By guest author Tracey Wallace, Managing Editor at Bigcommerce
In today’s state of ecommerce, online marketplaces are becoming the norm for up-and-coming sellers. The benefits of selling on marketplaces are numerous for small online businesses: you get to cast a wider net to an audience already in shopping mode and increase your chances of attracting the 45 percent of shoppers who start their product search on Amazon instead of Google.
For more-established brands, however, a consumer’s marketplace preference isn’t necessarily a positive attribute. Marketplace sales are often singular purchases, reducing overall brand average order value (AOV). Plus, the brand experience typically focuses on that of the marketplace instead of the business offering the product. After all, if you purchase something on Amazon from, say, J.Crew, it’s likely you’ll remember the Amazon experience — not the J.Crew one. That’s a huge miss for brand marketing, and for brand analytics.
Amazon and other marketplaces keep customer data to themselves, making it more difficult for individual brands to form one-to-one relationships with customers based on their browsing and purchasing habits. In that way, brands lose out on customer loyalty and lifetime value.
The question for savvy, scaling online businesses is this: how do you achieve a successful omnichannel strategy — including selling on online marketplaces — while still increasing customer loyalty, AOV and brand awareness?
In all, it comes down to one thing: making your on-site customer experience as convenient and cost-effective as possible via scalable sourcing, trusted payment gateways, reliable shipping and optimized multichannel selling.
Below are the first three of six omnichannel operational strategies in this two-part series post, provided by Kevin McKeand, director of strategic business development at Bigcommerce.
1. Cost-effective, Scalable Sourcing
Online business-to-business (B2B) revenue is expected to reach $1 trillion this year, and then $6.7 trillion in the next five years. What’s fueling this? International ecommerce, which is also opening up the doors for business-to-consumer (B2C) online businesses to source quality products with higher margins, allowing them to successfully scale their catalogs and increase their customer base.
With more product availability, your business can utilize online marketplaces as A/B testing grounds for market demand, ultimately helping you build a high-quality, high-selling catalog on your own site.
One company playing a major role in this is Alibaba — a B2B directory, of sorts, that removes the middleman between the merchandiser and the factory. With marketplaces like Alibaba, all online businesses can compete in the same way the big box retailers do — by having successful and compatible working relationships with their sourcing agencies. This allows for increased margins along with quality control.
2. International Selling and Trusted Payment Gateways
You can’t control the checkout experience on a marketplace, but you can control it on your own site. And, if you’re currently losing sales at checkout, think about this: four of the top eight reasons for shopping cart abandonment deal directly with the payment solution provider that small online businesses choose.
This is a huge issue, especially as brands look to open their businesses up for international commerce. Customers must trust the payment provider your business offers, and that payment provider needs to be able to update its software in accordance with rapidly changing consumer checkout preferences (i.e., mobile optimization, accepting varying currencies, etc.). Partnering with a trusted, innovative payments processor will help you to close sales on your own site more efficiently, making marketplace usage an additional revenue outlet, rather than your customer’s most convenient shopping touchpoint.
Once such accountable payment processor is PayPal powered by Braintree. If you are unfamiliar with Braintree, but have used Uber, you paid for your services through the Braintree API. This means that PayPal powered by Braintree is mobile-ready, and can dependably process hundreds of thousands of payments simultaneously in a way that is convenient for both the business and the customer.
In addition, more than 30 million people worldwide trust PayPal for their payment processing — making it the most trusted payment processor in the world. Not a bad partner to have as you scale your audience size to include the international customer base.
3. Reliable, Transparent Shipping
First things first, a good shipping strategy isn’t just about offering free shipping. Retailers also need to make sure their goods get to their customers on time and in a brand-positive way.
What do we mean by brand-positive? Well, the delivery method of packages is now part of the brand experience.
Subscription service BirchBox actually used videos of their customers opening up packages to grow their YouTube base and ultimately reach scale — moving out of the startup space and into the established business realm.
Warby Parker did something similar with their “try five, buy one” service which allows customers to pick out five pairs of glasses that the company will then mail to them. Their box clearly describes the return process and even encourages customers to share pictures of themselves trying on their glasses with a specific hashtag. Warby Parker customer representatives will then help them make a decision.
There is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to shipping that online customers do not fully see. Because of this lack of insight, when a package shows up a day late, the customer sees it as the company’s fault. Worse, no amount of beautiful packaging will change the way someone feels about not getting an item when they were told they would get it. This hurts your customer lifetime value, which is why it is crucial to team up with shipping experts like Endicia and ShipperHQ.
Endicia easily integrates with your online store backend and the U.S. Postal Service®. It allows you to purchase postage and print shipping labels right from your control panel, and provides real-time shipping quotes to shoppers on your storefront. This is a big win for the 56 percent of shoppers who abandon carts because of surprise shipping costs. With Endicia, that is simply not an issue.
Businesses selling internationally have very different shipping issues. For instance, in Australia, the wide swath of land between cities like Sydney and Perth (a 41 hour drive if you were wondering) causes massive shipping disruption. Not because of the distance though. After all, driving from New York City to L.A., in comparison, takes an average of 42 hours.
The difference in Australia is that the geography between Sydney and Perth is, for the most part, uninhabitable, which means there are no warehouses closer to varying locations, and shipping rates are often exponentially greater for those making cross-country purchases. Plus, when it comes to international commerce, you need more than USPS to help you get packages to the right location. Think Australia Post, Canada Post and the like.
Third-party shipping vendors like ShipperHQ work with USPS, UPS, FedEx, Australia Post and other international delivery services. Plus, the service gives you a fully customizable rate calculator that adjusts prices based on a customer’s delivery location. In other words, you can customize shipping rates with advanced surcharges, discounts and rate structures at a country, state or postcode level.
Shipping might not seem like a cornerstone of a successful omnichannel experience, but when you are selling through marketplaces and the only experience the customer has with your brand is in how their product arrives — you must optimize for that touchpoint.
Stay tuned for Part 2 featuring the remaining three strategies for omnichannel selling success.
This article was originally published on the Bigcommerce blog.
About the Author:
Tracey Wallace is the managing editor at Bigcommerce, where she covers topics concerning online small businesses. In a previous life, she wrote about small business and boutique success at Mashable, ELLE and Time Out New York. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Bustle, PolicyMic and Refinery29. She honed her chops at Shoptiques, where she was the director of content for the Y-Combinator startup.