We've teamed up with Future Planet to help SMEs create a more sustainable future and support their business transformation.

Overcoming the barriers to selling online – whatever your business persona

Our research paper, ‘the rise of the UK digital entrepreneur’, looks at the challenges that all types of online sellers’ face.  At the same time, online marketplaces can really be harnessed to help drive a businesses’ growth strategy, once you know how they operate.

Here are just 3 areas where marketplaces can help to overcome barriers.

1. Selling internationally. Online marketplaces present an opportunity to test out new international markets, quickly and easily.

  • Listings - eBay states that if businesses actively list on international marketplaces they can generate as much as 8 x more revenue compared to a domestic listing, available with international shipping.
  • International deliveries - There is a wealth of marketplace logistics services that can help SMEs reduce the time manage shipping and returns. Adding international postage options to listings also makes products more accessible.
  • Logistic services - Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) provides local delivery from the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Avenue 51 is one of the logistics providers used by brands trading on Alibaba. And eBay have their Global Shipping Programme which allows sellers to offer items to customers in any country.
  • Tax and shipping considerations - To sell internationally, businesses may be required to register for VAT in each of the countries they sell into. Regulations will vary from country to country. Our partners at the DIT (Department for International Trade) has a vast amount of resources to help UK businesses accelerate exports through online channels.

2. Promotions. Converting your online traffic into sales can be helped by a variety of promotional activity. But make sure you’re aware that these vary by each marketplace platform.

  • Automated promotion slots - A certain level of promotion takes place automatically via online marketplaces, once products are listed. This is called automated promotion and types include:
    • Statistical, e.g. top 10 lists
    • Associative, e.g. people who bought X also bought Y
    • Social, e.g. wish lists

These are usually based on order records or browsing data and are effective once sellers have a trading history, but not so well for those who are new to a marketplace.

  • Short-term discounting - This is a quick and easy way to get your brand and products noticed. The potential increase in sales will enable the product to appear in automated promotion slots. The number of orders and browsing activities associated with these will not disappear overnight so will help drive sales even when the discount ends
  • Manual promotions. Many online marketplaces allow sellers to create item-level promotions and these are often free. Some marketplaces operate a paid scheme such as Amazon’s Sponsored Products, which work similarly to paid search links on search engines
  • Promoting your store front on marketplaces -This is actively encouraged. Most marketplaces have a short URL for your store front that can be use in customer communications and packing slips

3. Key performance metrics. Most businesses track success based on volume of sales. But different marketplaces have different measures of success which could impact on the sellers’ standing.

  • Feedback score and feedback ratings - Negative feedback is bad, but not receiving any feedback at all can indirectly count against a seller too. Sellers should do everything they can to actively encourage buyers to give feedback. Even after resolving a dissatisfied customer’s complaint the negative feedback can be removed, and the experience can even be turned into positive feedback
  • Average dispatch time - This is sometimes known as Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) and the quicker the average dispatch time is, the better it is for the seller. For most marketplaces sellers should try to keep this under two business days where possible.

Download the full report to read further into these areas.


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