Australia’s appetite for online shopping shows no signs of abating with the digital disruption resulting in rapid change for the retail sector. The shift in shopper behaviour means it has never been more important for brands to maximise their online visibility.

A growing trend amongst major retail conglomerates is the adoption of online marketplaces, which allow retailers to expand their product offering and e-commerce footprint.  Online marketplaces are unique platforms that provide brands with an opportunity to broaden their reach to digital savvy consumers looking to purchase products across multiple categories in one convenient destination. While e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon and eBay have existed for decades, Woolworths[1] and Coles[2] have recently entered the sector under their Everyday Market and Best Buys brand names.

I’ve been witnessing firsthand the growth of online marketplaces, with an increasing number of clients seeking assistance with tailored e-commerce strategies to help maximise their brands digital e-commerce footprint. As the number of online marketplaces continue to grow, an indepth understanding of their individual nuances is required to maximise opportunities.

In Australia, online shopping accounts for approximately 30 per cent of total omni-channel retail sales and, interestingly, the main point of difference in Australia, which defies global markets, is Australia’s penchant for eBay, which is the nation’s leading e-commerce site by a wide margin compared to most countries where Amazon is the dominant global leader. Other sites such as MyDeal, Kogan, and Catch are also growing in popularity in Australia with online marketplaces experiencing above average growth in the last two years.

For sellers, the opportunity to leverage online marketplaces is exciting however the ongoing management and fulfilment requirements can be daunting. Before partnering with online marketplaces, CROSSMARK recommends the following three elements:

Marketplace management: developing an e-commerce strategy, managing the set-up process, and overseeing the day-to-day logistics across the growing number of online marketplace platforms is just the beginning. Preparation is key. As part of the strategic planning process, be sure to include an analysis of the current online marketplace size and a thorough online search of similar products to help determine the scale and value of the online marketplace opportunity. This may also include a review of ‘grey’ sales, those that are being generated via third party vendors, which are easily overlooked as the sales aren’t generated directly through the manufacturer or official resellers. Understanding each marketplace and taking back ownership of product sales on certain platforms also allows a brand to enhance its product pages through content optimisation, which can yield significant sales increases while keeping the business informed about current market trends and competitor activity.

Digital product content: product pages that are up-to-date and well presented deliver an enhanced shopping experience for those ready to purchase. However, many retail sites don’t have the capability to keep every brand and product page regularly updated. Making sure product information, photos, videos and specification details are consistently and accurately presented across multiple e-commerce sites can be a huge undertaking. This is where partnering with a retail expert can help make the process seamless and efficient. Some retail specialists like CROSSMARK have access to new software that has the ability to tap into thousands of retail sites, automatically updating information quickly and accurately, saving valuable time and money.

Taking more ownership of how a product is presented online will not only ensure the product information is accurate, it also allows brands to extend its product pages with additional text, photos, videos and even augmented reality features.

Logistics and fulfilment: while online marketplaces offer a new sales channel for brands, having the ability to fulfil the required marketplace distribution obligations is critical.  Engaging a third party warehouse and logistics specialist that understands the different fulfilment agreements for each online marketplace can help make the process easy and seamless. For brands requiring assistance with navigating the different third party logistics and fulfilment requirements, including packing, coding and automatic replenishment, CROSSMARK recently expanded its warehousing facilities in Sydney and Melbourne to help meet demand from clients seeking assistance with storage and stock replenishment.

As online marketplaces continue to grow, outsourcing the strategic planning, content management and warehousing logistics to a third party retail specialist can remove some of the challenges around managing the increasing number of e-commerce platforms, allowing businesses to remain focused on optimising sales and growth opportunities.

Con Botsioulis is director of client services at CROSSMARK Australia.