You created a store within a marketplace. Now what? [Opinion]

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A very common approach for brands and retailers that want to start selling online is to set up a ‘shop-in-shop’, or a branded store within a marketplace such as the Philips store on Souq.com.

In more mature markets, such as the US or China, brands say they generate the majority of their sales from these marketplaces. This is due to many factors, but a key reason is the sheer size of sites such as Amazon, Ebay or Etsy in the US, and Taobao, T-mall and JD in China.

Marketplaces provide companies without direct-to-consumer online channels with access to an international audience, that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

In the GCC, we have a number of marketplace options, including generic ones such as Souq.com and Jadopado, more specialized ones such as Mumzworld, Wysada or Joigifts. Before the end of the year we expect to have even more options such as Noon and, possibly, Jumia.

Despite these developments a number of brand managers and retailers I have spoken with in the last three months complain that sales coming from marketplaces are often small and, in some cases, not worth the trouble.

Before reaching a conclusion about whether a certain marketplace is a suitable channel for your brand or products, I would like to propose a list of things that you need to consider.

Choosing the right marketplace. Managing your presence within a marketplace takes a lot of work, so you will need to select the right one(s) to work with. Your vetting list should include:

  • The amount of traffic it is receiving. Similarweb.com is a good starting point to understand and compare the traffic of the various marketplaces.
     
  • The kind of customers who shop in this marketplace and if there is enough overlap with your target audience. The range of products and their price range will give you a very good idea.
     
  • The product categories that do well in the marketplace. The best-selling categories and brands will be featured strongest on the homepage of the website or the app.

Merchandising

  • The number of products you should list with a marketplace depends on your category, but a good rule of thumb would be at least 50 separate SKUs (stock keeping units) for each category you compete in and around 200 SKUs if your products compete in only one category. As an example the Chicco shop on Mumzworld holds almost 800 items, while the Nestle official store in Singapore’s Lazada has only 58 items. This will allow you to create a reasonably large landing page and to compete with other sellers in the same, or similar category.
     
  • Unless the marketplace has an algorithm for this, sort your products by putting at the top a combination of the best sellers and some of the latest available. Keep testing until you are happy with the conversion rate, and refresh frequently.
     
  • While for many sellers or brands product pricing is fixed, for those where it's not pricing makes a huge difference. This is especially true for categories with many sellers offering the same or similar products. Technology has advanced a lot here and, for example, with Amazon repricing software such as Feedvisor or Teikametrics allows you to monitor competitors' prices and adjust yours accordingly. Another example of leveraging these tools would be to increase the price for certain products if your competitors run out of stock.

Product presentation. To increase the conversion rate of your products versus that of your competitors’, most marketplaces provide you with only few tools so you must get the most out of them.

  • Include two to five photos depending on the product category, taken as professionally as possible, and ideally original. The key here is making sure that you provide the customer with enough angles and detail to make an informed purchasing decision.
     
  • Product names and descriptions should be clear, as brief as possible and only as long as necessary. Be sure to use keywords in adherence to search engine optimization principles. Optimization here should be done both for Google and for the marketplace’s own internal search engine.
     
  • Adding sizing information as per your target country’s measuring system and providing the right product attributes, will help your products get listed properly when filters are applied and increase their amount of impressions.
     
  • Encourage your customers to write reviews. Positive reviews affect conversion rate in two ways, first, by giving assurance to other shoppers; second, by making products appear higher up in the search results.
     
  • Generally, the more expensive and unique the product, the richer the content should be, as products which are expensive and not well-known are always the hardest to sell online.

Fulfillment and shipping

  • Certain marketplaces will offer to hold stock for fast-moving SKUs in their warehouses to ensure fulfilment and to ship faster. In the case of Souq.com, for example, your products will be given the ‘fulfilled by Souq.com’ badge and appear higher in the site’s search results, which will make them sell better.
     
  • Ship as soon as possible and not later than the agreed service level agreement. Remember that delivery and fulfillment is a big aspect of the overall customer experience. By delivering the best customer experience you can positively differentiate yourself from the other sellers and build trust with your new and repeat customers.

Promotion

  • Many marketplaces provide several options to promote your products within their website. This includes creating customized brand pages, participating in shopping events such as Black Friday, adding your promotions in the marketplace’s marketing calendar via newsletters or notifications, sponsoring categories targeted to a specific audience and, if numbers work, paying for a banner campaign.
     
  • You should always strive to improve your seller rating. To achieve that, it is important to keep the marketplace customer happy, by offering the best quality products, at the best possible price, delivering 100 percent of the time, and within the agreed time frame or faster.

Monitor and review

  • Lastly, it is important to regularly review your relationship with the marketplace and confirm the beneficial impact it has to your brand and business. Your goal should always be profit, so make sure you have a good grip on your true gross margins, calculated after cost of goods sold, commissions, fees, freight costs, refunds and all other related costs.

Following the above listed principles takes a lot of work, but if done if right, you are guaranteed to get the best possible results. Always remember that retailers in a marketplace compete primarily on selection, price and customer service. If you have any thoughts on the tips, let me know in the comment section below.

Feature image via Pexels.com

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