Alibaba.com, Amazon, and eBay are all major examples of successful online marketplaces. Designed and developed to help new and established retailers reach buyers around the world, online marketplaces are often more affordable and easier to use than developing your own eCommerce website. So, suppose you’re hoping to sell goods to local and overseas buyers quickly. In that case, you might want to sign up to an established platform online rather than invest time and a considerable amount of money designing and launching your own site.
In this article, we’re going to explain everything there is to know about online marketplaces so that you can start listing your goods, receiving inquiries, and trading on a global scale as soon as possible. Whether you’re a new seller, SME, or international manufacturer, don’t do anything until you’ve read our complete beginner’s guide.
Table of Contents
An online marketplace is a website that brings together online sellers and buyers. Think Alibaba.com, Walmart, Etsy, Amazon, or even eBay. Online sellers can sign up to an online platform such as Alibaba.com and set up a business account to create a virtual shop floor and list their entire product range online.
Online platforms make it easy for buyers to search for and find specific products and goods by using categories. Sellers can select the categories their goods best fit into when listing their products. Not only does this make it easier for buyers to find the right products and compare price points and key features, but sellers also have a higher chance of being found online by relevant and interested customers, whether locally or from international buyers.
Usually, eCommerce sites don’t sell goods themselves, although this has changed over the past couple of years. Now online platforms such as Amazon and eBay also use their own eCommerce marketplace to sell their own branded items and goods to buyers around the world.
To start selling on an online marketplace, you will first need to sign up for a business or seller account. Sometimes there will be a fee to sign up, but some sites do offer a free sign-up process. Marketplaces will generate revenue through listing fees, transaction fees, and paid promotions or additional seller features. While some sellers find it frustrating to be charged a listing fee or transaction fee, when you consider how many buyers you’re able to reach through the platform, the small fee is well worth it for merchants.
Plus, the popularity of online marketplaces and online shopping is certainly on the rise. In fact, according to recent data and COVID-19, online sales will reach a record $5.86 trillion by the end of 2021 and continue to grow steadily over the next four years. And programmatic ad spend will approach $100 billion by the end of 2022.1
So, let’s take a quick look at the major benefits of listing your goods and products on an online platform such as Amazon, eBay, or Alibaba.com.
Designing, developing, and launching your own eCommerce site can take a considerable amount of time, energy, and cash, even if you choose to use a platform such as Shopify. While a Shopify site might be easy to set up compared to custom code, you’ll still need to generate traffic once live and increase your visibility within the search results. To avoid this often long and complicated process, you can take advantage of an established eCommerce website instead. An online marketplace will have everything in place to help you list your products, attract potential customers and let buyers add items to their shopping cart and pay using their preferred payment method. It will also already be generating a considerable amount of traffic, meaning you don’t need to run ads or rely on organic traffic to make sales.
The beauty of selling via an online marketplace is that you can start reaching local and international buyers from the get-go. This gives you and your business an instant edge over your competitors and helps you to drive traffic to your online shop floor the same day. If you’re thinking of expanding your business to sell overseas, read our article on: Benefits of exporting for small businesses.
Many online sellers find it far more affordable to list their goods and promote their business on an online marketplace such as eBay or Alibaba.com and pay small insertion fees and transaction fees when they list an item and complete a purchase. When you consider the cost of building your own eCommerce site, with plugins to enable buyers to scroll through categories, add goods to their shopping cart, and process a payment, online marketplaces are much more affordable for new sellers.
Buyers trust established online marketplaces and so there is not as much effort needed to convince them to place an order once they find the goods they want to purchase. It is also much easier for sellers to list goods and choose the right category that their products fit into. This means buyers can easily search online and find certain products as well as compare prices, features, and shipping expenses. Categories increase a seller’s visibility on the platform and improve their chances of making a sale. Using logical categories will make shopping online fast and convenient, so never underestimate the power of using categories on an online marketplace.2
Another significant benefit of selling via an online platform over an eCommerce website is that you don’t need previous experience uploading products, optimizing sales funnels, and marketing your business online. Unlike hosting your own website, you won’t need technical skills to get started. Alibaba.com makes it easier than ever to list products, choose categories, and set up shipping and delivery options. In fact, Alibaba.com has guides and business articles designed to educate and empower their sellers when it comes to online sales. For example, here’s a helpful guide on: How to manage your Alibaba.com account settings.
The longer a website is down, the more money your business is potentially losing. This is one of the big risks of hosting and managing your own website. Should a plugin break your website theme, you may need to pay a professional web developer to fix the issues and get your website back online. However, a third-party online marketplace will have an entire department dedicated to preventing issues, resolving problems, and protecting their sellers and buyers. So, should anything happen, it is their responsibility to fix the technical problem or alert users to upcoming maintenance work that may limit access to the online platform. This gives both sellers and buyers peace of mind when using an eCommerce marketplace.
