Online marketplaces are one of the hot topics in e-business. Amazon is no longer just a bookseller, but virtually THE product search on the Internet that Google Shopping never managed to become. Ebay has long since ceased to be just an auction platform as a flea market substitute, but rather a sales channel for any kind of goods in any condition. Whether used, B-goods, remaining stock or brand new: it is the breadth of the assortment that should ensure frequency.
In addition to the established full-range retailers, there are still many opportunities to shape the battle for attention, customers, market share and future viability online for themselves. But why are marketplaces such a hot topic?
Or in short: marketplaces multiply their attractiveness for the customer through their diversity.
Building a marketplace is not only technically the next evolutionary step in e-commerce, operating it to the satisfaction of all parties involved is the top class. Marketplaces are service platforms for participants and customers alike. Early in the design of this platform, the course is set for future success or frustration.
In order to be able to offer participants and customers alike the highest possible, consistent and individual service as an operator of an online marketplace, it is essential to define a set of rules for the marketplace right from the start. Here are the 5 most important rules to consider in the business concept:
What is already a challenge for your own online shop is a much bigger issue for online marketplaces: product data quality. Uniform product data standards are mandatoryto be able to guarantee a clean category allocation, meaningful searchability and above all user-friendly filtering. Duplicate articles must be avoided by clear identifiers and the exciting question of “Who owns the product data, who is liable for legal issues…?”
Voucher campaigns, discounts or sales are now also part of the B2B business. None of this is a major issue as long as you are spending your own money, but even in an online marketplace, the customer wants to be enticed. A catalogue of feasible marketing campaigns must be agreed on with the participating dealers.How, to what extent and at what cost can campaigns be designed?
Even a marketplace like ebay has gradually moved in this direction, offering promotions like “10% off electronics (for select items)” or similar.
The additional question to be regulated is: Who owns the customer data, who is allowed to communicate with the customer and about what. Nowadays, sending out promotional newsletters is part of the little 1×1 of marketing, and of course you don’t want to do without it in the marketplace context either.
If a purchase decision of the customer is disappointed, because an article is not available , or the delivery of something urgently needed does not take e.g. 3 days, as promised in the Onlineshop, but 3 weeks, then that is an active disappointment of the customer.
In an online marketplace, this disappointment is not primarily directed at the participating merchant, but at the reliability of the marketplace shopping experience. Delivery time details, basic delivery availability etc. must be bindingly regulated between the marketplace operator and the participating trader.
The point in which undoubtedly the greatest potential for complexity lies is shipping. Do I want to allow mixed shopping carts on my marketplace (= can goods from different merchants be ordered together in one shopping cart)?
Then a cascade of follow-up questions immediately opens up:
- Does the customer pay shipping costs per merchant in the shopping cart or only once?
- What about freight limits, if any?
- Are there uniform GTCs for trading via the marketplace, or do individual GTCs have to be taken into account for each trader when concluding a purchase?
- What is the procedure for partial cancellations or returns?
There is no one right answer here, as it is strictly dependent on the specific business case. The basic principle is “Shipping rules and costs need to be as simple and customer focused as possible!”
Acquired customers want to be kept, this is even more true for an online marketplace than for a normal online shop. Therefore, cancellations and returns should be as simple and automated as possible for the customer.
How flexibly are cancellations handled and how are changes in shipping costs resulting from partial cancellations regulated? How are returns handled? How quickly must a return be reported in order to be able to initiate the payment refund quickly?
Only a customer who feels that service is a priority in the marketplace, even in the case of a return, will return to the marketplace as an existing customer.
“Hopefully, these 5 rules will give you an idea of why establishing and running an online marketplace business is also referred to as the royalty of e-commerce.
Hopefully, though, they also reflect that while a marketplace can be a pretty complicated thing technically, the technology – quite as it should be – follows the concept.
And that leads to the most important rule of all – as mundane as it may be:
Minimize unnecessary complexity and always put your customer first.”