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customer service

Customer service in the online marketplace: How retailers can cater to shoppers

Customer service: one of the pilar of online marketplaces success

Customer service is an indisputably important factor when it comes to online retail. Good customer service can be the greatest sales asset a retailer can have, encouraging loyalty and word-of-mouth recommendations. But bad customer service cannot only see a particular sale lost in an instant, but long-term irreparable damage done to the brand.

Discover Adrien Nussenbaum’s view point and advice on what constitutes good customer service on an online marketplace and how can retailers ensure sellers deliver it.

Read the article here

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How Online Marketplaces have changed the world

Adrien Nussenbaum explains why in his opinion, Marketplaces have transformed the whole world.

Escape from the traditional e-commerce limits

Although the ability to sell products online has of course had a major impact on retail, the standard online e-commerce model is in reality rather limiting in terms of growth. Any one organisation can only store a finite number of products and logistically can only distribute a certain number too.

That’s why online marketplaces have become so popular – they allow a retailer of any type to offer increased product choice, competitive prices and superior customer experience, without the restraints of inventory and logistics. Marketplace is a business model that not only helps drive commerce but offers a greater scope for expansion combined with higher profit growth and lower risk.

It also helps to better serve customers in an innovative way and put them at the core of business. Customer service has never been so important in retail, with consumers ready and willing to go elsewhere if standards are not met. An online marketplace allows an organisation to offer improved customer service, providing choice and competitive pricing.

What makes a successful online marketplace?

A successful marketplace must always be based on a win-win-win model: the customer has more product choice, competitive pricing and better service; the third-party sellers have a lucrative new sales channel; and the operator has increased traffic, sales and profits.

If all parties are satisfied, then that is a successful marketplace. How to achieve this is another matter though, and requires a combination of technology, commerce and marketing. An online marketplace is a complex eco-system and simply cannot succeed without a robust and scalable technology platform behind it. The same is true of the right commercial proposition; a marketplace needs the right sellers and must be able to scale quickly and effectively, with easy on-boarding of new sellers.

Finally, the importance of marketing an online marketplace cannot be under-estimated. Customers must be made aware of it and what it can offer them.

Marketplaces and omni-channel commerce

Marketplaces allow the operator to drastically increase the products it offers, and this can be extended to physical stores too. So if a product works particularly well in the marketplace, then it could easily also be offered as a physical product in-store. Likewise, using a marketplace to encourage customers to the store with Click & Collect-type initiatives is a powerful way of increasing footfall.

This provides consumers with the ability to experience shopping in different environments through different channels, and benefit from the best prices, a large product choice and a superior service.

Marketplaces – evolution or revolution in e-commerce?

Online marketplaces are in actual fact, part revolution and part evolution. It’s a revolution, as the online marketplace model is affecting and transforming the entire retail sector and is one of the most disruptive forces in e-commerce. It is also among the most successful, allowing the operator to increase the volume of products offered and to increase e-commerce revenues.

It’s a model that best suits the demands of modern shoppers. Consumers are more empowered now than at any other time in history, with more choice and options than once would have been thought possible. An online marketplace allows an operator to meet these changing demands.

The marketplace model is also an evolution of some of the core principals of retailing. Until recently, a common belief of click and mortar retailers or pure players was that setting up an online marketplace would weaken their brand identity and affect the legibility of their offering. Today with the numerous online marketplaces that have turned into powerful success stories, companies realize that launching an online marketplace is in fact a way to reinforce their product range and strengthen their reputation, whether they are a niche player or a global retailer. And selecting a solid and proven platform is the one key element to launching a successful marketplace.

Read the article in the Retail Times.

Christmas

How can Black Friday and Christmas promotions benefit from an online marketplace?

Black Friday, Christmas, Winter Sales…

The holiday season is the most important period of the year for most retailers and e-merchants. Marketplace operators are particularly busy, since they provide a large offer and competitive price under one roof, what is very attractive for customers looking for the best deals for their gifts.  It is therefore primordial to prepare yourself carefully, to optimize the coordination with your vendors to avoid products shortage and maximize your revenue.

