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ajit-2Ajit Singh
Optimist by birth, marketeer by choice. Ajit is a startup enthusiast, essayer, short film maker and writer. He lives at Zepo.

“Love it or hate it but you just can’t ignore it”. This is right in context of importance of online marketplaces for retailers in India. With the high internet penetration and increasing affordability of smartphones, number of online shoppers has exponentially increased in last couple of years.

Online retail today comprises more than 10% of the organized retail market and is expected to reach 15% in next five years.

Several ecommerce marketplaces have emerged in the last couple of years: Most prominent of them being Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. These marketplaces have undoubtedly changed the retail landscape of India.

Retailers from nearly every category are huddling to list themselves on these marketplaces. Excluding Future Group’s CEO Kishore Biyani, who is known as the pioneer of modern retail in India, almost every retailer seems to have acknowledged the importance of online marketplaces in retail industry. As in case of Kishore Biyani who had earlier compared blooming of e-commerce marketplaces with a ‘euphoria’ that will fizzle in 18 months, his actions don’t seem to align with his views, as he has already forged a partnership with Amazon to distribute Future’s apparel labels on Amazon’s platform.

There would be no argument if I say online selling is the new black in retail industry. Even retailers who thrived on their bricks and mortar stores for decades seems to have changed their mind. Giant Indian marketplace Snapdeal already has around 50k onboarded sellers and is targeting 1 lac sellers by 2015. But before we delve any further let us closely inspect the reasons behind the furore of these marketplaces.

Large customer base, which is steadily expanding

The most prominent reason, hands down. As already stated, due to high internet penetration, number of online shoppers is increasing exponentially and they are turning to these online marketplaces. On an average Flipkart, India’s largest marketplace, sells nearly 10 products every minute (source- Wikipedia). Infact, on Big Billion Dollar day sale, an online shopping festival marked by huge discounts and offers, carried out by Flipkart nearly one and half months back, Flipkart and Snapdeal reportedly made sale of 600 crore which makes it 1 crore a minute.

Marketplace infrastructure

Although everyone acknowledges how imperative it is for a retailer to take his products online,  launching an online store is more than just having a website. There are issues like logistics, payment gateway, effective packaging system etc that you have to address to get your products online on your own store. Online marketplaces extend all these facilities to their sellers, ofcourse with an overhead charge, so that the sellers only have to be concerned about their inventory and let marketplaces take care of the technicalities.

Size of the retailer doesn’t really matter to consumers in marketplaces

One of the biggest benefits of marketplaces is that you don’t require ownership of any expensive real estate property, like you do in offline retail, to sell your products on them. You only need control over your inventory.

It is crucial to understand that it is not retailers who control the customer relationship in marketplace but the marketplace itself controls it. So, indirectly they might be your customers but it is the marketplace that plays a vital role in drawing the customers to your product. Therefore, whatever the size of your physical store might be or however big name you might have in the offline retail space, online marketplaces don’t care about it. There are retailers on these marketplaces who doesn’t even have a physical store but only hold inventory with them, yet they are making good business compared to their giant counterparts.

Zepo as an ecommerce solutions provider, has always encouraged both online and offline retailer to leverage the potential of marketplaces for the reasons stated above. Zepo’s platform has been integrated with browntape, a multi-channel sales management software, that allows store owners to list their products on multiple marketplaces apart from their own store and control the orders all from a single dashboard.

But selling on a marketplace is not any Tom, Dick and Harry’s cup of tea contrary to what these marketplaces like to project or you might have heard from someone else. So, despite having a wonderful product often retailers aren’t able to bank on everything that these marketplaces have to offer and are eventually forced to shut their account. Today I am going to discuss with you some of the things, which might look miniscule at first, but are very crucial for retailers if they are planning to begin selling their products on marketplaces or are already selling on it.

