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Selling on online marketplaces best practice

Promoting products

In the fifth of a series of best practice articles, we offers in-depth guidance on some of the fundamental elements to help you trade on online marketplaces successfully. The focus for this article: promoting products

Automated promotion slots

A certain amount of promoting your products takes place automatically on the marketplace once you are up and running. This is called automated promotion and types include:

  • Statistical (e.g. hot products and 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 can work effectively for you once you have a trading history on the marketplace.

However, when you are just starting out you will not have that luxury. You need to consider what you can do to get your products seen, and bought, more often. 

Once this happens, momentum will start to build. Sales will lead to more sales as your products naturally start to appear in these automated promotion slots.

While you are building up this trading history, you may want to consider short-term discounting. The increase in sales will start to get your product appearing in automated promotion slots as it becomes associated with other products and/or becomes a hot-selling item.

These order and browsing associations will not disappear overnight, and will help your sales even when the period of discounting ends.

Manual promotions

You can also create item-level promotions on many of the marketplaces of your choice. These are usually free if they are associated with your own item (e.g. ‘Free delivery on all orders’ or ‘Buy this item in May and get a free mouse mat’).

If you want to create a promotion or campaign that is advertised elsewhere, such as in emails (other than to your own customers) or in banner advertising on category or homepages, you may need to pay for these.

Your chosen marketplace may operate a paid scheme such as Amazon Sponsored Products. These work very similarly to paid search links on search engines, where you bid on search terms and pay for every click your product ad receives. 

You may need to fulfil certain other criteria, such as winning the buy button or having a specific type of merchant account. Contact your chosen marketplace for full details.

Marketplace email services

Some marketplaces offer free email campaigns as part of your shop subscription fee. For example, Rakuten's Play.com allows you to send weekly emails to customers who have previously bought one of your products. You should max out your allowance on these, but be careful to ensure the products in your promotion are relevant to the customer you send it to.

eBay offers a similar service, but one that puts the tools in the hands of the buyer. Customers must first opt in to receive your newsletters by subscribing or ‘following’ you; after opting in they are added to your list of subscribers. 

You can create and manage different mailing lists and send 1,000-5,000 free emails each month depending on your store level. 

To see what campaign slots are available you should log in to your merchant account and look in the ‘Campaign’ section or ‘Advertising’ tab.

It goes without saying that you should never advertise to marketplace customers outside of the mechanics permitted by your chosen marketplace. Only the marketplaces themselves will know the customer's email preferences and sending promotional emails could leave you in breach of data protection regulations. 

Even something as simple as including promotional flyers inside the packaging of an order can be frowned upon and could jeopardise your account status.

Promoting your store front

What is permitted, even encouraged, is promoting your own store front on the marketplace. Most marketplaces have a short URL that you can use (e.g. play.com/stores/yourname) in customer communications and packing slips. Your store front will show only your products, although customers will still be able to click away to other sellers if they choose. 

Finally, the promotion of your marketplace store does not have to be limited to the marketplace itself. Once you have discovered your shop URL you should add this to your company stationery, email signatures, social media sites, and any advertising outside of the marketplace.

If you would like more information on selling on online marketplaces, read our full guide for selling on online marketplaces.