Online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon offer retailers profitable, high-volume sales channels that can significantly improve the bottom line. But as more businesses discover and use these marketplaces, competition increases, meaning businesses need to market well in these channels.
Many factors impact how a product will perform on a given marketplace, including the product title and description or even how frequently product inventory levels are updated. Savvy marketers should take care to choose the right marketplaces, automate posting whenever possible, and create effective listings for each product on each marketplace.
Select the Proper Marketplace
Online marketplaces fall into three general categories: mass-market, niche, and boutique.
Mass-market sites include Amazon, which is the leading online marketplace in the U.S., eBay, Rakuten, Sears, and Newegg. These sites can have millions of visitors each day and offer a wide variety of products. They should probably be part of every merchant’s marketplace strategy.
TIAS or The Internet Antique Shop is a marketplace for antiques and collectables. This niche marketplace is certainly not for every business, but niche marketplaces like it can be found for nearly any industry. Sellers on these sites often face fewer competitors and may be able to sell at relatively high margins.
Etsy is the premier boutique marketplace wherein sellers typically offer unique, if not handmade, items. Sellers on boutique marketplaces may have very close connections with customers, but may also be limited in product variety.
Finding the proper marketplace for a given business is the first step toward marketplace selling success. While every online retailer should consider one or more mass-market sites, it should also consider finding a niche or boutique marketplace that also fits the business. For each marketplace, monitor margin, transactions, and costs.
Automate Whenever Possible
ChannelAdvisor, which offers software to help merchants list products on mass-market sites, points out that retailers generally face several challenges to listing on a marketplace. In each case, a bit of forethought and some automation will help a retailer leap the hurdle. Here are three examples.
The first challenge to listing on a marketplace is getting product information uploaded to the marketplace. Every marketplace will have some method — typically a web form — for manually listed products one-by-one. This might work for a merchant with only a handful of products, but quickly becomes a data entry nightmare for retailers with a hundred products or more. A script, an application programming interface (API), or an ecommerce platform extension could be used to make this automatic.
Next, marketplaces generally organize products into categories. Often these categories will be different from the way a given merchant has products organized. Thus, it is necessary to map a retailer’s chosen product categories to a marketplace’s associated categories. Typically, this mapping is done once and automated for new products.
A third challenge for listing on marketplaces is winning the top spot or, as an example, winning the buy box on Amazon. The merchant listed first for a product will often earn 80 percent of the orders. Each marketplace has a different way of awarding the top position on a product detail page. But it is often a combination of customer reviews, inventory levels, and price. Automating price often helps secure this top slot.
Create Effective Product Listings
The final differentiator in an online marketplace may be how well a product is described and displayed. In some sense, preparing a product listing for Amazon, eBay, or Etsy is a lot like creating a great product listing on a merchant’s own site.
The title should be unique, describe the product well, and include terms that will shoppers will likely use in the marketplace’s search. Consider using the same rules that apply to good search engine optimization when creating product titles for marketplaces.
Images are important. Product images for the Amazon marketplace should typically be at least 500 pixels square and, perhaps, even as large as 2,500 pixels square to accommodate image zooming. The photography should be well lit, clear, and indicative of the item.
Product descriptions should be unique. They should describe what the product is and how it benefits the shopper. It also makes sense to include the brand name, manufacturer, product identification number — like a UPC — and specifications.