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Leveraging Online Marketplaces Q&A with Ryan Murtagh

There are many questions to consider when looking to market and sell your products online, Ryan Murtagh answers some of the questions he is most frequently asked:
1. Why should retailers consider selling through online marketplaces?
Online marketplaces can be a cost effective avenue for doing business for both traditional and online retailers. For traditional retailers marketplaces offer a low cost of entry into the online space allowing them to test a markets response to their offering with limited risk or capital investment. Marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon also offer mass market exposure for a relatively low cost and measurable ROI, allowing smaller players to compete on the same playing field as larger more recognised brands.  The other aspect to this question is that unless retailers start operating in the online space they are going to get left behind with a transaction space that is growing at exponential rates and is changing the face of retailing across the globe.
2. How can retailers’ best leverage online marketplaces with their existing e-commerce Efforts?
Marketplaces allow for existing online retailers to expand their reach and enhance their brands online visibility. For some, marketplaces can also act as an additional sales channel for end of line goods or clearance lines. In many of these cases retailers may “spin up” a separate brand or identity to reduce the risk of their marketplace offer cannibalising their traditional sales channel?
Provided online retailers are already offering their products for sale on their own website,  the use of marketplace connects such as those offered by Neto E-commerce Solutions allows retailers to replicate and manage this content on marketplaces such as eBay quickly and easily with little upfront investment.
3. How can retailers differentiate themselves in often-crowded online marketplaces?
There is no doubt that an online offering should be part of every retailer’s strategic plan.  However, gone are the days when someone can just create an online website and become successful.  The online space is fast becoming very sophisticated but there are still many operators not doing online well.  The biggest thing to remember with online is that many of the fundamentals of traditional retailing still exist.  Successful online retailers are offering ‘the full package’.  They are providing systems along the way that make transacting online easy for the online user and that give the user confidence about every step of the transaction.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Well photographed products and accurate item descriptions and are a must for marketplace sellers. Not only will this reduce the number of pre-sale enquiries you receive but it will also increase customer satisfaction as expectations at the point of order receipt will better met.
Get to know your competition & exploit gaps in the market
Use readily available market research tools such as Terapeak to gain real time insights into your marketplace competition. Tools such as these can help you realise gaps in the marketplace while also helping you to structure and price your listings accordingly.
Focus on Delivery
Online consumers are becoming savvy internet shoppers, long gone are the days of 1c auctions with over priced freight components. Retailers must now ensure they have the systems in place to allow them to offer the best possible freight rates to their customers whilst not losing margin along the way. This may involve implementing a multi-carrier freight system that allows for the automatic selection of freight carrier based on customer location and order content. 
Automate To Reduce Costs
There are a number of listing management tools and order fulfillment solutions available that can help to automate the listing and after sales processes involved in selling through marketplaces. Solutions such as those offered by Neto enable businesses to accurately manage large volumes of eBay listings, complete and ship eBay sales and raise unpaid item disputes from one centralised solution. This in-turn leads to cost savings that can be passed on to the consumer.
4. How important is customer feedback to success within an online marketplace environment?
Online marketplaces are more than just selling platforms, they are a forum for a community of buyers to discuss and review your products and your brand.  Maintaining a high level of positive customer feedback is therefore an integral part of any successful marketplace business. According to Bazaarvoice 94% of online product shoppers read reviews before making a purchase, highlighting the need to make feedback maintenance a key focus of your marketplace business.
5. In terms of resources, what is required to maintain a branded online marketplace presence?
Provided the right technology is put in place, the maintenance involved in a businesses online marketplace presence can be drastically reduced. Solutions such as the Neto E-commerce Suite can automate the listing and after sales process involved in selling through marketplaces such as eBay, negating the need for duplicate data handling and manual listing or stock management.
Without automation though, managing a marketplace presence can be a large job in itself. It typically requires people with multiple skill sets from design to logistics and customer service.  Auction type environments, where listings have a limited life span are typically more resource intensive, which is why it is important to research and determine which selling format is best for your business prior to any capital commitment.
6. How should retailers be including and leveraging emerging marketplaces (such as Facebook)?
 There is no doubt that Facebook, Google+ etc are becoming major channels and traffic drivers for retailers. According to data from Compete, social media sites send more referral traffic to online retail sites than Google!
As a bare minimum, all retailers should be including socially driven site features such as Facebook like and Google + buttons on their website pages, empowering enthusiasts to spread the word about the brands and the products they love. Recommendations from friends have enormous credibility and this is ultimately what sets Facebook apart from other e-commerce marketplaces. 
Retailers should also explore setting up a “social shop” within their own Facebook fan page, enabling consumers to browse and recommend their favourite products within the facebook framework.
7. Can you suggest some examples of retailers who have successfully integrated online marketplaces into their online sales channel mix?
Cycling Deal
Multi-channel retailer that uses eBay as an additional sales channel
The Perfume Connection
Multi-channel retailer that uses eBay as an additional sales channel
Online retailer that uses eBay as an additional sales channel
Online retailer that uses eBay as an additional sales channel
Online retailer that uses eBay as their primary sales channel
8. What future online retail trends (e.g. mobile, social networks, specialised niche sites, online malls, etc.) do you think will have an impact on marketplaces? How can retailers leverage these opportunities?
Successful online marketplaces are evolving and in my opinion keeping up with online retail trends. In the past 12 months we have seen significant shifts in the way eBay operates here in Australia with what appears to be a focus on attracting larger retailers and brand names and streamlining the end users buying experience. The merging of eBay and PayPal’s developer programs also offer exciting opportunities for developers and retailers looking to take full advantage of the latest technologies, especially in the mobile commerce space.
Mobile commerce and social networks are already here in a big way, a report released by PayPal earlier this year revealed that that 68 per cent of consumers planned to use mobile devices for transactions and payments in the future.  There are now over 1 billion mobile devices accessing the internet, compared to 1.3 billion PC’s.  Provided that marketplaces continue to improve their mobile shopping experience, the retailers selling through these marketplaces will no doubt reap the rewards.
The problem facing online mall start ups is that the revenue model requires volume. Sellers need to see a significant sales volume to justify maintaining their mall listings and consumers need to see a complete product offering to make their virtual mall visit worth while. If it becomes more hassle than its worth, it becomes worthless for all stake holders.
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