In a competitive business climate, it can be tempting to use every available sales channel in order to grow sales, especially in the case of start-ups looking to pay back start-up borrowings.
However, since most online marketplaces require some investment upfront, certainly in terms of time and resources, using this approach can be a bit hit and miss. It can even mean losing money, if you get it wrong.
Therefore, building a strong and trustworthy marketplace for your start-up can be hard – extremely hard.
Fortunately, there are an ever-growing number of online marketplaces for all types of industry sectors. Some are more suited to particular business models than others, so it makes good business sense to carry out the research needed to reveal which ones will provide the best results for your own venture.
Matching business model and marketplace
eBay – With over 200,000 businesses and some £6 billion in annual sales, this online marketplace needs little introduction. If you sell products, then eBay is a quick and inexpensive way to access a global market. In fact, some very big companies started out as small eBay traders. It’s also the ideal marketplace to test your product to see if there is a viable market for it. This is because you can set up and start selling very quickly and easily with little or no charges upfront. eBay also offers a lot of useful tools to help you in your efforts, and, importantly, to protect you.
From featured items, ebay shops to listing exposure and social media selling tips – eBay has covered everything on building a strong business on its platform.
An auctioned listing is considered as one the easiest and most commonly utilised selling mechanisms on the platform. This method allows bidders to submit offers over a 3, 5 or 7 day period, with the highest bidder winning the item at the end.
A fixed price listings eliminates the entire bidding process, meaning you can list the product for a set fee and the customer can purchase the product instantly. There is also a “best offer” functionality, which allows customers, to make offers based on the fixed list price.
The store listing on the other hand, is for the advanced seller who is responsible for paying the store subscriptions along with insertion fees and final value charges.
eBay shops provide a uniform shopping destination that offers everything you need to promote and sell your products to your target audience. eBay shops come with an exclusive package of powerful tools necessary to design your shop along with crucial marketing and reporting features. You will also have access to third party listing tools that is vital for managing and scheduling your listings.
That said, eBay isn’t ideal for everything, especially if there’s a lot of competition out there already, or if you’re selling a service. That doesn’t mean what you’re flogging won’t sell, it might just mean eBay isn’t the right place to do it.
Launchpad – Start-ups are very different from established businesses – something that Amazon is recognising with Launchpad – a new platform for companies to showcase their products to Amazon’s huge customer base. The corporation is partnering with venture capitalist groups and crowdfunding platforms to offer new start-ups an outlet for uniquely innovative products and to streamline sales and distribution issues. While the platform is ideal for entrepreneurs that have started their business via a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the downside is getting started. Amazon will only select businesses with truly groundbreaking offerings. Amazon’s Launchpad offers expert retail advice to start-up companies and works very closely with them to develop innovative and enticing products for customers. It invites Amazon vendors to enrol in the Amazon Vine programme that helps them to be reviewed and merchandised across the platform. Vendors can manage their accounts through Vendor Express which is a self-service online platform.
Asos – There are more specialist marketplaces coming online all the time and Asos is a good example. For fashion and clothes retail, Asos offers a prime online outlet for up and coming designers. It’s worth doing your research to see if there’s a specialist marketplace for your own niche. Again, with Asos you have to go through a selection process to be accepted and you must have a minimum of 15 products on sale at any time. Asos developed a new tool called Virtusize that combats fit-related returns. Apart from this, you can purchase a boutique on the platform that costs £20 per month and can be accessed once you have created a marketplace account.
Etsy – Arts and crafts are becoming big business, as proven by Etsy with sales closing in on $2 billion in 2014. While, in the past, Etsy has been viewed as a marketplace for one person operations, or for generating a supplementary income, for start-ups, it’s often a springboard for bigger things. It’s certainly easy to set up and get started. There are several selling tools from that you can benefit from – success newsletter, seller handbook, forums to shipping labels, mobile app and shop stats, select one that best suits you. However, it is competitive and this is one platform where a good knowledge of SEO can make a big difference. Shop stats provide a comprehensive overview of the most-viewed items and the keywords that shoppers use to find certain products.
Facebook – One sales channel that proves the effectiveness of using multiple channels is Facebook. While in the past, some would have sniggered at a start-up using Facebook to sell products, that’s all changed. 500 million active users is a huge audience and, of course, the social networking channel is ideal for marketing, as well as selling.
Facebook isn’t for newbies – you’ll need a fair bit of experience with online marketplaces before taking the leap. You’ll also need a third party app to sell on Facebook. With more e-commerce apps and tools being developed to help maximise sales, it’s easy to see how you could be missing out if your business isn’t on Facebook.
Facebook has completely revamped its selling platform by adding an extra group called ‘For Sale.’ In this group, you will be able to create a post, add a description, and set a price and delivery or pickup location. This tool has helped in structuring the information so that it is easier to highlight the true attributes of your products or services. Ever since the introduction of this tool, millions of people are now buying and selling items on the For Sale groups. Facebook has further developed tools to regulate the process to make the entire process approachable.
Knowledge is selling power
Today, you don’t need a ‘brick-and-mortar’ store to have a successful business model. When selling online, what’s most important is understanding your customer and having the online marketing skills and expertise to leverage maximum value from the tools and online marketing channels at your disposal. After all, online marketplaces are only shop windows for your product, it’s still up to you to market and sell it.