Operating an online marketplace, or planning on establishing one in the near future? All signs suggest it’s a seriously smart move. Research has shown that ecommerce businesses which augment their own offerings with goods and services supplied and shipped by third parties can boost their online visibility, sales and revenue – the latter by 30 to 50 per cent, on average, in the first year.

That’s always provided they’re able to keep the customer satisfied. In today’s times, that’s no mean feat. Here in Australia and around the world, consumers have become accustomed to receiving slick, seamless service from the likes of Amazon, eBay et al – and they’ve come to expect it from all the businesses they deal with, from retail giants down to the smallest of family run concerns.

Fail to provide it and there’s a good chance they’ll decamp to a competitor that makes them feel seen, heard and valued.

One platform, many partners

The challenge, when you run an online marketplace, is that it’s not just your own customer experience you need to monitor and manage.

Each and every one of your partners is an extension of your operations and how they engage with customers will reflect on your business, as well as their own.

So, what can you do to ensure your network of sellers amplifies and elevates your brand, by delivering stand-out customer experiences when they interact with customers and prospects?

In my experience, it pays to proceed on the premise that most sellers will be genuinely committed to doing the right thing. It’s their livelihood on the line as well as yours, so it’s reasonable to assume they’re as keen as you are to see customers smiling and sales soaring.

Expectations and accountability

Whether you’re talking relationships, business or life in general, it’s unreasonable to hold individuals and organisations to standards, if you haven’t explicitly communicated – and mutually agreed upon – just what those standards comprise.

Smart marketplace operators lay them out for potential partners at the outset. This includes the contractual obligations regarding product quality, responsiveness and delivery experience to which they hold sellers that list on their platform, as well as their expectations for how products should be presented for sale.

They also do their due diligence before signing a seller up; not just perusing their product range but taking a deep dive into their backroom operations. That might entail examining their performance on other online channels – reading customer reviews and doing a little mystery shopping – and having frank, open conversations with stakeholders, to gauge their appetite and commitment for a new one.

Monitoring performance

Ensuring all your sellers are on the same page from the get-go is one half of the customer experience equation. The other half is encouraging and enabling them to stay there, so they keep on getting better and better at delivering the goods – figuratively and literally – for your shared customers.

That starts with keeping a weather eye on your web site. Just as a bricks and mortar store manager might walk the shopfloor each morning, your online marketplace team should be checking supplier listings regularly, to ensure goods are listed and merchandised correctly.

Your team should also be monitoring sellers’ performance via a range of metrics – think shipment, cancellation and return rates. These are all vital gauges of customer satisfaction. In today’s times, a good order, by definition, arrives lightning fast. Too many cancelled orders suggest that the seller in question may need to invest in an inventory management solution, to ensure they have the products they’re offering in stock. And a high return rate tells you there’s an issue with either the quality of the merchandise, or the way the seller has described it on your site.

Data driven improvement

It’s possible to elicit those numbers regularly, if you’re running your online marketplace on a cloud platform with automated reporting and strong data analysis capabilities. 

And sharing the numbers with your seller network is a no-brainer. If you’ve discerned a concerning pattern, flagging it early gives the seller in question the chance to investigate it, and to up their game.

Conversely, sellers that are hitting it out of the park deserve to be recognised and celebrated. If you’re smart, you’ll strive to understand the best practices that enable them to do so. Sharing some of that gen with their counterparts who have room to improve is a constructive way to lift standards across the board.

Stronger together

When you’re running an online marketplace, keeping the customer satisfied doesn’t happen by accident. Providing standout customer experience is a team effort and putting measures in place to help you and your sellers work together harmoniously and efficiently will help you to deliver it, each and every time customers interact with your brand.

Britt Rinker is vice president of customer success & growth at Marketplacer.