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08/20/2020

3 Way Retailers Can Use Their Own Marketplace for Rapid Time-to-Revenue

Pandemic-related shutdowns and public health concerns didn’t launch the trend toward e-commerce — they only accelerated it. But for retailers, a quick pivot to online sales can seem overwhelming. Marketplace commerce can help.

More than ever, retailers need a solution that sets them up for online success without jeopardizing business financials, especially during this period of economic uncertainty. Marketplace commerce does both and simplifies the transition to selling online.

Customers and brands are going online

In April, online sales across all verticals were 32% higher than in March, with daily sales trends of +4% throughout the month. This dramatic increase in site traffic, paired with product scarcity and challenging order fulfillment, created serious hurdles for established retailers to overcome in the online space.

But if you are a retailer that was struggling to establish an online presence before the pandemic hit, shifting to a fully online selling model now presents an even more monumental task. Launching an entire product catalog online requires a significant time and financial investment that is difficult to achieve on short notice.

You also need to consider how the nature of the current crisis has changed customer purchasing behavior. Today’s customers may require different products than the ones you have traditionally offered (e.g., face masks). So, to succeed online, you’ll need to determine how to provide customers with expanded product offerings.

Marketplace commerce empowers sellers and satisfies buyers

Marketplace commerce is one of the fastest options for enabling a quick transition to online selling. With minimal overhead, marketplace commerce allows you to offer more products faster, without building out an entire online store, carrying inventory and handling fulfillment.

There are several ways your business operation can take advantage of a marketplace business model to connect with customers now and over the long term:

1. Focus on meeting customer needs: In many cases, consumers are demanding a different product mix in response to the pandemic. But it’s expensive to quickly switch up your product line and your new products may not appeal to customers after the pandemic is over. A smarter way to meet the emerging needs of your customers is to collaborate with other merchants across the marketplace ecosystem to co-sell products and services.

Merchant collaboration allows you to meet the new purchasing needs of existing customers without the investment and questionable ROI of sourcing, storing and shipping entirely new product lines. Even more, this collaboration has the potential to attract new customers because it provides access to products customers are looking for right now.

2. Expand your product selection: Many of the products sold by online giants are not actually sold and fulfilled by that retailer. Instead, they are sold and fulfilled by the thousands of other retailers that sell through the retail giant’s marketplace. In fact, Amazon’s third-party sales through its site have accounted for at least half of the units sold in every quarter since Q1 2017. You can borrow from this approach to better meet the needs of your buyers during the pandemic.

By bringing other sellers into your website, you give customers a significantly broader selection of items than you could provide on your own — without having to pay for warehouse space or handle the procurement and fulfillment of items. A wider product selection also encourages customers to spend more time and money on your website because they can purchase the items they need from a single location.

3. Upgrade the commerce experience: With customers forced to shop exclusively from home, you need to ensure the commerce experience — i.e., your web store’s inventory management, logistics and merchandising programs — are prepared to handle an increase in online customer traffic. Marketplaces have built-in tools that can help you do all three: (1) Manage products better with up-to-date information about in-stock items and their locations; (2) improve visibility into order fulfillment and delivery, from warehouse or store to doorstep; and (3) quickly update merchandising to reflect in-demand categories and in-stock products. With these improvements you can optimize your commerce operation and enhance the online experience for customers.

Online commerce is your customers’ first, and sometimes only option for finding the products they need right now. By leaning on marketplace commerce to offer a wide selection of the products and an elevated shopping experience, you can gain more than just sales. Becoming essential to customers as a one-stop-shop for the products they need right now earns their trust and strengthens their long-term loyalty to your brand.

Amit Shah is the chief strategy officer at VTEX, marketplace-first commerce provider.  Amit drives strategy for VTEX and is responsible for global marketing, partners, and ISV relationships. He is also general manager of the U.S. operations. Before joining VTEX, Amit was previously the founder and CEO of Jirafe, which was acquired by SAP Hybris, and prior to that VP of sales and business development for Magento. Amit has extensive experience investing in, starting, running and advising software companies on product strategy, pricing and go-to-market.