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New kid on the block: How your business can build up its online marketplace expertise

Without the support of a skilled team, it’s impossible to realise the benefits of an online marketplace in full, observes Marketplacer executive Anna Trifonopoulos, VP of Customer Delivery, Marketplacer.

Has your organisation recently established an online marketplace? Or perhaps doing so is high on the agenda for 2023, given Australians’ long running love affair with ecommerce shows no signs of abating? 

For Australian enterprises of all stripes and sizes, it’s proving a stunningly effective way to boost sales and profits, without the intensive capital investment – rent for new premises, workers to staff them and a larger inventory – that’s traditionally been part and parcel of any retail expansion push.

Cooking up a sales storm

Take the iconic Aussie outdoor living chain Barbeques Galore, for example. In the 12 months since it launched an online marketplace offering everything from barbeque tools and accessories to condiments, Halloween costumes and fresh meat, sales have been going gangbusters. Its product range has tripled in size and 10 per cent of all online sales now come via the marketplace.

Barbeques Galore CEO Angus McDonald recently observed that it now had the ability and the technology to create a more complete destination for backyard related products and could offer customers everything they needed to make the most of Australia’s Great Outdoors lifestyle.

Moreover, the market insights the company has been able to glean from the marketplace are being used to optimise the range stocked in its bricks and mortar outlets.

Software and smarts

It’s an unequivocal win and one that’s not been made possible by technology alone, powerful as the software platforms on which today’s online marketplaces are based may be. 

Building out its online marketplace expertise has been a big part of Barbeques Galore’s success story, as it is for every enterprise that opts to go down this route.

So, how can your business ensure it has the tools and the team to make its foray into the online marketplace space a success? 

In my experience, it helps to acknowledge that you face a steep learning curve. From managing your chosen software platform to negotiating terms with sellers and marketing your third party product range, there’s lots your organisation will need to learn how to do.

The journey begins

The education process should commence the moment you sign a contract with the vendor whose online marketplace solution you intend to use. 

Your ultimate goal should be to have a full complement of trained personnel in place, so you can hit the ground running when go-live rolls around. Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to acquire a suite of online marketplace experts wholesale, you’ll need to have pulled together a team of contributors who have some ecommerce experience, or are keen to acquire it. 

If funding permits, it’s preferable their roles are dedicated ones, not split between the online marketplace and other ecommerce or marketing activities.

Looking outwards

Alternatively, your organisation may opt to outsource some aspects of its marketplace operations to external consultancies. 

For example, it’s not uncommon to see larger operators engage a specialist agency to oversee the process of onboarding and managing sellers, particularly if they’re looking to launch with a substantial number of suppliers and products. 

Other businesses will maintain an ongoing relationship with the systems integrator that built their front end store. Having access to that expertise can reduce the need for inhouse technical support personnel and make it easier to stay up to date, and identify opportunities to optimise and enhance the integration.   

Partnering with an experienced vendor

For many businesses, unfortunately, resourcing is something of an afterthought. As a result, they’re left scrambling to organise the specialists and services they need, after they’ve signed a contract and set a tentative launch date for their online marketplace.

That’s where working with a premium software vendor that has plenty of success stories to its credit comes into its own. Years of experience here at Marketplacer means we know what works and have well defined implementation and management methodologies for everything from seller onboarding to shipping, which we can share with your team. 

Ideally, a vendor should also play an integral role in the implementation process; running regular workshops and training sessions, and providing your team with access to the latest research and insights from their own ever-growing knowledge base.

Your vendor’s customer success team should also be a rich source of information about online marketplace operations and best practice, gleaned from their experience working with a plethora of customers who’ve undertaken the same journey you’re embarking on.

Setting yourself up for success

In today’s challenging economic climate, establishing an online marketplace represents an unparalleled opportunity for retail businesses to expand their reach, revenue and profits. Putting the right foundation technology in place and securing the resources you need to support it will help ensure your venture has the best chance of success.

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