By Dominic Portman, below, founder of marketplace super-seller, Boulevard
From start-ups just beginning to find a route to market, to well-established businesses with multiple product lines, branding is one of the most important assets a company has. Immense amounts of time, money and resources are invested in creating and maintaining a successful brand, and increasingly, retail businesses are looking to online marketplaces to continue driving growth, increase revenue, and take their brand to the next level.
While platforms such as Amazon present vast opportunities for brands, navigating these often-complex online marketplaces also poses an entirely new set of challenges. Selling in a brick-and-mortar store gives a good degree of control over how your brand and products are presented and sold, but this is not always true of online marketplaces, especially when selling through third parties.
Increasingly, brands are turning to expert marketplaces partners for assistance in navigating these challenges, and support in boosting their eCommerce strategy while also retaining control over their reputation and image.
Working with a marketplace partner
One of the attractive aspects of marketplace selling is that the bar for entry is relatively low. However, merely having an online marketplace store does not mean a particular seller can and should be trusted with representing your brand online.
There are many expert sellers who spend a considerable amount of time and effort in ensuring listings, ads, and other core marketplace activities are in line with your vision and compliant to all requirements. Nevertheless, there are also many unscrupulous sellers who neglect these things.
Brands must there be aware of these issues from the outset, and take a highly selective approach to who they allow to sell on their behalf. Failing to do so can be damaging, and result in a loss of control over a carefully crafted brand image.
Taking the time to scope out experienced sellers within your product categories is invaluable to brands looking to maximise the potential of marketplaces, and the importance of working with reputable sellers who understand your goals and your brand identity cannot be overstated. Research from Lucidpress revealed that the consistent presentation of a brand can increase revenue by 33%, as well as naturally building trust and familiarity in the intended audience.
Affecting your bottom line
While taking control of your brand early into your online marketplace journey is always a positive thing, perceive brand image and consumer trust are not the only things at stake. Failure to do so can easily result in your bottom line being negatively impacted.
Online marketplaces are naturally highly competitive environments, with many products and brands jostling for attention from a large customer base. This can easily become a double-edged sword for brands who opt for using sellers of questionable quality or expertise. When brands find themselves in the position of using many low-quality sellers, not only does this further increase competition in securing sales, but can lead to merchandise being sold at increasingly lower prices – essentially becoming a race to the bottom.
Left unchecked, this ultimately leads to an overall devaluation of the brand, with major consequences for your profit margins. This can be a rather tricky situation to fix once it occurs, so it is advisable to always work with trusted sellers who understand this from the outset.
Safeguarding your brand
Many large online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay offer a range of protection tools that help defend against counterfeit products and unregistered suppliers. While these are certainly beneficial to protecting a brand, they do often require a major time investment and set of expertise that is not always practical to carry out in-house – especially for less experienced companies that are only just beginning their eCommerce journey.
Working with an expert marketplace partner, particularly those who offer as part of their services additional support functions, can be invaluable. They can provide specific insight and advice on how best to leverage these tools to safeguard your brand and products.
Similarly, an area of marketplace selling that is both crucial for success – though often neglected – is partner compliance. This really can become a make-or-break scenario for both your brand and your entire eCommerce strategy when mishandled. For example, inexperienced sellers that provide sub-par customer service, or display your products in ads and listings in a way that violates your agreement with them all contribute to a negative brand image. Once sullied, it can be very difficult to build this back up and restore customer confidence and trust.
Online marketplaces simultaneously present huge opportunities for brands, while also posing complex branding challenges. The reputation of your brand, being linked to your reputation as a company, is one of your most precious assets, and it therefore makes sense to prioritise working with a marketplace partner who understands this. Not only can they do the heavy lifting needed to excel on eCommerce platforms, but can do this in a way that remains true to your brand and your vision.