The best practices of Adrien Nussenbaum, marketplace expert and co-founder of Mirakl

  • Cross-company collaboration
    When a retailer operates his own marketplace, he may sell same categories of products as some of the marketplace sellers. This is why effective and timely collaboration across teams is imperative. It should particularly involve the retailer’s buyers communicating to the marketplace team, a list of strategic products they cannot or may not be able to offer in the upcoming key promotional period. It will help avoiding shortage and coordinate seasonal promotions.
  • Conduct a seller performance review
    A marketplace operator should always know which sellers are performant or not. But in holiday season, it is particularly important as you can rely on them on one hand, and also make sure the quality of service is respected on the the other hand. Indeed, during this key period, consumers are particularly attentive to quality of service.
  • Getting your best sellers onside
    Another thing Adrien Nussenbaum recommends, is to involve the sellers that they think will really deliver over the promotional period in question. These sellers must be briefed beforehand and the retailer should ensure they are ready. This can mean letting those sellers know about the retailer’s own promotions and ensuring they can offer complementary products, or even including certain popular products in the main promotions.

Discover more details about these best practices in the featuring article from Talk Retail.

Retailers_opportunity

Retailers, Don’t Miss the Marketplaces Opportunity!

By Adrien Nussenbaum, US CEO and Co-Founder of Mirakl

Why retailers should consider launching their own marketplaces

Did you know that 45% of Amazon’s business is now conducted via Amazon Marketplace? Retail giants — including Walmart, Sears and Best Buy — are also launching their own online marketplaces. The wave is coming!

Online marketplaces are everywhere, and retailers should consider not just selling on established marketplaces, but creating their own. By opening up their websites for select sellers to list products on, retailers can increase the volume and breadth of products, keep shoppers on their website and open up a significant and lucrative new e-commerce channel.

Can any retailer really afford to ignore the potential of launching an online marketplace?

Discover the analysis of Adrien Nussenbaum, one of the world’s biggest marketplace & retail expert, on Channel Advisor blog.

Read the full article on Channel Advisor Blog.

Social_Shopping

The re-emergence of social shopping

Why retailers should consider social shopping

For many people, shopping has always been a social activity. Whether it is friends being dragged around the shops to offer opinions on potential new outfits, or children taking their parents with them to get a more experienced perspective on bigger ticket items like cars; shopping involves chat, discussion and listening to the opinion of people you trust and respect.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the rise of social media over the past decade has heralded a new era of social shopping, transposed from physical stores to online. This new form of social shopping combines social media and e-commerce, taking aspects of the social web and applying those to shopping.  It’s proving to be a potentially powerful offering too, for both retailers and specialist online communities that can allow their audience to buy the products that they have been recommending.

Social + shopping

This combination of the social web and e-commerce is one of the emerging retail trends of recent years and it is one that the social networks themselves are keen to capitalise on. Facebook recently acquired TheFind, an app that crawls the Internet to offer a personalised shopping experience based on consumers’ social profile and the way they shop.

It has also been testing a ‘buy’ button that allows an advertiser to sell products through their Facebook adverts. Twitter launched a similar button last year, with pop singer Rihanna and fashion brand Burberry take part in the initial trial. However, I am not convinced that the social networks themselves are particularly suited to social shopping, especially Twitter which has grown its reputation based on an almost counter-culture spirit, of righting wrongs and passionate debate.  I believe that social networks are well suited as a marketing tool not less so a transactional one, great for driving conversation and engagement with a brand but less useful for direct sales.

An engaged community

That’s not to say that it doesn’t make sense for social networks to bring commerce into their proposition. It adds another dimension to the proposition, keep users interested and crucially, on the site. But perhaps social shopping is perhaps better suited to sites where there is already an engaged and committed community.

The Beautyst is one such community, an online beauty community and store that has just expanded its digital strategy to launch the world’s first marketplace fully dedicated to beauty products. This feels like a natural evolution of the offering. Launched in 2011, The Beautyst currently has a community of 250,000 ‘beautystas’, 650 beauty bloggers and offers more than 20,000 products as the ultimate online destination for essential make up tips, beauty news and online shopping.

The recent addition of a marketplace to its existing online store makes for a really compelling proposition. The marketplace will provide extensive product choice to the ‘beautystas’ and offers brands a new e-commerce channel that harnesses the power of The Beautyst’s social following and community – a potent combination of content and commerce.

Consumers register their beauty profile, and then receive a completely personalised experience on the site. Social content (video tutorials, pictures, user feedback) is recommended to them, and they discover new products to purchase in just a few clicks. The addition of the marketplace to The Beautyst means that both major cosmetics brands and smaller firms have a new route to market and can maximise sells from social shopping.

