Always a key event on the online seller’s calendar, Amazon Prime Day is fast approaching. So, now is the best time to get prepared.
Guest blog from Zoey Commerce
Marketplaces like eBay and Amazon offer a tremendous number of benefits for businesses that sell online. It’s easy to get started, you can tap into an existing audience and some marketplaces like Amazon will even take care of logistics for you through their Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) service. Despite the benefits, there are a number of reasons why you should augment marketplace selling with your own online store.
Why to Consider Moving Beyond Marketplace Selling
Control Your Own Destiny
Marketplaces are set up to benefit the owner of the marketplace, not necessarily the seller. Amazon, eBay and others can charge hefty fees that cut into profit margins and they can change their terms of service in ways that negatively impact sellers. There have even been reports that Amazon will start to enter a market when they see a merchant’s product is selling successfully, just adding to the competition.
It’s Hard to Build a Brand
In most cases shoppers aren’t on a marketplace to buy from a specific merchant. People go to Amazon to buy from Amazon at a great price. They have the brand cachet, not you. This makes it all but impossible to build the customer loyalty and repeat business that is essential to long-term sustainability.
No Longer Reliant on a Single Channel
In business, you never want to be reliant on a single sales channel, source of traffic, distributor, etc. It’s just too risky. If your traffic dries up or your distributor relationship goes south, your business can be severely damaged. With your own online store, you can still sell on marketplaces, but you’ll also own a sales channel that gives you far more control and flexibility than any marketplace can.
How to Move Beyond Marketplace Selling
Before we get into tips for moving beyond marketplace selling, I want to make one thing clear. We are not telling you to stop selling on marketplaces. They’re great tools for starting and growing a business. We’re simply advocating that they not be your only sales channels and are, instead, part of a larger equation.
It’s important to note that we’re not covering things like product development, distributor sourcing, legal compliance, tax collection and reporting etc. We’ll also assume that you’re using the same business and selling the same products for your store that you do with your current marketplace efforts.
Develop a Brand
To be successful with your own online store, you’re going to need to begin the process of building a brand. A brand is essentially the identify of your business. It’s the imagery, messaging, ideas, experiences and emotions a customer associates with your business.
In modern marketing, branding is a bidirectional relationship between the business and the consumer. You listen to what consumers say you are and try to back that up with marketing, product and customer service decisions.
Perhaps you’ve done some work around developing a brand, but if you haven’t, you will want to start here. Things you’ll want to do include:
- Identify your target audience - Who is the main audience for your business? What are their challenges, needs and wants?
- Develop positioning - How does your business sit relative to others in your industry? What is your core value proposition? Is this proposition appealing to your target audience?
- Develop messaging and a voice - How do you communicate your value proposition to prospects? What tone do you use?
- Create a logo and other imagery - How does the imagery you use communicate your unique value to your target audience?
It’s important to be consistent and true to your brand in every communication and externally facing medium. It’s also important to evolve your brand over time based on customer feedback. Think of your brand as a living organism.
Choose an Ecommerce PlatformNow that you’ve done some basic business planning, you’ll need to choose an ecommerce platform. There are literally dozens of them out there so we’ll give you some tips on picking the right one for your business.
- For sake of getting up and running quickly, we recommend using a SaaS/hosted platform for the majority of businesses. You could also use an open source platform, but this will add considerable cost and complexity to your store build.
- Ensure the platform can integrate with the marketplaces you’re already using. Usually this is done through an app like SureDone or GoDataFeed.
- Think long term about your business and make sure the platform can support the capabilities you want now and in the future. A few examples include multi-language and multi-currency support; integration with negotiated and real-time shipping rates; wholesale and account-based B2B selling.
Decide How You Will Build Your SiteHow you to build your site will also play into your platform decision so it pays to consider it at the same. You really have two main choices:
- DIY - you complete the build yourself
- Agency - You hire a web development agency to build the site on your behalf
Building your store yourself can be helpful in that it gives you a detailed understanding of how your platform functions. If you run into an issue down the road this can help you better troubleshoot it. There’s also a certain sense of ownership and accomplishment that comes from completing a build yourself.
The downside is that if you’re not experienced, a build can take longer than you’d like. If you don’t know how to code, it will be almost impossible for you to build your store yourself on an open source platform. You’ll also be limited in what you can do from a design perspective, regardless of whether you choose SaaS or open source.
If you work with a good agency, you’re essentially paying for their expertise. They’ll help you get your store up and running following industry best practices that will give you a head start towards building a successful online store. They can often help you with custom design work and other services you’ll find useful like branding and marketing. The downside is the associated costs. Agencies vary in quality so it pays to do your research before selecting one. Asking for references and looking at their past work are good places to start when evaluating an agency’s quality.
Create a Marketing PlanWith your store build in place, you’ll need to spend time developing your marketing plan. When you’re selling on marketplaces, the traffic comes to you because of the effort the marketplace puts into marketing themselves. Now it’s on you to generate traffic.
If you’ve never done any marketing before, you might be a little nervous, but it isn’t as complicated as you might think. From a digital marketing perspective, you essentially need to figure out where your target audience spends time online and then determine how to best reach them there. There are a number of channels you can use to reach potential customers:
- Email marketing
- Blogging and content marketing
- Social media
- Social media advertising
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Banner ads
We recommend using a test and measure approach. Start small and use analytics software, tracking URLs and other tools to measure which channels are driving the most traffic and revenue to focus your efforts on top performing channels. As we mentioned above there are literally tens of thousands of marketing agencies that can assist you with this
Figure out Fulfilment and Customer ServiceFulfilment and customer service are the final two big pieces you’ll need to figure out. Some of the question you’ll need to ask yourself include:
- Where will I store stock?
- Will I fulfill order myself, hire staff or work with an outsourced logistics provider?
- What sort of software and other tools will I need to support my fulfillment operation?
- How will I communicate with customers throughout the fulfilment process?
- Do I need to hire additional customer service staff or will I manage it with my existing team?
- Do I need to invest in specialized customer service software?
Like any aspect of business, you’ll want to run with some initial assumptions and evaluate their effectiveness over time. Fulfillment, in particular, is an area that merchants can really optimize to increase profitability and customer satisfaction simultaneously.
While we haven’t covered every detail, the above steps and tips should serve as a basic framework for getting your own online store up and running. If you need a recommendation on which ecommerce platform you should use for your business, the team at Currencies Direct will be more than happy to help you out.
Ryan is the Marketing Manager at Zoey, an ecommerce platform that blends the power of open source solutions with the ease of use of modern SaaS platforms. He spends his time creating strategies that connect Zoey with leading web design agencies and ambitious online merchants.