Developing Your Own Marketplace Can Grow Your Business, Enhance Omnichannel Experience
As retailers build out their omnichannel capabilities, many of them are simultaneously launching their own marketplaces as a way to deliver the enhanced selections and limitless online shopping aisles that online consumers increasingly demand. Expanded virtual inventory delivers the breadth of choice consumers seek, offering retailers a reliable tool for growth without the infrastructure costs that physical inventory brings.
Inviting third-party sellers to participate in a marketplace structure brings opportunity, but it also potentially poses a threat to a seamless shopping experience. Consumers want consistency across channels — i.e., the same enjoyable buying experience whether they're shopping in-store, online or via mobile. This means that retailers should proceed cautiously when adding commerce channels in which they lose any measure of control over the process. Managed incorrectly, marketplaces can harm brand reputation, customer service and product fulfillment.
As retailers develop a marketplace environment that allows them to grow by satisfying consumers with more SKUs, they must also put in control mechanisms to offset risks. Consider the following tactics:
1. Vet suppliers and products. A marketplace can affect brand identity in two key ways: First, an endless product aisle is only valuable if the products are relevant to your brand. Straying too far away from the offerings that your customers want and expect from your brand can be a confusing turnoff. For example, a general merchandiser that specializes in apparel shouldn't necessarily start carrying big-screen TVs, but perhaps a more nuanced approach to electronics, such as specialty items intended as gifts.
Second, customers may like expanded choice, but they'll nevertheless hold retailers responsible if something goes wrong. So while third-party sellers on marketplaces are in charge of fulfillment, blame for a bad shipping experience still falls on the retailer.
A thorough vetting of sellers can help retailers avoid problems by making sure new product offerings are high quality, work with their brand and resonate with customers. To do this, brands need to be able to access information about each supplier, including past performance, product listings and system compatibilities. Before launching a marketplace, retailers must have insight into these critical areas so they can make informed judgments about third-party sellers and know what to reasonably expect.