The power of content

At the heart of The Beautyst’s proposition though, is content. The social content (photo and video tutorials, blogger feedback) is at the core of the purchasing journey to guide consumers, with more than 300 pieces of content posted every day. This extends the shopping experience by making it even more collaborative and community-based.

This combination of content and commerce is one rich with potential for retailers of all sizes and types, and is also suitable for publishers.  Any publisher with an active community can deploy these principals in order to allow their readers to buy the products they recommend. This means that they avoid readers purchasing on another website after taking advice from them and they offer an additional service to their readers without them directly buying the products. This means there is no investment for the publisher and they can preserve their all-important editorial independence and integrity.

Content and commerce has been until fairly recently, a relatively unused combination. But this is set to change, as social shopping continues to grow in popularity. In many ways, social shopping is preferable to going to an actual store even over going to an actual store to shop. The customer is only ever one click away from a price comparison and they can easily find out what others are saying about their intended purchase. They can even leave their own comments to help shape others’ social shopping experience. All of which means, the social shopping trend is only going to grow in 2015, and beyond.

Read this article on its orignal source, FourSource.

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5 tips for Small Retail Businesses about Online Marketplaces

Small Retail Businesses Can Make the Most From Online Marketplaces

Maintaining the sales pipeline is arguably the most important aspect of any retail business, large or small. But perhaps even more so for small retail businesses, that may not yet have their own premises and are always looking for new channels to reach potential customers.

One of the biggest current trends in retail is the emergence of online marketplaces, with the best known of these, Amazon Marketplace, accounting for more than 50% of Amazon’s overall business. It just makes sense. It gives Amazon additional e-commerce channels without inventory or logistic constraints and its customers see increased product choice and more competitive pricing.

Having seen such success, other retailers have cottoned to how an online marketplace can also be a major opportunity for them to expand their product range, improve customer service and of course, increase profits. And the exact same is true for the sellers that use online marketplaces to sell their products, whether that’s via Amazon Marketplace or elsewhere. It is a new and potentially vast channel for smaller retailers to improve sales and reach a new customer base. But how can they make the most from online marketplaces?

Make sure your chosen marketplace suits your products

There is so much choice for the small retailer looking to sell via an online marketplace, including Amazon, many high street retailers and specialists such as Etsy and notonthehighstreet.com, where all sales are conducted via a marketplace.

A temptation could be to use several of these, but it is important for a seller’s products to be complimentary to the main retailer – no-one wants to be seen as an interesting curio. Sellers should also be mindful to pick marketplaces with a solid technical platform and the right tools to ease catalogue integration and listings management. If listings are chaotic and unwieldy, then customers may struggle to find a product, let alone buy one.

Don’t skimp on product photography

The right photography of your products is hugely important. A seller will be competing with other sellers of similar products, and they won’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. High quality visuals can be an important point of differentiation and poor quality shots could mean that potential customers are put off. Any seller must choose the best images possible, making sure that they fit in with the overall feel of the site and main retailer brand.

Offer as large a range of products as possible

One of the principal benefits of an online marketplace is to ensure complementarity and long tail. A seller will be pleasantly surprised at the range of products that they can sell at a given time. So with this is mind, they should try different products and increase sales opportunities by offering as large a range as possible, rather than sticking to the tried and tested.

Make good use of a marketplace’s pricing tools

People buy for many reasons but inevitably price is a significant factor – people love a bargain. Most good marketplaces will provide a pricing tool, which allows sellers to compare their price with the current best price on each product. Prices can then be adjusted accordingly and gives a seller the chance to be positioned in the Buy Box position, the section on a marketplace that highlights the most competitive prices available at that time.

The rules of SEO still apply

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) principals should absolutely still be applied to listing products on an online marketplace. A seller should ask their marketplace account manager what would be an efficient title on that particular product category, both in terms of being attention-grabbing and doing well with SEO.
For example, when buying consumer electronics, most consumers have been shown to search for a product using the brand name. So including the brand at the beginning of a product’s title is an obvious step and would be critical in getting picked up in searches on that marketplace.

Mirakl supplies online marketplace software to some of the world’s biggest retailers.

Read the article on Fresh Business Thinking.

