Are online marketplaces a crucial part of a digital sales strategy?

Before we offer even one sensible answer to this question, we must reflect on the importance of digitization. The world is evolving into a simple accessible marketplace, where you can and perhaps should easily integrate different sales channels. If you want to develop such an international omnichannel strategy, first of all, make sure that your company and organization are digitally integrated. If you don't, then your digital sales strategy will be doomed to fail.

The benefits of online marketplaces

First, ask yourself: is selling through online marketplaces, for both BtoC and BtoB, an important part of implementing my strategy? After all, marketplaces are taking more market share every year. The reasons are simple, they provide an answer to what today's consumers are demanding:

  • A wide assortment so the customer can have a one-stop-shop experience.
  • Often consumers buy the products at a lower price.
  • Comfort of ordering followed by prompt home delivery is the norm.

Moreover, we notice that marketplaces are also taking an increasingly prominent role as search engines. Online marketplaces such as Amazon, Bol.com ... offer, thanks to their wide range, a clear overview in comparable products. Often even followed by user reviews of the products themselves. This allows people to quickly and easily make a decision and they are certainly sufficiently informed about the quality and price of a product. And therein lies the rub.

The "disadvantages" of online marketplaces

Selling through marketplaces brings disadvantages, of course, but we believe you can turn them into an advantage. This is because the disadvantages, which you experience as a company, are actually very valuable from the consumer's point of view:

  • There is a total transparency regarding product/price. Although that is not just because of marketplaces. Rather, that is the result of living in a digital world where all information is up for grabs.
  • International competition is increasing thanks to marketplaces. But conversely, it also gives us the opportunity to be more easily international ourselves.
  • The power of the customer increases since he effectively consumes what he wants and our influence on this decision is more limited. The fact that the customer is much more central in the decision-making process means that we can create added value towards the customer independently of the product. This added value, in turn, is less comparable and can therefore give you a competitive advantage.
  • Selling through marketplaces means that you have less contact with your customer, because this connection is made between the marketplace and the buyer. Still, by being smart in your logistical processing of orders, among other things, you can lure this customer to your other own outlets, both online and offline.

Ignoring marketplaces in your strategy is as pernicious as being blind to the increased power of the consumer. Both require us to think differently about the entire chain through which we create value for consumers.

Is it something for me?

Yet this does not mean that you should deploy to marketplaces thoughtlessly, even if you can handle it digitally. Always ask the right questions before committing to marketplaces:

  • What do you want to achieve with a marketplace? Sales, internationalization, brand awareness? Because these are totally different objectives and therefore require a different approach.
  • How do you capture your consumer's loss of control and turn it to your advantage? Can you motivate consumers to buy within your own sales channels anyway?
  • Which marketplaces give you the best reach to your target audience? Not every marketplace has the same user base or specializes in a specific section or country.
  • How are you going to differentiate yourself? Is your product sufficiently distinctive or are you going to make a difference with the price or the service you offer? To answer this question, you must always start from the expectations of your consumer, because they exceed the expectations of the product.

In short, marketplaces are indeed a crucial component in building your digital strategy. Whether you then integrate them effectively depends on how well you can answer the questions above. Marketplaces must be able to contribute to your company' s goals and the return on investment of your own sales channels.

This is why we as BME, a logistics fulfillment center, together with our partner Channel Engine, offer different marketplaces. So we can always offer the right marketplace according to the answers to these questions.

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