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The Dos and Don’ts of Using Online Marketplaces

By Michelle McSweeney

The idea of expanding your product offering into new markets can be daunting to say the least. For starters, how do you establish a global ecommerce supply chain? How are you going to facilitate returns? How can you determine what payment methods work best in regions that you’re not familiar with? The list goes on.

There’s no doubt about it - making the decision to go global is not one that retailers should take lightly. However, if global domination is on the agenda for your business, there’s no better way of dipping your toe in the water than to utilise online marketplaces to break into new territories. Considering the fact that 97% of ‘avid’ online shoppers bought products from online marketplaces in the last year, it seems like a no-brainer for retailers. Low risk. Huge opportunity. Win-win, right?

Absolutely. But only if you use them correctly. Because as easy as it might be to get your products listed on online marketplaces, it’s even easier to make some very costly mistakes! Follow these 5 dos and don’ts to make online marketplaces work as effectively as possible for your business.

1. DON’T list your entire product catalogue on marketplaces

We cannot stress enough just how important it is to have a solid strategy in place when choosing the products you are going to list on online marketplaces. There’s no quicker way to cannibalise your business than to use marketplaces in the wrong way. By uploading your entire product catalogue onto a dozen global or regional marketplaces, you’re essentially positioning yourself as a direct competitor of your own online store!

Instead, choose the items that you want to list wisely - for example, marketplaces are the perfect places to shift overstock at the end of a season. Similarly, you could also leverage seasons and regions as one of the key determining factors in what you list on marketplaces.

So, let’s say I own a hugely successful online fashion store that is based in the UK. By the end of September, I’m typically left with a lot of summer inventory that I need to shift. Why not list that summer stock on marketplaces such as Americanas or Mercado Libre in South America or The Iconic or MyDeal Australia, where the summer season is about to kick off?

Another strategy that retailers can adopt is to solely list their best-selling product on marketplaces to a) establish a presence across new channels, deterring users from buying from unauthorised resellers, and b) to drop some virtual breadcrumbs to lead shoppers back to your online store.

So, in this instance, let’s say that I sell high-end shoes, and my best seller is a court shoe with a 3-inch heel that comes in a variety of colours. Well, maybe I only list the black version on Amazon and eBay, listing all available colours in the product description. That way, users know exactly where to go if they want to buy a red pair!

Catalogue on table

2. DON’T assume that the images used on your online store are going to be suitable for all online marketplaces

Competition in the marketplace is fierce, so if your product images aren’t up to scratch, you’re simply not going to achieve results.

Don’t assume that the images used on your online store are going to be suitable for all online marketplaces. If you’re manually uploading all the products that you want to list on specific online marketplaces, you need to familiarise yourself with the image guidelines for each one and ensure that your product images meet the requirements accordingly.

3. DO focus on SEO

It’s so easy to forget about SEO when it comes to marketplaces, but it’s a crucial element to get right if you want your products to be found, let alone bought!

With 40% of adults now using voice search once a day, and the likes of Alexa, Echo Dot, and Google Assistant dominating the voice-enabled marketplace, it’s essential that your products are optimised for search, no matter the ways users are searching. The good news is that if your SEO team are already applying best practice to search, optimising for voice-operated search, or indeed, marketplaces in general, really shouldn’t be a giant leap.

Remember, searches on online marketplaces are purely product-driven. Users are there to find products. So, as a seller, you need to identify all the keywords related to each of the products you are listing, prioritise those keywords, and then ensure that your product data (including titles, product descriptions, and product images) is all buttoned up.

Laptop on desk

4. DO test and optimise consistently

We get the feeling that we might sound like a broken record here, but you’re not going to make a splash on online marketplaces if you list your products, dust off your hands, and walk away.

While marketplaces are a fantastic way to break into new markets and expand your offering quickly and easily, they’re not going to look after themselves. So, treat online marketplaces in the same way as you would any other sales channel – track the products that are selling, as well as the ones that aren’t gaining any traction, and then work on any gaps that you discover in the process.

Maybe your product descriptions could use a bit of work. Maybe you discover that your products perform better on category-driven marketplaces than pureplay marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay. Without dedicating time and resources to test and optimise your marketplaces, you’re never going to be able to determine whether or not you should take further steps to break into a specific market.

Wall of data

5. DO differentiate your online store from marketplaces

And finally, while you’re busy getting your products listed on global marketplaces and making a name for yourself in new regions, you need to be making sure that your online store itself has its own unique value proposition. Trying to compete with marketplaces is completely unrealistic. If a customer has the option to buy your product from your online store, or to buy the exact same item from an online marketplace, where it’s likely going to be listed at a lower price with faster delivery time, chances are, they are going to go for the marketplace option.

Instead, what you should focus on doing is differentiating yourself from the big players. That means giving your customers something that Amazon can’t, like a memorable unboxing experience, or the personal touch through your customer service, or the option to click and collect orders if you have a physical presence. That way, your customers encounter your brand in a very different way when they go direct, and marketplaces won’t swallow up your offering.

No matter how big or small your business is, there is a huge opportunity for retailers to open up to new audiences and take the first steps towards going global through marketplaces. Just remember this – successful retailers make marketplaces work for them, rather than vice versa.

Michelle McSweeney, Content Marketing Specialist, Kooomo

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