Twitter

Why Twitter isn’t an ecommerce platform

Adrien Nussenbaum analyze the incidence of Twitter’s Buy button for ESeller News.

The recent news that Twitter is to add a ‘buy’ button has caused much debate in the e-commerce and social media industries. Until now, Twitter has generated revenue via advertising but this is a potentially major change in approach, with a button included in a tweet that allows a user to make a direct purchase.

Pop singer Rihanna and fashion brand Burberry have already signed up to take part in the initial trial. I will watch the results with interest but I am not convinced Twitter is a platform for e-commerce.

Mixing social and commerce

I am skeptical about this new service because we have seen over time that most people don’t like to mix news/social with commerce. This is despite the fact that everyone talks about social commerce in all its forms, but there is a difference between discussion and actually doing something. Also, Twitter was built on a kind of counter-culture spirit. As much as it is now used a lot by brands to communicate, I believe that it can only remain a marketing tool not a transactional one, great for driving conversation and engagement with a brand but less useful for sales.

Twitter as a marketplace?

Of course there is some potential to generate more visibility on certain products but I am doubtful about its ability to generate immediate transactions. It is also unclear whether it will just be a traffic generator or if they actually want to handle the shopping cart on Twitter. This would be a much heavier and more involved process where it is key to respect all the best practices of commerce. Knowing that Twitter would not hold the inventory, they would have to offer this service in a marketplace manner which requires a lot of processes that I doubt Twitter would want to deal with.

Ultimately, Twitter is a platform that lends itself to discussion and social activity, sometimes around products that people like. But it remains to be seen if that can be translated into users then actually buying products. I’m not convinced that people will do so in any great numbers, because Twitter is simply not perceived as a commerce platform.

Read the article here.

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Expand product range without inventory or cost

By Adrien Nussenbaum, CEO of Mirakl Inc and Marketplace expert.  

Leaving aside for one moment the competitive pricing and excellent customer service, one of the main attributes Amazon brought to retail was the ability to offer increased product choice. Retailers can introduce all manner of customer service initiatives and reduce prices as they see fit. But with a finite amount of storage available to shops, Mirakl’s co-founder Adrien Nussenbaum points out product choice is one area that high street stores can’t ever hope to compete with Amazon.

“Because consumers crave a choice of products, retailers need to look at ways that enable them to offer that – it’s the old adage of giving the customer what they want. The good news is that there are options to enable them to do so,” he said.

Drop shipping

One such method is drop shipping. Instead of retailers holding products themselves, they partner with a wholesaler that stocks its own inventory or they liaise with the product manufacturer directly. “Drop shipping is convenient, efficient and minimises the risk, as a retailer only has to manage the products that have been ordered,” continued Nussenbaum. “It also allows for deeper and customised relationships to be built with a few core partners, so is particularly good for larger and more complex commercial relationships.”

The third party is responsible for packaging and delivery of products, which removes another potential stress, meaning that drop shipping can also work well for emerging retailers. For example, online fashion portal Brothers We Stand uses a drop shipping model as a way of bringing together ethical fashion labels.

Of course, drop shipping also lets retailers offer a greater selection of products to its customers. Yet the retail model with drop shipping is operationally complex and can drive up internal costs, as Nussenbaum explains: “Retailers attempt to integrate their order/customer management systems with those of third parties, which impacts costs. Customer service can be a problem too, with the different parties involved working to their own standards.”

Online marketplaces

The other main option for retailers to expand their product range, is the online marketplace. “The Amazon Marketplace is the most famous example but global brands such as Walmart, Best Buy and Galeries Lafayette have all launched online marketplaces too,” he continued. Some etailers such as notonthehighstreet.com, are based entirely on marketplace sales. But what has tempted retailers to venture into the world of marketplaces?

“A marketplace can be used to complement or replace the drop ship model, offering scalability, flexibility and profitability,” explained Nussenbaum. “By connecting sellers and customers directly, online marketplaces can provide a retailer with incremental revenue and margin, improved customer service, and a new way to test and feature products that are otherwise restricted. As it is so easy to bring new partners on board, retailers can offer greater choice for minimal additional cost. They also benefit the other parties involved – sellers get the chance to reach new customers, while consumers benefit from the greater choice.”

