When properly leveraged, online or digital marketplaces can be a single-ticket journey that leads your IBD to unparalleled growth, sales and online reach, not to mention streamlined processes and logistics.
However, this is not a one-size-fits-all process, and it’s vital to seek out the right digital marketplace for your business. It’s then crucial to understand how to establish a best practice presence that ensures you’re head and shoulders above the competition.
The good news is that this need not be overwhelming – it’s just a matter of the correct information.
What is a digital marketplace?
At first glance, online marketplaces are the middlemen between sellers and shoppers, bringing the two together and enabling them to transact.
In simplified terms, imagine a shopping mall.
The mall is full of individual retailers and shoppers, and marketing and promotions are visible throughout. Now, put that shopping mall online, keep it open 24/7 and, hey presto, you have yourself a digital marketplace.
This analogy doesn’t quite do justice to the incredibly sophisticated platforms that are marketplaces. One thing is certain, however, the right marketplace has remarkable potential to drive growth, generate sales and improve efficiencies for small businesses.
What are the benefits of digital marketplaces?
In a nutshell, they can be a cost-effective strategy to scale your business rapidly. Here’s how:
Unless you’re prepared to spend a small fortune in online advertising and specialist SEO resources, then your business cannot compete with the volume of traffic an online marketplace can generate. It’s a bit like that shopping mall analogy – it’s always going to experience greater footfall than a single brick-and-mortar has the capacity to achieve.
Big online advertising spends
A best practice marketplace invests significant resources into online marketing by way of advertising and promotions. Their budgets reflect their size and, again, make an individual store spend pale in comparison.
Robust search engine optimisation (SEO)
These platforms are experts in the dark art of SEO. They’re doing everything to optimise – schema, structure, formatting, content (written and visual), etc. SEO is akin to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge – the moment you think you’ve finished, you need to refresh and start all over again. These players never stop painting.
Doors never shut. Even after hours, a digital marketplace is likely to deploy chatbots to help customers outside traditional operating hours. You know that saying about making money whilst you sleep…?
Want a low-risk scaling strategy? Dropshipping has to be one of the most cost-effective ways to grow. An excellent digital marketplace has all the infrastructure ready and available to facilitate dropshipping for your business.
Back-end processes mean that payment, logistics, and even storage and fulfilment can be provided by the marketplace. This is a massive bundle of red tape that is taken off your hands.
This is particularly pertinent if your business is new or you’re targeting a previously untapped market. Customers might not be familiar with your brand, and unfamiliarity breeds caution online. On the other hand, a marketplace’s high profile can provide a degree of security and trust.
In terms of your trust, best practice online marketplaces provide amplified and robust online security and vetting for fraud, taking a big worry off your plate.
Integrating with your point of sale
An API to your POS is crucial in creating product listings and managing stock levels in real-time. With a literal click, your entire store inventory can populate into a marketplace.
The modern customer expects to reach you wherever and whenever they want. That means being everywhere all the time. This may sound overwhelming, but it’s not – it’s omnichannel. An online presence by way of your own site, integration into a digital marketplace, and activated shopping across social media means you cover all bases. You’re omnipresent, and with that comes a degree of, well, omnipotence!
The power of niche digital marketplaces
Granted, the Amazons, eBays and Facebooks of the world are examples of established online marketplaces. However, there’s a compelling argument that niche can, in fact, be more lucrative. Setting up shop with a specialist online marketplace enables you to leverage specialist features.
Again, let’s use that shopping mall analogy.
Would you prefer a storefront in a generic mall that will attract everyday shoppers looking for groceries, homewares, key cutting services and a bite to eat? Or do you see more value in a bicycle shopping Mecca, where every consumer is there to find anything and everything bike?
Customer appeal aside, what other benefits do niche digital marketplaces provide?
Never underestimate the power of knowledge!
A niche platform like BikeExchange knows the industry inside and out. Leveraging specialist resources, big industry data, acquiring targeted sponsorships, deploying specific features; these all benefit the IBD in spades.
When it comes to marketing to the cycling world, we know precisely what we’re doing. We take advantage of that knowledge to make smart decisions around our online spend, partnerships and promotions.
Contacting customer service to troubleshoot an industry-specific challenge is a heck of a lot less time-consuming (and far less frustrating) when you’re working with a niche partner.
POS and database integration
This is a crucial point, as seamless database integration has the potential to save you literally weeks if not months of work and ongoing maintenance.
Marketplaces like BikeExchange will invest excessive time and resources into compiling accurate, current product databases. Moreover, we have a legacy of past databases, meaning older stock can still be uploaded. We can integrate with a vast number of POS, especially some of the most common names in cycling retail. This results in literally immediate and accurate product listings to populate your store.
Setting up your own online shop
At no extra cost, BikeExchange can provide you with a stand-alone online storefront that can operate in conjunction with – and independently to – the online marketplace. Think about the fees saved in hosting, building and maintenance. It’s the virtual equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too.
12 questions you should ask to a digital marketplace
Now we know more about marketplaces and options, it’s important to sort out the wheat from the chaff. So here are some key questions to ask yourself before opting into an online marketplace:
- Can I choose to list my products for sale as buy online, click and collect, click and reserve, etc.?
- What is the marketplace’s marketing campaign, and what opportunities are available specifically to my business?
- Can the marketplace plug into my store’s POS?
- Does the marketplace have a database of all the products I stock, so product listings are generated automatically with the POS integration?
- Can I tailor my online shop and my product listings to my brand guide?
- Do I have the ability to apply specific deals, discounts and promotions on certain products or indeed store-wide?
- What payment options are available?
- Do I have ongoing access to customer service at no charge?
- What is the payment structure? A one-off set-up payment or an ongoing retainer?
- Is onboarding free, flexible and comprehensive?
- Are the marketplace’s Terms and Conditions fair and reasonable?
- Does the marketplace dictate the refunds and returns policy? If so, what are they?
We hope this is a comprehensive introduction to digital marketplaces. Our team is available for a chat and to provide you with a lot more information specific to you and your business. BikeExchange now features 2500 Shops worldwide per annum. We’d be delighted to talk to you about joining the platform – please contact us.