I’m not a huge fan of marketplaces, as we’ve discussed. But if you’re still drawn to a marketplace-like environment, you just need to be smart about what you pick. What would characterize a marketplace that was worth your time?
- Free or very low cost. You know how I just gave you a whole list of reasons why I think marketplaces aren’t the best idea? It’s amazing how fast most of my objections go away when there’s no cost involved. Sure, you’re still at the mercy of the platform and you’ll still need to do the bulk of your own marketing with a site that doesn’t charge fees but at least you aren’t paying a dime for it. If fees prove unavoidable, opt for a model without insertion or other upfront fees so you’ll only assume financial risk on successful sales. After that a single lifetime fee would be my next pick followed by a low cost monthly fee. But make sure you do the math first! Flat fees can be a savings in the long run but, remember, they set those prices and the house always wins. Ask yourself how long it would take for those fees to be worth it and how likely you are to make it back before taking the plunge. Remember, you’ll need to spend more money and do more work to get buyers to your items on a fledgling marketplace so that’s an additional cost to take into account.
- Fast and easy set up. The less time it takes to get started on a new platform, the better. Time is an investment even if there aren’t any fees. Setting up all your preferences, store terms and business details can be time consuming to do every time you try a new site. Many modern marketplaces feature tools to import from at least one of the big three (with import from eBay being the most common) and being able to duplicate your current inventory in a new marketplace without having to do that work manually can make all the difference. Which brings me to my next point…
- Easily synchronizes with other marketplaces or platforms. Importing from one of the big three is great but you know what’s better? Marketplaces that let you sync your inventory so that your listings on their site are always an exact duplicate of your other store. When this works well, if an item that you’ve listed on both sites sells on one marketplace, the other marketplace automatically adjusts your inventory on their site accordingly so you don’t accidentally sell the same item twice or more of a product than you have. This is one of my favorite ways to test a new marketplace because I can just set up sync and then list to, say, eBay as I normally would and the new item will show in both locations without my having to take the time to list it in the second location. Having the item listed multiple places increases its exposure and the likelihood that you’ll make the sale. It’s also a great way to dip a toe into a new site without making the full commitment of leaving where you’re already selling until you see how well it works.
- Has a great feature you’d normally have to pay extra for or can’t find anywhere else. Email marketing, shipping tools, automatic emails, bulk listing tools and other little innovations can make a huge difference in your selling experience. If a marketplace can offer you features you need or want for free that you’d normally have to pay for, it might be worth it to play in their space. A new marketplace might also have something really unusual that you just can’t find anywhere else that makes them worth a try.
- Allows you to customize your items and put your brand front and center. At this point in e-commerce history, any marketplace worth your time is giving you a storefront with your account and the more they let you customize this, the better it is for you. The ability to showcase your store name, design and other elements of your brand are all essential to start building up a base of customers who are there to purchase from you and not just fans of the marketplace. The big three all work hard to squash your ability to push your own brand so you’ll want a new marketplace that allows for more freedom there.