a good customer review

Most importantly, if the marketplace allows it, don't forget to follow up with a review, be it positive or negative. This shows readers that you're engaged and active with your buyers.

Fulfillment

Amazon's Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) truly revolutionized the ecommerce market for sellers when it launched in 2006. It meant that, for a fee, Amazon would manage the inventory and fulfill orders for sellers. FBA meant faster and cheaper shipping for the seller, which has now become the norm. 

If your goal is to provide fast and affordable shipping for your marketplace customers, consider outsourcing your fulfillment to a third-party logistics/fulfillment (3PL/3PF) center. The best carriers are ones that work with your needs and can scale as your business grows. Some 3PL centers also handle returns on your behalf. 

Self-fulfillment is an effective strategy for retail brands selling in-store, on a marketplace, or for online brands searching for initial traction. This total control over the delivery process means that the business is the go-to point of contact for the customer throughout the entire process.

Customer retention and building advocacy

Customer retention is also vital for independent brands selling on a marketplace. If a customer has bought from your shop on a marketplace and fallen in love with your product, would you rather they buy from you again in your marketplace or your independent online store? The answer is obviously in your own online store. 

The good news is that because your customer has already bought from you, the biggest hurdle, trust, has already been cleared. After the initial marketplace purchase, your customer now trusts you, and you can encourage them to buy from you again from your marketplace listing or your online store

Repeat business is an excellent indicator that you're building a brand advocate. When people love a brand, they have less hesitation in buying from that brand. When you notice repeat purchases, try making an effort to reach out to the customer and build a relationship with them. An incentive for referring customers may help them drive even more traffic to your marketplace, especially if your customer's friends are already buying other products on the same marketplace. 

Over to you

Marketplaces come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it's selling some second-hand furniture, dropshipping products, or trying to find a freelancer, the online marketplace has changed the way that we exchange money for goods and services in the modern world. 

In terms of ecommerce, they're a powerful tool for launching a brand and getting initial traction and also for helping an established brand get its name in front of a new audience. Online marketplaces are strict and have their challenges. That's why it's crucial that you don't overinvest in just one sales channel, regardless of whether it's a marketplace or not. 

If you're considering making a marketplace part of your marketing strategy, do your research and find the best one for you. What marketplaces attract your kind of buyers? Answer this question and you'll be well on the way to tapping the potential of a third-party marketplace.