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Are you floundering in the brave new world of the online marketplace?
By now, you probably know that the online marketplace is something business owners can no longer afford to ignore.
If you’re not sure how to harness the power of online marketplaces for your own small business, we’re here to help.
In this article, we’ll show you how your business could benefit from the online marketplace in general and give you some steps to jump-start the process.
Let’s dig in.
What Is An Online Marketplace?
An online marketplace (sometimes called an ecommerce marketplace) is a site where as much as a million third party sellers can offer goods and services in an online format.
The hallmark of an online marketplace is that buyers have the ability to browse and purchase desired items from a large number of different online retail sellers without ever leaving the app.
Some of the most well-known online marketplaces are Facebook Marketplace, Google Shopping, Amazon, and eBay. But these are not the only online marketplaces that exist. There are hundreds of online marketplaces all over the world including Walmart, Etsy, Rakuten, TaoBao, and many, many more, and each of these have well over a million customers on a daily basis.
The use of online marketplaces has skyrocketed in the last few years, and is projected to continue to rise. We know that 25% of buyers make an online purchase at least once a month. In 2021, the number of digital buyers in the US is projected to rise to 230 million customers.
By now, you almost certainly recognize how essential online marketplaces are to the global customer bases of small businesses like yours in general. To ignore the potential of the best online marketplaces is to leave a significant portion of potential profit on the table.
Of course, bringing your product to the online marketplace also means some extra work and diligence in general, as well as some transaction fees.
Here’s how to make sure it’s worth it.
5 Reasons Why Your Ecommerce Store Could Benefit From Selling In An Online Marketplace
Sure, everyone preaches about the importance of getting your product onto ecommerce marketplaces.
Maybe you think you’re doing just fine with the customer bases that you already have. Maybe bricks and mortar, combined with general word-of-mouth, have always been enough of a marketplace for you to get your products sold. After all, (as the saying goes), if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
It may not be broken, but how can you make sure that it’s much better than you’ve ever imagined?
Here are all the general benefits of selling in global ecommerce marketplaces.
Reach more people
As a small business owner, your bandwidth for marketing and promotion is slim. Exposure from any of the top ecommerce marketplaces (i.e., Amazon, eBay, Etsy, etc.) automatically grants you general access to all of its customers on a global scale with little to no promotional effort on your part. This kind of low-hanging fruit is a golden opportunity to get your products sold and you really can’t afford to pass it up.
To give you an idea of the kind of exposure we’re talking about, Amazon (one of the best online marketplaces) currently has about 214 million active users in the U.S. And as of 2018, Facebook Marketplace had more than 800 million users on a global scale. It’s safe to say these numbers are exponentially greater in general than what any small business could achieve in a marketplace of its own.
An online marketplace is a quick and easy way to make sure you extend your general reach to the maximum number of people possible.
By now, you already know how important trust is as part of your business model when building your brand. In general, shoppers are often hesitant to make a purchase from a marketplace they are unfamiliar with. But they won’t think twice about purchasing the identical product from a favorite e commerce site.
That’s because the best ecommerce marketplaces have a formidable reputation. In general, shoppers recognize the big names and instantly trust them.
In this way, when you list your product with a well-known e commerce site, you automatically share in the trust level they’ve established, even if you haven’t had time to build that trust for yourself.
The online marketplace can let us easily develop the integrity and credibility that could take years to build otherwise.
Enjoy a quick, inexpensive startup
Jump starting your business model and online brand can be an expensive venture. Just the monthly cost of web hosting can run you hundreds of dollars, in addition to the cost of hiring people for web design and marketing.
Using an established online marketplace (like eBay, for example) is a great way to cut out all these costs.
Of course, you will still have to shell out some minimal costs per month to use the marketplace, like a monthly subscription, listing fees, seller fees, and other transaction fees.. But typically these costs and selling fees work out to just a fraction of the startup costs you would pay striking out on your own.
