Headlines seem to be nothing but doom and gloom for the retail industry. Footfall on the UK high street was down 40% in July. Thousands of staff have been laid off by companies many would have considered unbreakable. Major high street names are closing stores by the score, and many others have started administration procedures. And yet, in the worst retail crisis of a generation, there are those that see an opportunity for the future – and that opportunity is e-commerce. While it can be tempting to adopt a “wait until this is all over” attitude (particularly when it comes to investing in new projects when budgets are already tight) the businesses that are leading the field in these difficult times are those that are making the most of this time to rethink and reboot their online portfolio.
It’s clear that in the current climate it’s vital for any retailer to have their own online store, but with more than half of B2C e-commerce transactions taking place on marketplaces, any successful e-tail strategy will need to involve multi-channeling. But it’s not as simple as listing on as many marketplaces and possible and just expecting buyers to start appearing – in order to gain the most benefits, retailers need to dedicate as much time and effort to multi-channeling as they do with their own e-commerce store. This may seem like too much hard work, but when you look at the benefits of marketplaces you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.
No matter how high your website appears on Google rankings, if you don’t offer your products on marketplaces you may be missing out on potential customers. Based on a recent 2019 survey, up to 49% of users start their search for products on Amazon compared with just 22% on Google. Many of these go on to make their purchase straight away – even if they’ve never come across a brand before, the level off trust provided by the marketplace itself gives consumers the confidence to try brands that they may otherwise not have considered. Other users search for products on Amazon before researching brands off the platform and may often decide to purchase from the brand page directly, so this sense Amazon can also work as an extra marketing channel to raise awareness of your brand.
But despite its apparent monopoly over the e-commerce sector, it’s important to remember that Amazon may not be for everyone. Particularly in the fashion industry, many retailers believe selling on Amazon may cheapen their product image due to the fact that so many Amazon retailers are from the low cost, super-fast fashion sector. Which brings us to one of the most important parts of your e-commerce strategy – choosing the right marketplaces for you.
When sales are struggling it can be tempting to sign up to as many platforms as possible, to go for the most well-known sites or the largest potential audiences. However, this tactic will only result in spreading your portfolio too thin and it’s all too easy to neglect under-performing sites. More effective use of your time and effort is to first analyze which marketplaces are best for your brand. Think of them as a department store – your products might be a great fit for John Lewis, but you wouldn’t necessarily want them displayed in a Walmart. And vice versa – Walmart brands are unlikely to enjoy much success by stocking in John Lewis stores. There are also a number of niche marketplaces that might be a perfect fit for your brand and allow you to access your ideal audience without the excess competition of the major players. Research each platform, look at what type of brands use them, consider online reviews and check customer testimonials. Investigate their terms – are they compatible with your own? Do they offer advertising options and detailed analytics? Finally, if looking at the attractive expansion possibilities of the international market, bear in mind local legislation.
While it may be tempting to access the huge potential of the Chinese e-commerce scene (worth an estimated $1.94 trillion USD), export laws and duties are much more complicated (and regional rather than national in some cases), so unless you have a native Chinese speaking e-commerce expert on your team you may want to leave this on the back burner.
Once you’ve chosen your selected marketplaces it’s time to optimize your listings. Bear in mind that it shouldn’t be a case of simply copying and pasting the same product descriptions for every site – this can have a negative effect on your SEO and you’ll be competing against your own online store. While it’s time-consuming, it’s highly recommended to create SEO optimized product descriptions for each marketplace you use. Look at your top competitors – what keywords are they using? How are they pitching their product? Where can your products stand out from theirs? It’s not a case of simply listing as many keywords as you can, try to create an attractive product description that will entice potential customers, but also provide enough detailed information so that there are no unexpected surprises (this should also help you reduce the rate of returns).
Where possible, you may want to dedicate some of your marketing budgets to platform-specific advertising to make sure your products are seen first, particularly when you’re new and there is a lot of competition to deal with. Many of the larger marketplaces offer assistance in setting up campaigns to make sure that your advertising budget is well-targeted, so you may even see more success than with traditional SEM.
So you’ve set up your listings, created advertising campaigns and you’re waiting for orders to start flooding in. But that’s not the end of the story. Maintenance of your channels needs to be a top priority, and the ability to react quickly to trends is the key to success. You’re unlikely to create the perfect listing straight away, but by looking at trends and reviewing your search analytics you can make small amendments to increase visibility, bring more consumers to your products, and convert more sales.
Rather than attempting to improve all of your products at once, it may be worth testing an update on one or two products and checking it’s a success before moving onto the rest. You don’t want to waste time and energy updating your whole portfolio only to find that your update actually has a negative result! As with all marketing, it’s important to be open to trial and error and to stay abreast of changes in the market and how they may affect you.
With so much preparatory work involved, it may sometimes seem like an impossible task to keep your marketplace portfolio under control. But one of the benefits of working with marketplaces is that there are a number of time-saving services that they offer which can reduce your in-house logistics and offset the time you invest in your listings. Many of the major marketplaces offer warehousing and fulfillment options, while even low-cost marketplaces like eBay provide centralized shipping solutions that can take the hassle out of pricing, particularly for international orders. With logistics being one of the most time-consuming and costly parts of the e-commerce process, having access to some of the most advanced shipment and logistics solutions available can quickly improve your customer experience and protect your investment.
With an ever-growing proliferation of e-tail stores online, the centralized accessibility provided by marketplaces is gaining ever more traction and is estimated to grow to up to 65% of the e-commerce market by 2022. And with the simple set up and low investment required to start out, they provide an invaluable service to retailers of all types looking to expand their reach. The current crisis has adversely affected sales throughout the industry as never before, but perhaps we can use this lull to our advantage and give our retail businesses the opportunity to reach a wider audience than ever before?
TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace has taken the user-friendly marketplace platform and reimagined it for the wholesale industry. Brands and retailers can now connect online with the same ease as ordering a weekly shop. TradeGala – the future of the wholesale fashion industry.