Still unsure whether to launch your own online store or niche eCommerce website? No problem, why not read our article on: Marketplace or own eCommerce website: where to sell?
To target specific customers online, retailers should use customer data to develop 5 to 10 buyer personas. Knowing who your customer is, what they are searching for online, what their pain points are and how they prefer to buy goods will help you improve customer experience as a seller. Demographics such as location, age, gender, education level, language abilities, and sales barriers will enable you to address their needs and convert more sales online.3
Excellent customer service can generate repeat buyers, so make sure you always deliver items on time and they arrive in good condition. If you choose to offer next-day delivery, clarify whether this is only available to local customers to avoid any confusion when international buyers place an order with you. Provide information on how your goods will be sent, shipped, and delivered, as well as your returns policy.
To optimize your online orders as a seller, you should use relevant keywords within category page titles. When listing items, always select the relevant and niche categories that your products fall under to help buyers find the right goods online. Failing to choose the right product categories can also put you at a major disadvantage when compared to your competitors. Buyers often browse online and use categories to narrow down their search. Established online platforms will already have pre-set categories to help retailers accurately list their inventory of goods, so use them to increase your exposure online.
SEO or search engine optimization will give you the upper hand when attracting new buyers to your online store. An effective SEO strategy is to use relevant keywords and search terms within product titles, image alt tags, and product descriptions. By using applicable search terms, an online marketplace should display your listing when a buyer uses this search term in the search bar. SEO helps sellers appear higher in the organic search results. There are also plenty of free SEO tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, to help you identify the right keywords to use within your niche product listings.
An excellent way to generate more traffic to your digital storefront is to promote your brand and goods via social media. From Facebook to Pinterest, social media marketing creates direct and clickable links to encourage interested users to click through and check out via a well-known online marketplace. For example, if you sell organic fruit and vegetables in LA, you could create branded Pinterest pins with links to take Pinterest users directly to your Amazon store.
PPC, or pay-per-click advertising, is a way to boost your online exposure and attract relevant buyers to view your profile and inventory of products. Keyword advertising is a value-added service available to Alibaba's Gold Suppliers and offers precision marketing on the platform. Sellers can pay for their product ad to be placed on the first page of the search results, on the right of each page of the search results, below the search results page, or on the first page of the APP search results, depending on the seller’s preference and budget. Learn more about Keyword Advertising with Alibaba.com.
Reviews encourage hesitant buyers to complete a transaction, so highlighting positive feedback can elevate your brand and reassures new customers that you are reliable and offer excellent customer service. Trust is at the epicenter of the new digital economy, and as consumers, we take ‘trust leaps’ when shopping online. To decide whether to buy from a new seller or not, users rely on customer reviews. So, as soon as you get a positive customer review, make sure to thank the buyer and promote the feedback to optimize your sales potential.4
Streamlining your business is another effective online marketplace strategy that can help improve your business model. By partnering up with a warehouse, you can let a professional logistics company handle shipping, delivery, and returns, giving you more time as a seller to refine your product range, spend more time getting to know your online customers, and optimizing your business to increase sales.5
Before choosing which online marketplace to use, you need to figure out where your customers are based. Will you be targeting local buyers, or do you plan to offer international and worldwide shipping from day one? If you only sell goods in the US, choose a platform that most American buyers know well and use often. If you’re a B2B seller and offer shipping to different countries, look for a predominantly B2B marketplace that attracts buyers around the world. Amazon, for example, is available in 178+ countries and is a well-known B2C and B2B marketplace, but Alibaba.com is more tailored towards international B2B sellers.
Deciding which marketplace to sell on is a big decision, so take some time to consider each platform’s key features. Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down the decision:
Once you have signed up for an online marketplace as a seller, it’s time to create your product listings. Again, invest some time learning how to best format a product listing to maximize your sales potential.
Find out how to best take product pictures to capture your goods and highlight their unique selling points. Learn how to write short and attractive product descriptions to encourage customers to place an order with you. You could also hire a professional SEO copywriter to help create unique and attractive product listings for you.
Learn how to professionally optimize an Alibaba.com B2B product page by reading our article on: How to build and optimize Your B2B product page that converts?
There are plenty of places to list your products online and start selling goods on an international scale, but choosing the right marketplace for your business can be tricky. Without feeling too overwhelmed by the decision, carefully consider your unique target audience, the products you plan to sell, and where you are going to ship goods to. By researching each online marketplace in detail, you’ll eventually find the right platform for you. Then it is all about product titles, product descriptions, product photography, and customer service. Get all these elements right, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful online retailer.
If you’re a wholesaler, manufacturer, or B2B seller, we highly recommend checking out Alibaba.com’s wide range of seller benefits. When signing up for a seller account with Alibaba.com, you’ll gain access to key data, industry reports, buyer trends, and much more to help elevate your brand and business. Reach over 14 million active buyers around the world and explore Alibaba.com today.