Control concerns

An oft-cited concern with online marketplaces, is around control – what products are sold, what service is provided by sellers and the prospect of losing control over an overall brand. “Some retailers have been around for 100 years or more – why should they risk exposing their customers to a third-party seller that might not reflect those values? But there is no real reason this should occur. Crucially, the retailer retains control at all times over what products are offered, and how transactions and communications take place,” he said.

Additionally, while online marketplaces are good for scaling and adding a number of sellers quickly, they do not deal as effectively with complex, non-standard commercial agreements with partners.

Providing a much larger product choice is of increasing importance in retail, as consumers crave the convenience of buying their goods in one place. Both drop shipping and online marketplaces allow a retailer to do just that, as Nussenbaum concludes: “Whichever option a retailer chooses will vary according to specific needs, but offering an extensive and varied product selection is fast becoming a must-have in modern retail.”

Read the full article also published in Retail Technology  here.

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5 tips to maximize your success on online marketplaces

How to get the most from online marketplaces

For a smaller retailer, it has never been easier to reach a bigger audience. Selling via the web has been around for many years now, but the relatively recent emergence of online marketplaces has opened a major new e-commerce channel for small retailers.

Online marketplaces are one of the major trends in the retail sector right now. Amazon Marketplace accounts for more than half of Amazon’s overall business, providing additional e-commerce channels without inventory or logistic constraints, its customers benefitting from the increased product choice and more competitive pricing.

Other retailers have also cottoned on that an online marketplace can be a major opportunity for them to expand their product range, improve customer service and of course, increase profits. Some of the world’s biggest retail brands, such as Walmart, Best Buy and Galeries Lafayette, have all launched online marketplaces and some etailers such as notonthehighstreet.com, are based entirely on marketplace sales.

This means a major opportunity for the sellers that use online marketplaces to sell their products. It is a new and potentially vast channel for them to improve sales and reach a new customer base. But what should smaller retailers look out for when selling via an online marketplace?

Make sure you choose the right marketplace for your products. The sheer volume of choice for people considering selling via a marketplace can be bewildering. There are now so many online marketplaces for sellers to consider, including Amazon, a plethora of high street retailers and specialists such as Etsy and notonthehighstreet.com, where all sales are conducted via a marketplace.

A strong and varied product range is important when choosing which marketplace to sell on, but it is also important to make sure the seller’s products are complimentary to the overall retailer. The last thing anyone wants is to be viewed as an interesting curio, rather than a serious seller of quality products. People should also be mindful to pick marketplaces with a solid technical platform and the right tools to ease catalogue integration and listings management. If listings are chaotic and unwieldy, then customers may struggle to find a product, let alone buy one.

Ensure product photography is attention-grabbing. As with your own website, good product imagery is of paramount importance. A seller will be competing with other sellers of similar products, and they won’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. High quality visuals can be an important point of differentiation and poor quality shots could mean that potential customers are put off. Any seller must choose the best images possible, making sure that they fit in with the overall feel of the site and main retailer brand. For example, if the retailer’s own products are all on a white background, doing yours in a different style will jar and look out of place.

Use pricing tools. Price isn’t always the main factor in a purchasing decision, but it stands to reason that a majority of consumers love a bargain. Most good marketplaces will provide a pricing tool, which allows sellers to compare their price with the current best price on each product.Prices can then be adjusted accordingly and gives a seller the chance to be positioned in the Buy Box position, the section on a marketplace that highlights the most competitive prices available at that time.Sellers listed in the Buy Box are seen as soon as the shopper clicks through to the product and this can have a great impact on sales.

Have a varied and exhaustive product offering. One of the main benefits of a good marketplace is to ensure complementarity and long tail. A seller will be pleasantly surprised at the range of products that they can sell at a given time. So with this is mind, they should try different products and increase sales opportunities by offering as large a range as possible.

Choose your product titles / labels carefully. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) isn’t a new discipline and most businesses should now be aware of the importance of appearing high in search rankings. The same principals should be applied to listing products on an online marketplace.A seller should ask their marketplace account manager (if there isn’t one available, there really should and is another good indicator of the quality of the marketplace) what would be an efficient title on that particular product category, both in terms of being attention-grabbing and doing well with SEO. For example, if selling electronic goods for the house, customers would mostly search for the product by brand, so including the brand at the beginning of the title would be critical in getting picked up in searches.

Read the article on ESeller News here.