The best online marketplaces have the resources you need to achieve your business model affordably with only a minimal transaction fee.
Take advantage of built-in globalization
Did you know that Amazon (one of the top online marketplaces) has active users in 180 countries, as well as 109 fulfillment centers worldwide?
What does this mean for you?
It means that someone in the UK, or even Japan, who has always needed your product can find and purchase it with ease from one of the many top online marketplaces.
With the online marketplace, you can reach markets in far-flung parts of the world that weren’t even on your radar before.
Increased brand visibility
Once shoppers begin seeing your brand on an online marketplace like Amazon or Etsy, they begin to recognize you off the online marketplace too.
You will find that more shoppers begin visiting your site directly once they’ve gotten to know you within a top ecommerce site. And they are more likely to recommend you to others, as well.
While measuring brand visibility can be tricky, vendors commonly find an increase in brand traffic after listing in an online marketplace.
The visibility you get from the online marketplace is especially advantageous if you’re new to the online selling scene and your brand is relatively unknown.
Exposure to new channels
Ready to break out of the small niche market you’ve cornered and try something new?
Online marketplaces appeal to a diverse range of shoppers, some of whom might never bother to check out your product otherwise.
You may even find your brand taking a whole new direction from what you expected, opening up to niches that you would never try on your own.
So if you’ve never thought of selling to teenage girls in Japan, or senior citizens in Belize, this could be your chance, and one of the many benefits of selling in the online marketplace.
Top Product Categories Sold By Online Marketplaces
Selling on the online marketplace is beneficial no matter what your niche is.
But it can’t be denied that (as with anything) there is always one product category that will find more success than others.
If you sell products in a high-demand product category, you are almost certain to find success in the online marketplace.
Here are some of the product categories which are surefire ways to succeed.
Health and nutrition
Taking control of our own health is a strong and growing trend, and it seems to be here to stay.
Here are just a few of the health-related products that are sure to take off among online shoppers:
- Herbal remedies
- Alternative health
- Informational products (books, brochures, etc.)
- Medical marijuana
- Protein shakes and meal-replacement smoothies
- Vitamins and supplements
- Detoxing products
- Healthy meal kits/meal delivery
- Exercise gear/equipment
Basically anything that allows people to find cures and treatments for the many ills that plague them will be a success.
Products that improve mental health or help with weight loss are consistently among the top sellers.
There’s also a ton of demand for anything that makes it easier for people to eat healthy on the go. Meal-delivery services that allow consumers to select healthy options are one example of this type of product.
Reusable and eco-friendly products
A desire to preserve the earth and the environment is a primary concern of consumers in the millennial generation. As a result, consumers are becoming more concerned about the earth, and ready to show it with their wallets.
You can profit from the growing trend of eco-consciousness by offering alternatives to single-use plastic products.
Reusable food wrap, no longer just the domain of DIY enthusiasts, is taking a prime spot as an eco-friendly alternative to those who are too busy to make their own.
Another popular eco-friendly option: feminine hygiene products like washable period underwear and reusable menstrual cups.
Try thinking outside the box in terms of how you can help meet the growing demand for reusable and eco-friendly products.
This product category has an enduring popularity, and will always be a top seller in the online marketplace.
This is at least partly because the niche is evolving so much. Most recently, vegan beauty products and men’s makeup have risen as trends.
The beauty and cosmetics niche is an exciting niche to sell in, because it is highly individualized. All kinds of smaller niches are possible within it, and the most successful sellers are those who can dominate these small, personalized beauty niches.
Having said that, anti-aging skin products and cosmetics will always be top sellers. So if you have a product that can smooth wrinkles and reverse the effects of aging, you’re sure to find a market for it online.
Though not yet fully legalized, CBD oil is becoming legal in more and more states, and the industry seems poised to become mainstream.
Many online marketplaces are now able to fulfill orders for CBD oil to treat anxiety, depression, cancer-related symptoms, and the pain from chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and arthritis.
