How to choose and on-board brands to your online marketplace

Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder of Mirakl spoke to Talk Retail about how retailers should go about on-boarding sellers and brands when they set up an online marketplace.

A marketplace is a powerful e-commerce channel for any retailer, bringing together buyers and sellers under that retailer’s brand. In Q4 2014, one of the world’s biggest retailers Rakuten, launched its UK marketplace, offering a platform for smaller retailers to reach a wider audience. Amazon Marketplace (which accounts for more than 50% of Amazon’s business) is the most famous example, but many retailers are now offering an online marketplace as a potentially rewarding way of expanding their offering and ensuring shoppers stay on their websites.

So when a retailer has made the decision to launch its own marketplace, one of the main questions to ask is what brands should be on it? Should it be more products of a similar style or is it a chance to offer a wider choice of items? And when that decision has been made, what’s the best way to on-board those brands?

When it comes to the qualities a retailer should look for in a seller for their marketplace, the first question to ask is whether that seller already has an e-commerce site. If it does, that means it is already used to managing dealings with customers. If it does not, then the retailer must assess the seller’s ability to do so, looking at logistics, product cataloguing, invoicing and after-sales service.

There also needs to be consistency with the retailer’s identity and strategy. A retailer may have spent decades building up brands values and if a seller is going to contradict that, then it’s fair to say that it probably wouldn’t be a good fit. A marketplace seller can offer different types of products to that the retailer usually sells, but it must be complementarity.

Once a retailer has selected the sellers that will operate on its marketplace, it needs to get them set and ready to sell – this is known as the on-boarding process. A retailer must provide its sellers with all the right tools and sufficient training to allow them to be autonomous on the platform. The retailer doesn’t want to be fielding regular questions from its sellers – it should aim for them to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Selling in a marketplace means dealing with final customers, so any seller must have a real B2C strategy. This should include marketing, the ability to drive promotions and have dynamic and flexible pricing across the product range.

The catalogue needs to be well-displayed on the platform, with SEO-friendly titles and strong images. For example, if selling clothing, customers would mostly search for the product by brand, so including the brand at the beginning of the title would be critical in getting picked up in searches

Once the sellers are on-board, a retailer can and should provide help in the initial weeks to help ensure a successful start for both the seller and the overall marketplace. This should include a big marketing push for the marketplace, with a prominent position on the retailer’s homepage, as well as marketing support for the sellers – logos for their pages, newsletter content and more. Promoting a marketplace – both overall and the individual sellers’ pages – requires extensive marketing, just as any business would need.

A marketplace can be a powerful e-commerce channel for any retailer, offering the chance to improve customer service and increase product range without the hassle of inventory. But for every successful marketplace launch, there have been just as many that simply haven’t worked for the retailer, their customers or the sellers on the marketplace. And the key to a successful online marketplace lies in the initial on-boarding process – get that right and the retailer will be on the path to true marketplace success.

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