But to begin, let us divide the products on these marketplaces into two categories:

  1. Branded
  2. Unbranded

While there is a MBAish definition of the word ‘branded’, let’s just say, any product carrying the tag of Apple, Samsung, Titan, Tissot, Mont Blanc etc is branded- products which are sold under an established label and cannot be duplicated legally. And say the products which are locally manufactured or which are not protected by copyright or any law shield are Unbranded.

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Keeping this idea in mind let us see how we can boost our sales in a marketplace.

Make sure that your customers can see your product

Albeit marketplaces have big guidelines on how to take the snap of your product, sellers tend to ignore it because it is actually very exhaustive. Marketplaces have some defined set of rules and your images have to comply with them else they would be rejected, however wonderful they might be. Now, if you product is branded then you have relatively less reasons to worry about this point.

Nobody cares if the image of Nokia Lumia 920 is not proper on Snapdeal because there are 100 other sources from where they can view it online. But if you deal in Unbranded products then you as a seller should take every possible measure that your product is demonstrated in the best possible way. Read this article by Pixcphotos about the importance of product photography and how a seller should take images of his product to get it noticed.

I am pasting a wonderful example of best illustration of product photography which would give sellers less reasons to check out the product description.

product image

Better product description

A good product description helps your consumer in decision making since only an image cannot tell everything about the product. You should make sure that everything about your product is clearly stated leaving no scope of doubt for consumers.
Now many sellers have the tendency to follow short cut as writing product description is a daunting activity. So all they do is write anything just for the sake of writing it or jot down the technical details of the product very conveniently. But apparently these retailers fail to understand that they are not doing a favour to their customers by writing the product description.

Your customers are just one click away from leaving your product and writing a lousy product description is one way of you telling them- ‘I don’t need you customer, leave’. Ofcourse, you wouldn’t want that. So instead of writing “Ganpati Wall Clock” as the name, you might want to switch to “Handcrafted silvery Ganapati faced Wall clock” for your product. Try doing this in the product description as well and you will realize the difference.

Get a multi-channel sales management software

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Every marketplace has its own method to list your products. If you are selling your products only on a single marketplace then you have to update the inventory, manage orders, handle dispatches etc only on a single dashboard, which is pretty manageable. But what if you are targeting to sell on multiple marketplaces. Then you have to do the exact same thing individually for different marketplaces. Also every marketplace has its own method to list the products, therefore, juggling between multiple dashboards at the same time becomes exceedingly tedious and also leads to confusion and errors.

In that case it is advisable to switch to multi-channel sales management software.(At Zepo we use Browntape) Now what does Browntape do? It gives a centralized platform that lets you manage your stock and distribute it on different marketplaces from a single dashboard. Take for example that you have stock of 50 and you are selling on Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. Now if a product is sold at Amazon then your stock is reduced and so you have to update it on Flipkart and Snapdeal as well. However, with a software you can update it from a single dashboard.

infographic 1

Make it amazon.in

Ratings & Reviews

Honestly, why do you need a review and a rating is an outdated question now. They are as important to the product and seller as David Letterman is to the The Letterman show. Excuse my out-of-place analogy but I was essentially trying to convey the significance that ratings and reviews that they have, in online marketplaces today.

It essentially act as a medium for online buyers to express their feedback and evaluate the product before making the purchase. The feature of online reviews was brought into practice by Amazon and eBay in 1997 and was then enforced by almost all the online retailers and marketplaces. Yet there are some online sellers who tend to ignore the importance of reviews while there are some who even disable this feature to evade any possible bad review that could kill their sale. However, a certain site alpacadirect.com conducted a study on its products and surprisingly found that even with bad reviews the sale of their product hiked by 23%.

To clear our thoughts about the significance of ratings and reviews I cumulated data from the various sources about how ratings and reviews impact our buying behavior and then compiled my observation into an infograph.

infograph 2

I hope that I have been able to answer lot of queries that you had regarding selling on marketplaces. Please share your thoughts if you feel differently and happy selling.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.