Amazon accounts for around 50% of total online sales in the US. The wide range of products, low prices, and free shipping are the main drivers that bring consumers to this giant marketplace. And with a state-of-the-art search function and the 1-click checkout, it’s easy for consumers to get what they are looking for quickly.
Other marketplaces like Walmart, Target, and eBay are loved by their large loyal customer base for the simple reason that they know they will find products at low prices.
These giant e-commerce platforms are usually the first option for brands looking to sell on more channels. And selling via these types of marketplaces gives brands opportunities to widen their customer base, usually at a low cost and low risk.
But these are not the only marketplaces where brands can connect with consumers, and the competition on these platforms is incredibly tough. So to be successful on marketplaces, brands need to go beyond the big players and start to diversify channels.
As the world finds its feet amidst the COVID-19 ‘new normal’, so too are marketplaces in all shapes and forms, creating opportunities for brands to reach new heights. From smaller and specialized multi-brand shops to publishers turning into their own marketplaces and social media platforms adding a buy button – there are more channels to sell from than ever.
New niche marketplaces are entering the game
Data from Statista shows that marketplaces are outperforming brands in both first-hand sales and repeat purchases. This might be a hard pill to swallow for many brands who are driven by a desire for differentiation and don’t want to be lost in the crowd on the likes of Amazon or Alibaba.
However, the trend we see is that smaller and more niche marketplaces are evolving, driven by the opportunities that come from focusing on higher quality and better customer experiences. A great example of such an initiative is Itsapark, H&M Group’s new multi-brand shop that differentiates itself with vigorous sustainability criteria. Here, brands get positioned as a leading sustainable brand and can tap into a highly targeted and engaged audience.
Other than distinguishing a brand’s business, selling through a niche marketplace delivers more targeted marketing opportunities. These types of marketplaces specialize in their category, know what their customers want, and customize their marketing message towards them.
It adds value to the customer when a company truly focuses on their niche. Thrive market, for example, operates as a buyers club where each member pays a yearly fee to get discounted organic skin and body care products. As a result, brands within this vertical become a perfect fit for this type of marketplace.
Houzz is another niche marketplace within the home category. It is a place for customers to shop and a source where the customer can go to get design and decoration information.
These more specialized marketplaces can help brands retain their identity even when selling through a third party.
Publishers are turning into marketplaces
The constant hunt for user revenue has led publishers to rethink their business model. With all that data, publishers have a huge advantage when it comes to understanding what their readers want. For years their focus has been on creating high-quality content that inspires and informs, making them a thought leader that readers trust. And trust typically equals greater sales.
Now, publishers realise the benefit of keeping their traffic to convert readers on their own site. This is made possible with new technologies like Tipser that allow shoppable products to be embedded on any surface. For example, Bustle Digital Group recently launched a new shopping experience built around carefully curated content with shoppable products.
Within this new business model, brands benefit from connecting with consumers at the point of inspiration, on trusted platforms where people go to get information. Not only do brands experience incredible PR when being featured as part of an editorial article in, for example, Elle, or Bustle – but since the reader can checkout directly on the page, the conversion rates are typically higher compared to affiliate marketing.
The rise of shoppable buttons inside social media platforms
Social commerce is another trend that is creating new opportunities for brands to build a highly engaged community. As 3 out of 4 people use social media platforms to get inspiration, it is a perfect place for buyers and sellers to transact. Most social media channels now offer brands the ability to sell their products from within the platform via integrated shopping features.
For example, Facebook Shops enables brands to grow their presence online by setting up their own customized shop. Brands can also sell directly from an Instagram post or story, giving the customer a seamless experience. From inspiration to completing the purchase within the same space, the user turns into a shopper.
During the first ever Creators Week by Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new feature allowing creators to sell directly from their posts or stories. Built on top of Instagram’s existing shopping tools, creators can discover brands within the affiliate tool to share them with their followers. They can also set up their own shop under their profile to make it easier for followers to buy products directly from the creators.
Pinterest is another example of making content shoppable. They are recreating shopping in-store to give the shopper a more elaborate experience online. Customers can buy directly from their saved pins, boards, search results, and other inspirational content.
Online shoppers are being spoiled with options to discover and connect with new brands through these social marketplaces.
Higher conversion rates on shopping apps
From social commerce to mobile commerce, consumers love to browse and buy from within a shopping app. When a mobile user is on their phone, they spend 90% of their time in apps, and only 10% on the mobile web. If that is where they spend most of their time, it makes sense for brands to shift their strategy towards mobile commerce.
Brands see three times higher conversion rates on mobile apps compared to the mobile web. From the customer perspective – other than the speed and convenience of using a shopping app, 51% of consumers choose shopping apps because it gives them points or rewards.
Klarna is another company that has leveraged its own mobile app to develop an in-app marketplace. The app includes a wide range of brands and retailers featuring products and special deals exclusive to app users. Their users can shop from within the app whilst managing their finances in one place.
Consumer behaviour indicates a preference for convenience, and the convenience of shopping from one place instead of jumping from site to site is one of the main drivers why marketplaces are so popular.
We can see that marketplaces are not limited to the traditional e-commerce platforms, but other surfaces like social media, mobile, and payment apps are quickly going transactional too. The brands that realise the opportunities in selling through these channels are the ones who will prosper.
If partnered with the right marketplace, brands can reach and acquire new customers they otherwise would not have gained. Therefore, it is a valuable sales channel to add as part of their omni-channel strategy and necessary when considering how and where consumers prefer to browse and shop.