By Mike Effle, CEO of Vendio
More and more retailers are discovering that online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Amazon Marketplace can be cost-effective, high-volume sales channels offering exposure to millions of potential customers. But as the popularity of marketplaces increases, so does competition — for example, there are more than 2 million seller accounts on Amazon alone.
To attract attention among the masses, retailers need to apply smart e-commerce marketing techniques as well as specialized knowledge of the ways consumers and search engines behave in their chosen marketplaces.
Below are some basic guidelines for successfully differentiating your business and products:
1. Sell products that stand out.
Two people selling the exact same item will have a tougher time commanding decent gross margins than someone selling a differentiated product—even if the only thing different about it is a house brand on an otherwise generic commodity. The small added cost of branding can usually be more than made up in higher sales prices. If you are designing and selling your own merchandise, this added differentiation can also dissuade buyers from price shopping.
2. Image is everything.
The quality of your product photos, as well as of other images used in your online storefront, really do matter to customers. Apple sells Retina® displays because consumers love gorgeous imagery. A picture can be seen and processed faster than a thousand words can be read and understood—and a fuzzy, badly lit photo quickly conveys a bad impression of your products and brand. Thankfully the capability of creating great images is getting more accessible. Investing in your images has a high return in added sales volume.
3. Have a story to tell.
Buyers want to be inspired not only by your products but also by the story behind those products. Consider this article in the Harvard Business Review discussing a marketing technique called “storydoing.” Whether contributing to a cause or investing in something that creates a meaningful contribution to the world, successful companies have a story to tell that relates and connects to their customers. Act on this story with passion, and passionate buyers will choose you over the competition.
4. Build relationships.
Repeat buyers drive profits. While most marketplaces don’t reward you directly for having relationships with buyers (some even discourage these connections), encouraging your customers to come back again and again not only generates positive buzz around your business, it can also help you score better in product search algorithms, helping to boost your traffic. Successful merchants have discovered the value of using e-mail marketing and brand-appropriate coupons to keep continued connections with consumers.
5. Make every sale count.
In this era of social media, word of mouth means more than ever. Providing customers with a top-notch buying experience is essential, and not just because people are apt to tell their Facebook friends about you. Service is a weighting factor in search results, and this factor is amplified over time: the better you service customers, the more the marketplace will want to steer buyers in your direction. Make every sale and customer count.
Mike Effle serves as Chief Executive Officer of Vendio Services, Inc. Effle served as Executive Vice President of Sales Management at Vendio Services, Inc. Effle joined Vendio in 1999 as one of the first 10 employees. He initially directed business development and strategy efforts, and quickly gained more responsibility over his six years at Vendio.