Online marketplaces have come into their own in recent times, as consumers become accustomed to buying an ever-expanding gamut of goods and services via the net.For businesses, the case for establishing a site which displays not only their own wares but those of an army of third-party suppliers can be compelling.Greater visibility, higher sales volumes – revenue increases of between 30 and 50 per cent are not uncommon – and the opportunity to branch into new ranges and categories without risking large amounts of capital, are just a few of the benefits that can accrue. So, what are the secrets to establishing an online marketplace that supercharges your sales and enhances your brand to boot? Here are a few.
Focus on the customer
A marketplace that offers all things to all people already exists. It’s called Amazon. While emulating its strategy may make sense for some businesses, playing to your strengths is more likely to be a strategy that works for yours. You’ll do well to start by focusing on your core customers: identifying their needs and wants and the additional products they really want to buy from you. For Woolworths, it’s things like small appliances, pet supplies and baby goods, rather than car tyres, say, or fast fashion.
Vet your suppliers
While it’s easy enough to connect with a vast number of suppliers, working out who’s worthy of working with you, before you start spruiking their wares is wise. Do your homework: check out their online reviews; place some mystery shopper orders and see how quickly they arrive, if the company already sell online; and decide whether their offering complements or clashes with your own before you bring them on board. Yes, it can be costly and time consuming but so is repairing the damage to your brand if you team up with an organisation whose idea of service and customer experience is at odds with yours.
Build a stellar team
A smoothly functioning marketplace doesn’t create itself. Teamwork is required to get one up and running and ideally the team that does the work will be comprised of experts with a range of backgrounds and skillsets. People with the chops to oversee systems integration and iron out the high-tech hiccups are an obvious choice but equally important are those with a deep knowledge of your existing operations and business model.
Take control of customer service
Yes, the goods are being shipped by third parties but it’s your brand on the site – and your good name at stake if customers aren’t satisfied with what they receive. That’s why you need to set your own policies around things like warranties and returns, and take charge of customer service when things go wrong. It’s an approach that’s working well for Woolworths. They’ve made a sizeable investment in a program and a team that triage issues and complaints and funnels them back to suppliers for action, thereby preventing the need for customers to endure the aggravation of being bounced between businesses.
Make seller success a priority too
Keeping the customer satisfied should be a high priority but not necessarily your only one. Seller success is just as important. Sending new suppliers away with connector software and expecting them to just get on with it is a recipe for problems. Invest in onboarding and supporting them and you’ll turn them into trusted partners who’ll work as hard as you do to make every marketplace sale count.
Don’t walk before you can run. It’s an old saw but, when you’re talking online marketplaces, it makes as much sense as it ever did. Taking on 100 or more suppliers off the bat and hoping for the best is asking for trouble. The businesses we’ve seen do it best have taken the opposite approach: they’ve gone live with a few ‘friendlies’ first, and ironed out the wrinkles before scaling up.
Learn from the mistakes of others
Marketplaces don’t represent uncharted territory. Plenty of big players have grappled with the challenges of setting them up and there’s no need for you to repeat their mistakes. Do your research and team up with an implementation partner that has runs on the board and you’ll stand a good chance of getting your marketplace off the ground with minimal dramas.
Going for growth
In 2021, Australians are spending more of their time and money online than ever before – we dropped a collective $49.7 billion between June 2020 and June 2021, according to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index: July 21. Implemented smartly, an online marketplace can help you ride that digital shopping wave and transform your business for the better.