Mar 06 2019

Driving Engagement and Transactions on Online Marketplaces: ShopTalk ‘19 Recap

You know what they say, there’s a time and place for everything. After attending the Selling on Marketplaces session at ShopTalk, it became clear that brands are finding a strategic time and place for the Amazon’s and eBay’s of the world. Brands are turning to online marketplaces to reach new audiences, test products, and gather customer feedback.

Jason Goldberg, the Cheif Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis Communication, interviewed John Evons, VP of Global Direct-to-Consumer at KEEN, Bridget Davies, VP of Revenue & Seller Growth at eBay, and Jordan Bass, Head of eCommerce at The Wonderful Company.

Both KEEN and The Wonderful Company have a footprint in the marketplace realm through Amazon—eBay’s most significant competitor. eBay has come a long way since it’s pure consumer-to-consumer model. If you go to their site today, you’ll find that it’s similar to other online marketplaces. The panel discussed marketplace best practices, common mistakes, and why they are integral to their overall ecommerce strategy.

Why do brands use marketplaces?

The short answer: Meet the customers where they are. “Grocery shopping online is only going to increase over the years. Consumers are showing us that they want to be able to buy groceries and our products when it’s convenient and where it’s convenient for them,” says Bass.

However, for The Wonderful Company, it wasn’t just about putting their products in front of people. They faced a unique challenge of delivering perishables and juices to customers. Rather than waiting for online marketplaces to build cold chains, The Wonderful Company worked with their 3PLs to create their own cold chain. This investment allowed them to deliver fresh products that stayed cool through the delivery process. As a result of being early to this strategy, they’re now the number 1 premium juice on Amazon.

Davies adds to Bass’s point, “Consumers are choosing to shop through marketplaces because of the diversity of product and price competitiveness in those environments. How do you best represent your brand within that environment?”

Davies notes that each marketplace has its own unique set of advantages. Before jumping into a partnership, she recommends “doing your homework” and “being very thoughtful” in your marketplace strategy. “One of eBay’s biggest advantages is being a true marketplace. We don’t pull inventory; we don’t compete with sellers on our platform. The fact that the founding principle of our company is about creating opportunity.”

Once you pick a marketplace–or multiple marketplaces–Evons recommends constantly evaluating those relationships. As he puts it, KEEN “learned to ride the bull that is Amazon,” but as Amazon’s strategy shifts, their footprint within the marketplace shifts as well. Amazon isn’t just a wholesale account for someone to manage; it touches every aspect of KEEN’s business operations. He adds that organizations need to own that relationship much more holistically to have a healthy representation of their brands.

How should brands leverage marketplaces?

All of the panelists agreed that throwing your entire product catalog on a marketplace typically won’t get you the best results. “Amazon will self admit that they’re not a great platform to launch new products,” says Evons. You need to think about your assortment strategy alongside the product lifecycle.

That said, both Evons and Davies have seen the success of selling exclusive products through marketplaces. eBay recently partnered with Hasbro to bring the next Magic card exclusively to the marketplace. Magic has a huge fan base that is present in mass on eBay. “The combination having an exclusive inventory in front of a very passionate fanbase led to two products sold every second for the first hour that we had it up on the marketplace,” says Davies.

By promoting that new card exclusively on eBay rather than any other channel, they were able to tap into their existing Magic fans, as well as reach new fans with similar interests. As the panelists said earlier in the session, online marketplaces allow brands to meet the customers where they are. Especially for newer brands, you reach millions of customers through marketplaces who may not have heard of your brand before.

What are common mistakes brands make on online marketplaces?

One common mistake is treating all marketplace customers the same. Using product imagery, Bass caters to various types of consumers based on their shopping intent. For high intent shoppers, they put the pack size and bottle size directly on the product image. For low intent shoppers, they include a picture with more information about the origin of their products. They lean on images because most of their customers are on mobile, so swiping a carousel of images is native to them.

Another mistake is not thinking through your strategy before uploading your products to a marketplace. For example, if you decide to partner with Amazon, you need to consider what will improve your rankings in the search results. Blue Acorn iCi works with brands to strategically sell products on Amazon and optimize promotions. Blue Acorn iCi’s existing seller account is over ten years old and has thousands of positive reviews—improving the search rankings of their client’s products.

At the end of the day, “if you’re not on the first page, it doesn’t matter,” says Bass. To be successful on marketplaces, you need to curate a product assortment that makes the most sense for the channel, create content specific to these shoppers, and invest in rankings.

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Shannon Kenneally

Media Marketing Specialist

After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn’s Content Writer, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.

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