The advent of online marketplaces has helped small businesses and entrepreneurs sell their products for decades. You don't have to set up your own online store, you've got a ready-made channel to sell your products, and the ability to operate around the clock means small businesses can scale fast.
However, with more possibilities, comes more competition. To make sure your platform connects with sellers in the most powerful way possible, you need to ensure that it stands out.
To rise to this challenge, follow the following tips and take on some practical advice to help your marketplace rise to the top!
This is a guest post created for us by Kayleigh Alexandra from MicroStartups.
Tell a story
Since the dawn of time, humans have communicated in stories. Today, nothing has changed. For online marketplaces starting out, telling a story is one of the best ways to tell customers what you're about and how your service can help them.
Not a good storyteller? Don't worry, there are several good places you can go to find a compelling narrative. Why you started your business, your core values, and the inspiration for starting your marketplace are all things that get people interested, engaged, and connected to a business.
Etsy is a prime example of an online marketplace that lets companies create stylized homepages, post photos, videos, and tell people why they should purchase products from them.
The screenshot above is taken from Nina Thomas Studio, a company that sells unique wedding stationery. The company tells a great story by showing how things happen behind the curtains, the people making the products and why they are meaningful.
In addition to classic About Us pages, you can take this approach for every product description. Think about the problems that product will solve, anticipate common questions and list key features and benefits using evocative language.
Use high-quality images
You only get one chance to make a first impression. When meeting someone for a business meeting, dressing nicely is important. For the customer walking into your store, the decor is crucial. And in the highly visual online world, high-quality imagery can make or break how people perceive your online marketplace.
Take dog coats for sale on Amazon as an example. The screenshots below show the good and the bad approach to product photography. The one on the right shows you exactly what the coat will look like on your pet. The other one, not so much – it's hard to even tell you're looking at a dog coat in the first place.
In short, the more time and effort you put into making sure your images are of the highest possible quality, the higher the return on investment you're likely to enjoy.
Best practice for online marketplaces is ensuring your products fill at least 85% of the featured image.
Nowadays, most people will be viewing the product on a mobile device, so framing the product correctly is key to making it stand out as they scroll. At the same time, be wary of including extra props and accessories because they might make the product listing needlessly confusing.
Find niche, unique, and trending products
If you want to attract a wide portfolio of vendors to your online marketplace, you're going to have to prove it's a viable platform. That often means showcasing its value by finding niche, unique, and trending products to sell yourself. Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to source products people will want to purchase on your marketplace.
Discover trending products
Sites like Pinterest and Instagram use hashtags to help people find trending topics, content, and, crucially, products.
Let's look at dog coats once more. Typing related hashtags into the search bar lets you find posts featuring products related to dog coat with the most likes, comments, and shares.
If you don't know where to start, use Hashtagify. One quick search using the keyword 'dog coats' reveals the #dogsweater #PetProducts and #woofwoofwednesday hashtags that will provide a rich avenue of research.
Get ahead of crazes before they happen
Free to use, Google Trends is a tool that shows you how frequently keywords — and, therefore, products — have been searched for in during a specific time period. It will also tell you which countries and regions specific terms are generating the most searches.
If you are looking for a toy that's about to blow up big, you could compare two up-and-coming products against one another, and see which one has the biggest recent spike.
The screenshot above displays the recent search trend for two children's toys: fingerlings (blue) versus fidget spinners (red).
Research top selling products on other online marketplaces
Other online marketplaces are a great way to find out what products are selling online. For example, the best seller page on AliExpress is a great place to find products that are selling fast.
Another tactic is to look at dropshipping sites. Exchange by Shopify is a marketplace where you can buy & sell websites, rather than products. Using the site's filters, you can search for dropshipping sites for sale by those generating the highest revenue.
And because most dropshipping sites have a top-selling products page — like Big Red Gadgets (found using this method) — you can easily find products that have made other sites highly valuable and which could do the same for your marketplace.
Choose the right marketing channels
Taking your online marketplace to the next level above the competition is about finding the right growth channels and knowing how to use them to your advantage.
Here, we're going to concentrate on three of the most effective: email marketing, social proof, and social communities.
According to research, increasing retention rates by just 5% can boost profits by anywhere from 25% to 95%. Email marketing is one of the best ways to turn first-time shoppers into loyal customers.
As such, it's a good idea to try and build a good email list for your online marketplace as quickly as possible. At the start of your venture, giving away coupons, exclusive discounts, and welcome offers are an effective way to incentivize email opt-in for your marketplace.
eBay was one of the first pioneers of the online review system. Now, hardly anyone buys something online without at least glancing at those all-important star ratings.
Having a review system in place helps to create trust in the absence of being able to strike up a two-way conversation. For this reason, it's crucial to place customer testimonials or user-generated content front and center of your online marketplace.
An increasing number of online marketplaces, like Etsy and Airbnb, have built a community around their platform to boost success.
To do the same for an online marketplace your building, there are several steps you can take. These include building relationships with your early members, building a forum for users to communicate freely, championing users stories, and offering perks or rewards to your most valuable sellers.
Creating an online marketplace is getting easier – and with accessibility comes fierce competition. That's nothing to be scared of though. By following the tips and practical advice outlined above you can make your marketplace platform stand out from the crowd and beat the competition. It's just a matter of finding the right combination of tactics for what you're offering.