Cross-border Selling

6 Tips for Selling on Marketplaces this Holiday Season

Marketplaces like eBay, Rakuten, and Amazon attract millions of eager shoppers during the holiday season. Online retailers, even small ones, can post products to these marketplaces and earn many additional sales.

According to some estimates, perhaps half of 2013’s ecommerce orders will be placed during the Christmas season beginning in November and running through the 24th of December. With so many potential customers available, it can make a lot of sense to sell across more than one channel, including selling on your own ecommerce-enabled website and leading marketplaces.

When selling on eBay, Amazon, or any marketplace, it is important to remember that these sales channels do have additional fees that can impact margins and rules that may require your business to meet certain requirements or even limit marketing. What follows are six tips for selling on marketplaces with holiday season.

Tip: Sell Products People Want

While it is certainly feasible for a retailer to post every product carried on eBay, Amazon, or similar marketplaces, some of these marketplaces will have limits — at least initially — on the number of items a retailer may post or on the categories in which a retailer may post. For the holiday season focus on what you believe will be your most popular or best selling items — those items that marketplace shoppers will want.

Remember many, if not most, shoppers will be looking for gifts for family members and friends.

Tip: Sell Niche Products

Although it may sound obvious, try to sell items for which there are few competitors.

“Amazon creates one page for each product available on its site. This means that all sellers that sell the same produce are lumped into the same page. If you are selling a product which 50 others sellers are selling, you’re going to have a hard time differentiating yourself unless you’re willing to be the one with the lowest price,” explained Josh Anish of funding site Kaggage.

If you can offer a unique gift on Amazon you may be able to capture both sales and good margins.

Tip: Sell Worldwide

Online shopping marketplaces are not necessarily limited to the United States, but rather have shoppers worldwide. This is helpful since Christmas is a global holiday with willing shoppers in nearby nations like Canada and Mexico or far off lands like Thailand or Australia.

Consider offering products to shoppers worldwide or at least in select nations. For shipping purchase you might use fulfillment services to help with cross-border sales. If you do handle your own fulfillment, look for services that make it easier to send items internationally.

Tip: Sell on Several Marketplaces

While Amazon and eBay are among the best-known online marketplaces in the United States, there are plenty of other great sites that allow nearly any retailer small or large to post products. In some cases, these marketplaces have fewer sellers and therefore less competition.

Check out Overstock, Rakuten, Newegg, Sears, Walmart, and Etsy, to name just a few options.

Tip: Manage Your Reputation

In many cases, online marketplaces will use a retailer’s reputation, in part, to determine how prominently that retailer is featured. For example, it is possible to win the “buy box” on Amazon not simply by having the lowest price, but also by having the best reputation.

With this in mind, be open when you communicate with marketplace customers. When appropriate, send emails informing the shopper about order status, consider sending a follow up message, or even encouraging reviews.

When it makes sense, also provide your customers with feedback. As an example, on eBay it is customary for both the buyer and the seller to rate each other. If your customer paid promptly and did not return the product, give her a positive review. In return, she will probably give you one too.

Tip: Manage Your Inventory

Marketplace experts often list inventory management among the most common mistakes that online retailers make when selling on eBay, Amazon, Rakuten or other marketplaces.

Typically, the error happens when a merchant has only a few items in stock. The items may be listed for sale on the merchant’s own ecommerce site and on one or more marketplaces. If several sales occur simultaneously, it is possible to sell more of the item than are actually in stock. This means that at least one shopper, who believes he’s checked off an item from his Christmas shopping list will be disappointed.

To avoid this error, manage the inventory posted to marketplaces closely. Whenever possible include a buffer, so that if actual inventory falls below two items, the items are removed from marketplaces and reserved only for your own store. Also, seek to automate the inventory update process, so the inventory levels shown on a marketplace accurately reflects what is available for sale on that marketplace.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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