Americans may be divided politically, but they remain more united than ever in support of e-commerce. U.S. consumers will spend an estimated $394 billion on online sales in 2016, according to research and advisory firm Forrester Research.
Many of these purchases will take place through online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy, not directly through retailer websites. Marketplaces are popular with consumers because they're so convenient—a wide variety of goods can be found in one place, placed in one shopping cart, and purchased in one order. Amazon alone has an impressive 38% market share of all consumer e-commerce in the United States, according to Slice Intelligence.
The marketplace model offers numerous benefits to businesses large and small. Here are five reasons you should sell through an online marketplace:
(1) Reach huge audiences
The clearest benefit to selling on marketplaces is accessing their huge customer base. Amazon, for instance, features more than 304 million active buyers worldwide, while China's Alibaba features a staggering 439 million active buyers. Other online marketplaces have smaller but more targeted audiences. You still have to fight to get noticed on these sites, of course, but even a little bit of attention can translate into massive sales.
(2) Save time and resources
Marketplaces let businesses skip the hassle of building a digital storefront and trying to attract consumer traffic—tasks that can be overwhelming for new businesses trying to a bring a product to market. For a fee, online marketplaces will perform all of the heavy lifting with product listing and payment gateways, leaving merchants to focus on improving their product and building their business.
(3) Improve your marketing and SEO
Most customers don't learn about new products until they see them stocked on the shelf. That's why marketplaces are such important spaces for increasing brand exposure. Even if the consumer selects a different product, they'll have seen your goods prominently displayed alongside major brands.
A product listing on an online marketplace can also improve your search engine results, helping more shoppers find your product. eBay listings perform especially well due to the site's excellent SEO practices. According to Alexa.com, 16.2% of eBay users visited Google before clicking on to eBay.
(4) Establish a feedback loop
Customer reviews of your products can be extremely valuable even—or especially—when you're only receiving a single star. If there's a defect in your product, you want to know about it as soon as possible so you can make a correction. And if, on the other hand, people are positively reviewing your product, other customers are going to be impressed by these impartial assessments. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of earned advertising about a brand (behind personal recommendations), with 66% of global consumers indicating they trust online reviews.
Merchants can also use consumer feedback to make inventory decisions and even to create entirely new products to address limitations in current offerings.
(5) Access international markets
Amazon and eBay both have services available to help you navigate international market regulations, registrations, and taxes. eBay’s Global Shipping Program (GSP) is especially easy, as you simply send your orders to an eBay shipping center that handles international shipping logistics for you.
Of course, Amazon and eBay don't necessarily have the market share abroad that they do domestically. You should consider listing your product on region-specific marketplaces like China's T-Mall and France's Cdiscount to further expand your reach.
Selling through online marketplaces is a great option for merchants large and small, but which marketplace is best for your business? In our next post, we'll detail each of the major players, and discuss which factors you should consider when choosing one over the other.
In the meantime, we invite you to download our SBN 101: How To Start Your Business guide, which covers the basic steps necessary to transform your great business idea into a fully functional operation.