Online marketplaces account for 47% of all digital purchases worldwide, so there’s clearly a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to thrive on these sites.
That being said, succeeding on online marketplaces requires a solid strategy and compelling execution. Even the best product in the world won't sell if nobody knows about it or if it doesn’t get in front of the right people.
Putting your product on an online marketplace is a significant first step, but marketing should be a close second.
The challenges of selling on online marketplaces 🛒
Businesses face various challenges every day, which is pretty normal. The type of problems they face will largely depend on what they are selling, but there are specific ones that all sellers will have to overcome. By addressing these three issues, you can create a brand that stands out in a fast-paced market.
Selling on online marketplaces has become a lot more competitive. For example, Etsy has 4.3 million active sellers. eBay, on the other hand, has 1.7 billion listings to date, which can overwhelm the 187 million buyers shopping on the platform. While these prove marketplaces are still thriving, it also means you need to up your game, so your target audience finds you.
How easy is it to find your products? It's critical to display accurate product data to stand out in today's competitive marketplace. And when you plan your listings, make sure they are optimized for both Google and your platform's search engine.
There's no universal pricing strategy that applies to all products and marketplaces due to a variety of factors. Aside from considering your competitors, you also need to factor in the platform's fees. Etsy collects a 5% transaction fee for every product sold, while eBay takes a 9% cut off your sold auction.
7 Tips on How to Stand Out on Marketplaces 🛍️
When your product or service resembles already existing products in an overcrowded market, you might find it difficult to differentiate yourself from the majority of your competitors. The following tips should help you get the head start you need to succeed.
1. Share a story
With the world becoming increasingly digital, a touch of humanity has become a valuable asset in marketing. The modern shopper loves to hear or witness stories. And it's good for business, too. Studies have shown that we recall facts 22 times better when they are associated with a story. Therefore, it helps you become top of mind for consumers.
Etsy and eBay allow businesses to post information about their company on their websites, so you can start there. The key is to let them experience the product through your words.
Whenever you write product listings, you should keep your target buyer in mind — how will this person feel once they've purchased your item? When selling vintage or hand-made items, go into some detail by giving a rich description of the product.
For instance, Etsy seller Jessprintdesign writes vivid product description for each piece she sells.
P.S. We share even more storytelling examples below, so have a look if you need more inspiration!
2. Be descriptive and organized with your listing
Speaking of product listings, you need to be clear and concise. Make sure to include details, such as the product name, brand name, size, etc.
Always think like a buyer when creating product listings. Be sure to ask yourself what you need to know about a product before you buy it, and use the answer to create a descriptive product listing.
Next, be mindful of your keywords. In order to increase visibility, you need to find the right set of words that match consumer queries. These words should be properly embedded in the tags, title, and categories.
We can see this tip in action on Kathryn Reid Jewellery's Etsy page. In the product page below, you'll see that Kathryn Reid uses a descriptive, but concise product title i.e., "Cow Ear Tag Earrings". The description also contains relevant keywords like "sterling silver" and "earrings" without overstuffing the copy with search terms.
Lastly, don't forget to sort your products into categories. Easy product browsing will help increase your sales. Describe your items in detail, but don't ramble. Your best bet is to identify the product's main category and put that term in, so your product pops up when shoppers use it or other related terms.
Going back to the Kathryn Reid example, you'll see that the item above was tagged and categorized appropriately, as you'll find the item under categories like "Jewelry," "Earrings," "Stud Earrings," and more.
3. Take good product photos
As exciting as it is to upload your products right away, you need to make sure it's enough to capture your potential customers' attention first. Approximately 75% of online shoppers use product photos to make purchasing decisions.
Online shoppers can't touch and inspect the products they're interested in. At the very least, you should provide them with high-resolution images of your products, so they feel confident about their purchase.
Piggybacking on the first tip, you can also use pictures to tell a story. Along with taking photos from different angles, you should consider adding images of your products in use.
iWouldRatherKnot, an Etsy seller who knots and weaves decorative items, does a superb job here. Alisha Ing, the artist behind the shop, not only uploads multiple photos, but she makes it a point to show how her creations are being used.
4. Learn from your competitors
If you're struggling with pricing, you can learn a thing or two from your competitors. Ideally, basing your product on your costs and profit objectives is the way to go. But if your competitors are selling similar products at a much affordable price, you need to follow their lead if you want your target customers to notice you.
Another reason to do this is to find out what strategies and products work for them so that you can replicate or tweak them for your own gain.
