6 Strategies for Online Marketplace Success
The popularity of online marketplaces like Amazon.com, eBay, and Etsy has continued to grow each year, elevated by major shifts in consumer preference and behavior. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumer preference in e-commerce, online shoppers were already looking for personalized, convenient, and streamlined experiences across all channels.
While marketplaces offer a pipeline to more customers and the infrastructure to get started, they still require ongoing management and refinement to optimize merchandise, pricing, and fulfillment. Furthermore, most successful sellers operate on multiple marketplaces, selling across state and country borders, adding layers of complexity around tax and customs calculations.
For today’s omnichannel consumers, every step in their purchase journey must be seamless and intuitive to maintain their loyalty. Delivering a consistently positive shopping experience is essential, and sellers must embrace new strategies for success.
Avalara and PSFK created the Marketplace Playbook, which outlines strategies for marketplaces and their sellers to optimize their digital marketing and selling strategies, stand out, and engage consumers within marketplace platforms.
Here are six key strategies for marketplace success.
SEO, Discovery, and Research
The search and product discovery function is a key part of most marketplace designs. Today, the discovery process often takes place within the context of a social media feed or a marketplace rather than a brand’s homepage or store, which has forced brands in all categories to rethink how they engage with consumers at the top of the funnel.
In response to this shift, online sellers are creating interactive marketing content that reaches potential buyers regardless of the channel or device. This interactive and interconnected approach allows consumers to learn more about a product or service while taking the next step in their journeys, such as connecting with a business or scheduling an appointment no matter where they may be — email, social media, or other channels.
Retailers and marketplaces are also able to leverage search data to create greater relevance for consumers and develop more personalized relationships. Marketplaces are able to continuously provide a more curated discovery experience each time customers return by applying algorithms and machine learning to past search history and preferences.
Product Page Experience
The product page is the main destination for consumers, and is where they often discover, interact with, and eventually make their purchases. As such, the product page should provide prospective buyers with everything they need to make an informed purchasing decision.
Successful product pages are immersive in nature. These pages should be interactive and descriptive to ensure that consumers are able to get the information they need and “feel” for products in a virtual setting. Including trusted advice and reviews as part of the product page can also help push consumers to make a final purchase decision.
Using interactive and descriptive content tailored to specific marketplaces, websites and social channels not only contributes to confidence and credibility, but builds trust and increases consumers’ willingness to complete their purchase. The mixture of interactive or brand-reflective content and authentic reviews within the product page enable sellers to ultimately save consumers time as they explore websites and marketplaces.
Checkout and Payments
Whether selling domestically or internationally, online retailers across all platforms face growing complexities related to the checkout experience. From item classification and location-specific taxes and fees to a myriad of ongoing compliance regulations, getting all costs right at the time of checkout has a direct impact on customer experience and compliance risk alike.
To prevent order abandonment and potential long-term loss of customers and marketplace sellers, marketplaces should partner with third-party technology providers that can help automate the process, creating an opportunity for e-tailers and online platforms to generate ongoing loyalty. Technology solutions like tax compliance automation to ensure taxes and customs duties are accurately calculated and mobile optimization to enable payments on the go can be critical to the overall marketplace shopping experience.
Merchandising and Fulfillment
The supply chain obstacles that COVID-19 threw at retailers have highlighted the need for greater visibility throughout each stage of production, from sourcing to fulfillment and returns. The demand from consumers for faster delivery times, especially when shopping on marketplaces guaranteeing same-day or two-day free delivery, has created a challenge for retailers to achieve greater efficiency and leverage technology throughout the fulfillment process. In the pursuit of cost-effective and sustainable alternative practices, retailers can explore solutions like on-demand manufacturing, drop-shipping, and intelligent fulfillment to provide both the seller and customer with better convenience, cost and sustainability.
Digital commerce operations have become increasingly complex as channels expand and audiences grow globally. At the same time, this growth and acceleration offer an unprecedented opportunity for marketplace sellers. Organizations must be able to seamlessly connect their infrastructure, workforce and partners through data, which can be achieved by breaking down information silos, delivering actionable insights in real time, and enabling better collaboration across all channels and departments. To create exceptional customer experiences, from discovery through transactions and fulfillment, retailers should focus on key points within the retail experience, including omnichannel operations, real-time transparency, and flexible pricing.
Analytics and Reporting
When developing a marketplace strategy, the ability to easily and efficiently access consumer data and behavioral insights from every channel is paramount. To keep pace with consumers' digital expectations and deliver excellence across all channels and each transaction, sellers must be able to both access and react to insights in real time. This ability comes to life through third-party vendors and tools that are able to automate all backend operations as well as provide the necessary consumer insights to continue improving and innovating around their consumer’s marketplace experience once integrated into a merchant’s product data hub. To evolve at the pace of the marketplace and respond to online shopper expectations, merchants need to be actively aware of marketplace trends and changes as well as consumers’ needs.
Because marketplaces can provide a greater reach, seamless integrated tools and services, access to customer data and analytics, and fulfillment support to enhance the selling experience, they will continue to grow as a core component of future e-commerce strategies. Retailers will need to consider how each channel fits into their overarching e-commerce strategy and how they can effectively manage transactions and customer data across multiple points of sale. Sellers with the most effective marketplace strategies will continue to be the winners in the next generation of e-commerce.
Megan Higgins is the vice president, general manager of e-commerce and marketplaces at Avalara, an automated tax compliance software provider.
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