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How focusing on user experience will help your online marketplace thrive

By Contribtutor
Fri 17 Jun 2022

Article by Marketplacer APAC head of solutions engineering, Luke Hilton.

Wondering whether 2022 should be the year your organisation starts riding the online marketplace wave? Or perhaps you’ve already made a foray into the space but found the going a little rockier than anticipated?

Online marketplaces have ridden a wave of popularity recently, with eCommerce businesses of all sizes understanding the benefits that can accrue from selling not just their own wares but those of dozens, even hundreds of third-party vendors as well.

Research shows that online marketplaces boost order values and increase customer loyalty and trust. The model allows retailers to expand into new ranges and categories without outlaying large capital sums in the process. Revenue increases of 30 to 50% are not unusual, making the business case for going down this route a seriously compelling one. 

Making a mess of it

But establishing an online marketplace that boosts your brand and sends your sales soaring isn’t as straightforward as simply integrating your eCommerce platform with the online ordering systems of your newfound partners and hoping for the best. 

In fact, doing so can be a recipe for trouble. We’ve observed companies fail to realise the full potential of their online marketplace investments because they’ve failed to pay attention. To the user experience element of the exercise, that is.

Typically, they’ll have neglected to disclose that they’re now running a marketplace model. Consequently, the average buyer won’t realise that the batch of items they’re adding to their cart won’t be arriving together from one central warehouse.

Confusion and consternation can ensue when said items start turning up in dribs and drabs. Cue a surge in calls and emails to the contact centre, all of which must be answered promptly if the business is to avoid an uptick in negative online reviews. 

And then there’s the potentially fraught issue of returns. This can become a flashpoint if a retailer’s third-party sellers have policies that differ significantly from its own. If these differences aren’t made clear from the outset, contact centre agents and bricks-and-mortar sales assistants may be in for some unpleasant showdowns with customers who thought they’d be able to pop in for a refund or exchange.

Selling smartly

At Marketplacer, we know there isn’t always a second chance for retailers that let shoppers down on the customer experience front. That’s why we like to work closely with our customers from the get-go, to ensure they don’t need one. 

Once an online marketplace project gets the go-ahead, the first step should be to map out the process changes that are required and the change management activities that should accompany them.

This allows a company to see potential breakpoints and issues and help retailers mitigate them before they complicate the process by bringing third-party sellers and products on board.

Introducing the latter to your site necessitates a series of decisions: how you’ll advise customers and prospects that your site is a marketplace; whether you explicitly flag every item that’s supplied by a partner; and how you’ll alter your delivery and returns policies, to name a few.

There are no right or wrong answers – it’s up to your business to determine what shape its marketplace will take – but the choices you make will determine the work that needs to be done.

The last mile

After participating in scores of successful implementations, our team knows two things for sure. First, where customer experience is concerned, it doesn’t pay to take shortcuts, and second, focusing obsessively on the last mile of the customer journey is a super-smart move. 

Advise customers that a multi-item order may mean multiple deliveries rather than one big parcel, clearly communicate delivery time frames and supply accurate tracking codes, and let them know exactly who they should contact if they have questions and complaints, and you’ll have sidestepped the pitfalls that typically see rookie marketplace operators come unstuck.

Succeeding together

Establishing an online marketplace is a strategic move. It has the potential to supercharge your sales and profits, provided you ensure customer experience remains front and centre. Teaming up with expert partners that understand the complexities of the model and the implementation process will see your business well placed to make the most of its investment in this game-changing technology. 

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