5. Invest in paid promotion
As we've mentioned early on, the key to success at your store is getting the word out about your brand. You can do this through third-party advertising or the platform itself. With eBay's Promotions Manager, it's easier to speed up inventory movement and improve visibility.
Etsy, on the other hand, has Etsy Ads and Offsite Ads, which lets you advertise your products on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing.
Marketplaces often only provide automatic promotion services once your product starts to sell. Holding promotional stunts such as offering free products will help grease the wheels.
6. Market through social media
No matter what you sell, you likely have target customers using social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. So, make it a point to connect and engage them by publishing content and marketing your products on the sites and networks used by your key audience.
For instance, Rotten Flamingos, who sell on Etsy, uses Instagram to market their cool designs and products.
7. Provide excellent customer service
For your products to do well on marketplaces, you must establish yourself as a reliable, honest seller. The truth is, a good reputation drives your sales efforts. Customer service can be one of the most valuable assets in a retailer's arsenal.
It fosters customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing. Conversely, giving your buyers negative experiences won't only lead to lost sales, but it taints your brand reputation, as well.
Among the things that you can do to improve customer service are to honor payment terms, ship promptly, issue refunds appropriately, and respond quickly.
Examples of marketplace sellers who have done well at marketing their goods
Looking for some ideas on how to market your product on marketplaces? Look no further; these brands have proven that while the path to success isn't straightforward, the techniques mentioned above can help you find your way.
Etsy: Caitlyn Minimalist and the power of social media
Etsy is known for its beautiful collections of custom and personalized items, making it a fitting home for Caitlyn Minimalist jewelry. Each piece is unique and comes with a story.
Kate Kim, the owner of Caitlyn Minimalist, believes "viral" social media posts have helped push her online stores' success. For example, one of her products was featured on a mom-blog Facebook page in 2016, and it ended up with an estimated 200,000 shares.
Since then, the brand has been featured on websites such as BuzzFeed. And quite recently, one of their customers posted a TikTok video that got quite serious traction (7 million views).
Their business grew with the help of word of mouth and social media, but interestingly, they played little to no part. Nonetheless, their experience proves that social media can be a powerful tool for Etsy businesses.
Etsy: New Moon Beginnings and high-quality photos
New Moon Beginnings, an Etsy brand selling healing crystals, and energy products, features really clear products' images.
The platform allows sellers to upload ten photos per listing, giving prospects a better chance to see your products up close. New Moon Beginnings showcases its products in the best possible light, but it doesn't feel forced. In fact, their approach is actually relatively simple and practical.
However, they manage to capture multiple angles of the product and provide meticulous shoppers a better glimpse of the item's size and texture.
eBay: Significant Objects Project and the power of storytelling
The Significant Objects Project isn't exactly an eBay store. Instead, it's a 2009 experiment conducted by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn to demonstrate how storytelling can be effective in marketing.
In a nutshell, Walker and Glenn buy thrift store and garage sale trinkets worth $129. Afterward, each object is assigned to a writer who must create a fictional story based on it. The resulting backstory instantly transforms a common and cheap item into a "significant" object.
To prove the effectiveness of storytelling marketing, each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. Additionally, the listing includes the new fictional story with the product image. However, some precautions (such as adding the author's byline) are taken to keep it from looking like the actual story.
After all, the project isn't trying to trick eBay customers. Instead, the purpose is to determine whether consumers find a persuasive story compelling enough to motivate them to act. And if you're wondering about the results — the project earned a net profit of $3.6 million. So, it's safe to say storytelling has real power.
eBay: Smudgy Monkey Gifts & Accessories and great customer service
What started as a way to make ends meet during trying times became a successful venture for Jen Thomas, Smudgy Monkey's owner.
She found a niche product that was trending at the time, and her business experienced growth each year. However, she credits these results to the credibility she built through sales on eBay and excellent customer service. And she's probably right. A positive customer service experience makes 89% of consumers more likely to make another purchase, and most of them (92%) will recommend your shop to their friends and family.
Wrapping It Up
Standing out on online marketplaces is both an art and a science. You need to be creative with storytelling and visuals, while still being familiar with best practices around product tagging, categorization, and more.
Follow the tips above to get a better idea of how you can uplevel your store’s marketing efforts.
And if you need more detailed marketing guides, be sure to check out Marketing Masters — a series dedicated to helping sellers like you on all things marketing.