Rise of the Marketplaces: How to sell successfully on marketplaces

by | Sep 25, 2017

Selling on marketplaces has become a popular sales opportunity for retailers who want to move additional products, or brands who want to test the waters for new products. Even vendors and manufacturers looking for new sales opportunities at full retail prices are taking advantage of online marketplaces.

Regardless of your status — retailer, supplier, brand, manufacturer or reseller of other products — there are a few tactics you should follow and master before you jump right in and offer your items for sale. 

Choose your marketplace wisely. Pick the marketplaces that fit your products the best, and are likely to have people who are your primary customers. Etsy is a marketplace for artists hawking their own creations, so it’s not suitable for a clearance on overstocked beach towels. That’s what Overstock.com is for. Similarly, hand painted cell phone cases are more suited for Etsy, rather than selling on Amazon Marketplace. Do your research and experiment with a few marketplaces, but be willing to pull out of one to focus more on another.

Follow the rules. Each marketplace has its own set of rules concerning fulfillment, shipping, product availability, and so on, so make sure you’re in compliance with their rules. What works for one may get you kicked off another, so don’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach.

Know the total cost. There are always subscription fees and merchant fees associated with each marketplace. It could be a subscription, it could be a per transaction cost. Take all of these costs into account before you start selling on a particular marketplace and adjust your pricing.

Pricing. Not only should you account for the total cost of selling on marketplaces, consider the pricing you set for your products. You want to be able to cover your marketplace fees and shipping costs (if you offer free shipping), but don’t set prices so high that you can’t compete with similar products from other sellers.

Assortment. You’re better off starting with your best sellers on your new marketplace since they’ll catch people’s attention. If nothing else, it’s a way to build some useful brand awareness; if you’re lucky, you’ll sell a lot of items in the process. This is also a chance to pre-launch new products. Test them out in an online marketplace before you officially launch them to see what kind of interest you generate from the public.

Accurate product info. The more accurate and thorough your product details, the better your chance of more products selling on marketplaces. Some product pages, like Amazon’s, are often pre-built. Just upload as much product data and as many photos as you can.

Inventory Management. A big part of customer service is inventory management. If you want to keep your customers happy, don’t make them wait for stockouts, or learn too late that you’re out of a product. Keep close watch on your inventory and make sure the items are removed before they run out in your warehouse. And reorder before you run completely out. While a marketplace may not be part of your marketing campaigns, you should treat it as if it’s another important sales channel. It could become a significant part of your online sales.

Durable packaging. You don’t want things to break en route to the customer’s, otherwise you’re looking at a refund or replacement. That’s an additional cost, plus you’ve got a potentially unhappy customer to deal with. Make sure your packaging can withstand normal shipping.

Shipping speed. Amazon has strict requirements about their shipping times, especially if you’re one of their Prime shippers. Other marketplaces have those same requirements. You need to be able to deliver on their promises, so make sure you are able to have things picked, packed, and out the door in the time required.

Follow their return policy. Different marketplaces have different return and refund policies, so make sure you follow them closely. They may even vary between marketplaces, so pay close attention that you follow each of them to the letter. You may have your own return/refund policies as a retailer, but this isn’t your rodeo, it’s the marketplace’s. You have to follow what they allow, not necessarily what you’re used to doing.

Adjust your strategy. Use data from your sales, product reviews and other sources to help inform decisions to make your marketplace channels more successful. Improve what you need to, whether it’s visibility, shipment tracking, assortment, maybe even product descriptions. Follow updates that occur on marketplaces – there are often new programs and options made available as marketplaces try to make it easier for people to buy and businesses to sell.

Selling on marketplaces can be a relatively low cost opportunity to move products. Not only is the web framework already built, but you’re able to reach a whole new audience you might never have reached before.

To learn more about selling in online marketplaces such as Amazon Marketplace, Walmart Marketplace or others, please visit the SPS Commerce website for information about our different cloud-based products, like inventory management.

Connect to Amazon Marketplace or a marketplace you choose.

Connect to Amazon Marketplace or a marketplace you choose.

Marketplaces are great for both retailers and vendors to sell products directly to customers.

Trent Riter

Trent Riter

Product Manager- Fulfillment at SPS Commerce
Trent directs the ongoing development of strategic partner integrations to the SPS Commerce platform. His experience spans the retail supply chain, helping partners connect to the SPS Retail Network of retailers, distributers, 3PLs and manufacturers.
Trent Riter

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