When it comes to running a successful ecommerce business, it’s nearly a prerequisite to sell on third-party marketplaces. A majority of consumers are flocking to these channels, and 74% of U.S. shoppers say that they now start their product searches on Amazon as opposed to Google. (More than half—56%—also say that if they were only able to buy products from one store, it would be Amazon.)
It’s not a far stretch to say that in order to stay competitive, you need to be present on marketplaces. However, making the jump from running your own site to participating on marketplaces can be a big adjustment.
In this blog, we’ll cover the major differences of selling on a marketplace versus your own store so you can best prepare for the jump, and additionally cover strategies for managing a successful multichannel business.
Selling on a Marketplace vs. Your Site
You Don’t Hold the Keys to the Kingdom on Marketplaces
To state the obvious, you don't get to decide when and where your product listings appear on marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart Marketplaces and eBay. To even be allowed to sell, you need to adhere to each marketplace’s rules and policies.
Those policies can involve everything from listing to pricing, product bundling and seller performance. For instance, many marketplaces will monitor (and penalize you) for too many late shipments or seller-initiated cancelations. Or, if you’re found to be breaking price parity expectations, then marketplaces may suppress your listings.
Marketplaces ultimately hold the power to revoke your selling privileges at any time and tend to err on the side of the consumer when disputes arise.
That said, if you’re well-versed in the world of ecommerce and understand what it takes to deliver a good customer experience, then you shouldn’t be all too surprised by marketplace policies. Those requirements simply exist to create a smooth, consistent experience among its diverse group of sellers.
Marketplaces May Categorize Your Products Differently
Each channel has its own way of indexing products across its site. And while it’s easy to assume that categorizing your product will be straightforward—oftentimes, it’s not.
This is because marketplaces are expansive. In order to accommodate the millions of products listed on their sites, they need to be able to offer many different categories and subcategories to organize items.
Consequently, if you’re selling a men’s dress shirt, one marketplace may categorize it as Clothing, Shoes & Accessories > Clothing > Mens Dress Shirts. Another may store it as Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry > Men > Clothing > Shirts > Men's Shirts > Men's Dress Shirts.
The latter has twice as many branches as the former, reflecting how complicated marketplace taxonomies can get. Identifying the right category for your item can be difficult, especially if your SKU matches multiple categories at once.
Not to mention, once you’ve picked a product category, you’ll need to map your product data appropriately. This means finding the right label for your product information and entering your data in the format that the marketplace requires.
Case in Point: Amazon's New Shoe Size Requirements
Each Marketplace Has Its Own SEO Best Practices
Unlike your own site, where you can decide the order of your listings—marketplaces have unique ranking algorithms that work similarly (at least in concept) to Google’s search engine.
The purpose of marketplace algorithms is to surface the most relevant products according to a user’s search query. However, some algorithms are more mature than others. For example, Amazon’s A10 algorithm is one of the more advanced algorithms that has an easier time deciphering search intent, whereas other ecommerce algorithms rely more heavily on exact keyword matches.
Aside from this, each marketplace tends to emphasize different characteristics when ranking their listings. On Amazon, Prime status is of utmost importance; this is why even sellers who have their own fulfillment operations still opt to use FBA for their Amazon inventory. By contrast, Walmart Marketplace prioritizes low pricing, two-day shipping and merchants with the pro seller badge.
You’ll need to take the time to study each channel’s SEO best practices to give your listing the most exposure.
Reviews Are the Name of the Game
When selling on marketplaces, half the battle is making sure that customers are impressed by your products (and service) and can vouch for your brand by leaving a positive review.
Many first-page listings on marketplaces have hundreds, if not thousands, of five-star reviews. To add to this, 65% of consumers say that they’re willing to purchase from brands they’ve never heard of on marketplaces, underscoring the need to differentiate your brand through social proof.
There are various ways to generate more positive reviews, like leveraging ads to prime the pump or formatting your items as variation listings to keep reviews together. All the while, you’ll need to abide by marketplaces policies and avoid requesting feedback improperly or farming reviews through unauthorized means.
Marketplaces Can Be Unpredictable
One trait about marketplaces that’s often overlooked is the fact that they’re constantly evolving. Sales channels are regularly re-evaluating their site experiences and taking steps to improve the UX.
This could result in sudden changes to listing requirements, or how your brand is scored against other merchants. Amazon, for example, is notorious for making sweeping changes with little advance notice. Most recently, Amazon sellers had to reformat all of their apparel listings to reflect new sizing standards—a process that easily consumed hours upon hours of precious daylight.
Needless to say, you need a solution for managing such changes to avoid being caught off guard by marketplace advancements.
Preparing Your Business for Multichannel Selling: 3 Critical Steps
Fortunately, many of the differences mentioned above can be managed with the right strategies and tools in place. Heed the following tips for positioning your brand for success on today’s top marketplaces.
1. Automate Multichannel Listing
Between categorizing your listings and mapping your product data, getting your SKUs listed on new marketplaces can be extremely tedious.
A multichannel listing platform can do wonders in simplifying this process. The best platforms will translate your data for each channel and automatically list your products to new channels in just a few clicks.
With Zentail, for example, you only have to enter in your product data once. (Or upon onboarding, you can import an existing catalog.) Zentail’s SMART Types technology will then auto-categorize and map your listings to each major marketplace, saving you from tons of manual work.
Zentail will even let you edit listings in bulk, manage prices, and optimize listings with advanced attributes all from one place. You should never have to log into each sales channel individually to make small tweaks, which is often how sellers start off before resorting to an automated solution.
2. Centralize Your Operations
On top of centralizing your catalog, you’ll want to keep your inventory, analytics and third-party apps together in one place. This ensures that whether you make a sale on Shopify or close a sale on eBay, all of your channels talk to each other and update in real time.
Orders should be routed to the right fulfillment centers. Inventory should be adjusted across all channels. And it should be easy to tell which channels or products are most profitable. You never want to be left in the dark in terms of your sales or operational performance. However, this can only be avoided when you have a central command center.
3. Get Yourself a Change Management Solution
Safeguard your business from sudden marketplace changes by establishing a process for monitoring and adjusting for these events.
If you’re looking to offload this burden, Zentail is the only automated change management solution currently available for ecommerce sellers.Through its revolutionary technology, the platform can automatically reformat your data according to a marketplace’s newest requirements.
By comparison, other multichannel platforms require months to develop a solution that accommodates new change, but have historically still required users to manually adjust a majority of their listings.
For More Reading: 7 Ecommerce Marketplace Management Strategies
The path to success on marketplaces is evidently very different from creating a successful website. There are multiple variables that come into play, many of which are out of your control.
However, selling on marketplaces is undeniably worthwhile. The benefits are hard to beat, especially at a time when consumers tend to be more loyal to their favorite shopping sites than they are to any specific brand.
If you’d like more help creating a multichannel strategy, give our team a holler. We’d be happy to talk shop with you and to recommend ways to automate and scale your operations with Zentail.