Greg Zemor, Founder of online marketplace management solution Neteven, gives his tips on how best to prepare your distribution strategy through online marketplaces this Christmas
Despite the economic downturn in Europe, ecommerce has seen double-digit growth and Christmas 2014 is expected to break online retail records. According to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, in 2013 shoppers spent £91 billion online in the UK alone. This year the figure is estimated to climb to £107bn by the end of 2014. The question is how online retailers can ensure that they capitalise on the growth in online sales and make their offering as competitive as possible.
Although there isn’t much time left until the festive shopping season is in full swing, there is still time for every online retailer to ensure they are fully prepared. For online retailers that rely on online marketplaces to increase sales and reach new markets, here are my top tips:
Procurement is key for a successful multi-channel strategy. Being able to offer the right products at the best price and have flexible and reliable suppliers is the base for every retailer aiming at selling on online marketplaces. Online marketplaces are some of the most visited websites in Europe and millions of retailers sell their products on them each month. Defining your procurement strategy according to the specific requirements of each marketplace is essential. Retailers should make sure they have sufficient stock of any product that they are likely to be best sellers over Christmas, rather than taking up valuable storage space with lots of slow moving products.
If all goes well, Christmas will mark a surge in visitors to your website. With this increase in traffic comes the importance of having an optimal IT systems in order to prevent any risk of technical problems. A slow website can damage sales, however, there is nothing worse than your website completely crashing during Christmas season.
Furthermore, you should ensure that your IT systems are fully prepared for increased orders. One of the perks of using a marketplace to distribute products is that it takes advantage of the marketplace’s comprehensive IT infrastructure.
Ensure that your website is fully synced in real-time with your warehouse, with intermediation platforms such as Neteven and marketplaces IT system – especially if you have bought in a number of new product lines for Christmas.
Each marketplace has specific criteria for categorising products. Online retailers need to reference their products in line with the requirements of each marketplace. This ensures that products are correctly displayed for the specific audience.
It’s worth remembering that marketplaces sometimes modify their algorithms to match changes to Google. An easy fix is to use technology that acts as an intermediary between marketplaces and retailers. This guarantees that only product data that conforms to a marketplace’s requirements is entered. It will increase the chances of mastering eBay’s ‘Best Match’ algorithms or of winning the ‘Buy Box’ on Amazon’s product pages and will enable merchants to start selling abroad, without constraints, on marketplaces such as La Redoute, Spartoo, Galeries Lafayette or Zalando. Furthermore, if merchants want to optimise their referencing on online marketplaces, they must enrich their product data as much as they can. Platinum keywords, category trees, attributions or pictures are essential details to provide for a good referencing.
It’s important to bear in mind that retailers need to be strategic with their pricing strategy on marketplaces to be competitive across categories and product-types.
One way to determine the best strategy is by analysing buyer behaviour. Another is to use competitor analysis tools that are available on intermediary software. This helps retailers to quickly determine the right product prices, and whether or not to include shipping costs. Once determined, these tools will automatically match the prices of competitors several times a day.
Marketplaces often put forward products that have no associated shipping costs first. Therefore, think carefully when adding shipping costs to a product.
When selling on marketplaces, it’s vital to pay close attention to stocking, shipping, tracking and managing returns. Logistics solutions should be built within the sales channels, so that they can be adjusted during peak sales across physical stores, websites and marketplaces.
It can be wise to increase delivery slots to avoid customer disappointment and to maintain regular contact with the customer, updating them on the whereabouts of their package.
Being organised is also important in relation to ‘returns’. The number of items being returned is likely to increase dramatically over Christmas and most customers will expect to return items within 14 days. If badly managed, these returns can seriously impact on a company’s margins.
Customer service goes hand in hand with logistics. It’s advisable to dedicate resources to respond to any customer queries within a certain time frame. As a lot of the customers you deal with on marketplaces will be first time buyers, make sure that they’re satisfied and want to buy from you again.
Some marketplaces also ask customers to rate the seller. This rating will be affected by the shipping cost, delivery time, customer service and how the product compares to its description. Marketplaces integrate this feedback into their algorithms, so it’s worth bearing it in mind.
And finally, remember that the online sales period doesn’t end at Christmas. January is a key sales period and retailers need to be equally prepared. Make sure you manage promotions to be competitive and begin selling new season products on marketplaces at the start of January.