And it’s not only humans who are interested in the healing properties of CBD oil. More and more pet owners are purchasing it to treat their dogs for joint pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and many other canine ailments.
If you’re anxious to cash in on this promising product category, it’s wise to find an expert to team up with in order to offer the best quality product.
Let’s be real here: we all just adore our pets. In fact, we’d do anything for them, including buying the best food, toys, and accessories we can possibly afford.
So anyone who wants to use the online marketplace for the pet product category is uniquely poised for success.
There’s really no limit to the items you can successfully market for pets. Toys, leashes, even strollers are items that find steady success.
And don’t forget about the American passion for exotic pets: products marketed to the owners of guinea pigs, parrots, and reptiles of all kinds.
Another popular niche market for pets? Dog training classes and accessories. Books and informational guides about obedience, potty training, and security are sure to be a win.
5 Easy Online Marketplaces To Sell Online
If you’re just getting started with selling on an online marketplace, you want something that’s easy to set up and won’t cost you an arm and a leg in subscriptions and listing fees.
And to get the most bang for your buck, you also want a marketplace that exposes your product to a large global audience.
The online marketplaces listed here are the easiest and most profitable places to get started selling your products.
As befits the name, Amazon is truly a giant in the world of online marketplaces. It’s a hugely popular site that can easily expose your product to millions and millions of people around the world.
Amazon is known for its consistency and its standardized price listings. This works to your advantage because it gives your ecommerce product listings more credibility.
One of Amazon’s many ecommerce perks is the Fulfillment by Amazon feature. Under this plan, Amazon manages your inventory for you. They take charge of packing and shipping and even handle returns.
You can also opt for the affiliate program, where a wide range of ecommerce media influencers can recommend you with a link to their own mock storefront.
Monthly Visitors: 214.8 million active users
Monthly Costs: Your transaction fee includes $0.99 seller fees per item sold on an individual plan, $39.99 per month on the professional plan
eBay is another vast worldwide marketplace which appeals to a different type of audience than Amazon.
There are 190 eBay markets around the world, opening up a wide range of opportunities for marketplace sellers.
Each of the marketplace sellers on eBay gets to list 30 free items per month. You can choose whether you want a conventional fixed-price listing for selling your products, or a more exciting auction-style listing, instead. With a fixed price, you are likely to sell your gross merchandise quicker, but auction-style listings often sell for higher prices.
Monthly Visitors: 167 million active users
Monthly Cost: A listing fee of $0.30 for each item listed above the 30 free item limit; a final value fee for a percentage of the transaction, 2% to 12% depending on what the item is. Monthly subscription fees range from $7.95 to $349.95, depending on which pricing tier you choose.
Walmart Marketplace is an ecommerce site that provides a huge international venue for sellers.
Retailers are carefully vetted before they are chosen to sell, making this a highly professional marketplace for high quality goods.
Sellers who wish to use the Marketplace have to fill out a detailed application. If they are accepted, they must engage in an onboarding process before their online store goes live on the ecommerce site, where they will be accessible to millions of active users each day.
Walmart offers plenty of innovative solutions for sellers, including expedited shipping and Walmart Fulfillment Services (similar to Amazon).
Other perks for sellers? Pro Seller Badges, a Goldman Sachs line of credit, and a seller blog highlighting success stories.
Monthly Visitors: 100 million active users
Monthly Cost: There are no monthly subscription, insertion fee, or selling fees on Walmart. There are, however, some additional fees if you choose to use the Walmart By Fulfillment program.
The online marketplace at Etsy is unique in several ways.
For one thing, it specializes in vintage, handmade, or hard-to-find items.
For another, sellers work independently of Etsy itself. They are free to personalize their online store and make it reflect their style.
Keep in mind that this opens plenty of possibilities to you as an online seller. You have the freedom to build a unique brand name of your own through using Etsy. You can even use it to maintain your bricks-and-mortar store if you can’t manage sales of gross merchandise in person all the time.
Monthly Visitors: 352 million active users
Monthly Cost: A standard monthly subscription is free; a Plus subscription costs $10 per month. In addition, there is a $0.20 insertion fee.
Wayfair is a massive online marketplace for home goods, selling furniture, kitchen supplies, home décor, appliances, and anything else related to the home.
Unlike its competitors, Wayfair uses a drop shipping model with its sellers. Sellers (like you) join the marketplace and sell their stock at wholesale prices to Wayfair. Then, Wayfair sets its own retail price and pockets the profit. The order is submitted to your warehouse and the seller ships the product to the customer.
What draws business owners to this online marketplace is the ease of use, the massive customer base, and the straight-forward payments.
For ecommerce businesses that sell home items, this is the perfect platform to scale your business.
Monthly Visitors: 86.7 million
Monthly Cost: Wayfair doesn’t have any fees. It buys your products at wholesale price and sets its own retail price for your items.
Faire is the world's first online wholesale marketplace, empowering independent retailers and brands to buy and sell at wholesale terms online.
With over 500,000 independent retailers and 70,000 brands from 150 different countries, Faire is the largest platform of its kind.
Monthly Visitors: Unknown but they work with 500,000 independent retailers and 100,000 brands from 150 different countries
Monthly Cost: The monthly cost for brands to sell on Faire is 15%
FAQ About Selling in an Online Marketplace
Here are the answers to some common questions you may have about selling your products online.
What is the cheapest platform to sell online?
With no monthly subscription or listing fee, Walmart Marketplace is by far the most affordable online marketplace for selling your products.
However, this depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.
If you’re not willing to take the time required to apply to the Marketplace as a third party seller, or if you haven’t built up enough of a brand to secure permission to sell there, Walmart Marketplace may not be the best option for you.
In addition, you will have to spend time upfront working with Walmart to get onboarded and established as a third party seller.
Similarly, Google Shopping allows you to list items for free, but it too has a thorough and time-consuming onboarding process.
And we all know that time is money.
With no monthly subscription, an Individual plan on Amazon is another affordable way to sell products online. However, an upgrade will be necessary if you’re planning to sell more than 40 items per month, or if you want to use the advanced marketing tools that Amazon provides its third party sellers.
At only $10 a month, Etsy is easily one of the most affordable online marketplaces out there, too.
When selecting an online marketplace, it’s worth remembering that even the priciest marketplaces are still more affordable than paying all the costs of running your own online store.
What is the best online marketplace?
Again, this depends on your individual needs and goals as a third party seller, but Amazon is consistently ranked the best online marketplace in the United States.
There are a number of reasons for its superiority. For one thing, this ecommerce marketplace gives you access to over a million coveted Amazon Prime shoppers, who spend more money on online shopping than the majority of shoppers in other marketplaces, an average of $1400 per year as opposed to about $600 spent by shoppers on other sites.
And that’s not all. The amount spent by Amazon Prime members is steadily rising, while the amount spent on other platforms is declining.
The services and features provided by this giant ecommerce marketplace would be difficult or even impossible for any other e commerce site to mimic.
Here are a few of the features that make Amazon stand out among marketplaces:
- Gift options, such as gift messaging and wrapping
- Business reports that allow you to carefully track conversion rates and product performance
- The ability to easily change your notification preferences
- The ability to customize information about your store policies and information
For that reason, while it may not be the cheapest option that exists for online selling, it is almost certainly the ecommerce marketplace most likely to yield big results.
How many online marketplaces are there?
This number is always changing, as online marketplaces in the United States seem to pop up constantly.
Web Retailer recently published their definitive list of a total of 153 online marketplaces which includes Amazon and eBay, plus many more. So there’s no shortage of marketplaces to choose from.
Online marketplaces accounted for more than 50% of all online sales in 2019 and contribute an average of $1.7 trillion each year to the global economy.
So if you’re wondering whether this might be the right time to get in on some of that action, there’s no time like the present.