those best sellers

November 15, 2017

The advent of online marketplaces has spelt a revolution for the Indian economy. Facilitating users to shop remotely, these websites and apps are empowering a burgeoning number of small business owners, homepreneurs, entrepreneurs, artisans, and craftspersons to start selling online. While ecommerce marketplaces do not themselves own any inventory, they enable the entire shopping experience, taking care of the fundamentals such as payment gateways, shipping and logistics, marketing, digital promotions, and more.

Presently, the Indian consumer market seems to be better predisposed to online marketplaces. As per estimates by Morgan Stanley, the country’s ecommerce market will be worth $119 bn by 2020. However, while entering the next phase of growth and development, the paradigms that mark the success of marketplaces are gradually shifting.

from customers to sellers

The success of an ecommerce website has been, for long, allied with the number of customers acquired, and the value and volume of transactions. Customers here only refer to those who buy the products or avail the services offered on the platform. However, in this myopic view, not enough attention is paid to the sellers who are perhaps the unsung heroes of marketplace success.

As marketplaces do not typically have products or services of their own to offer, they rely entirely on products and services offered by the sellers on board. In fact, since these brands are not established, the products become an essential face of the marketplace in the eye of the customer. And since the sellers are captivating the interest with their products, in addition to being the point of contact for customers, they are the real representatives of the brand. As a consequence, for the success of a marketplace, it is essential to have the right set of sellers providing an inspiring collection of products or services.

However, not many marketplaces put enough work and attention on strengthening their supply side. In most cases, they fail to incentivize, heed, or honestly understand the requirements of small-scale sellers and build an interface easily accessible to them. At this juncture, marketplaces need to fill in the shoes of a listener, motivator, and a coach. It is essential that they connect not just with their customers but also with the sellers, comprehend their challenges, and build a process which is mutually beneficial. It is sacrosanct for the marketplace to blend the strengths of the seller and technology into a perfect combination to provide unparalleled service. The sellers should be able to enjoy their freedom, the flexibility to operate their businesses as they deem fit. The marketplace should be able to micromanage the seller ecosystem. This synchronization eventually contributes to the success and popularity of
the marketplace.

The ultimate goal of a business is to achieve economies of scale. In the marketplace model, it can only be achieved with the right set of sellers. In fact, we owe the success of Kraftly to a number of small-scale sellers, homepreneurs, and artisans who have been offering our customer base unique and great-quality products. One of the fundamental paradigm shifts I intend to propose here is for the ecommerce marketplace to no longer view their sellers as mere vendors on the platform. Instead, we need to think of the sellers as our most resourceful employees or business associates that are doing business development, sales, marketing, customer service, and more, all at once.

sourcing the right sellers

Marketplaces need to discover the right individuals or SMBs that are driven with skills and have the right set of products to satisfy the needs of customers. Customer satisfaction has to be the prime focus even while recruiting sellers. Prospective sellers need to be equipped enough to ensure a steady supply of products and services.

As the real representatives of the marketplace, sellers are creating products that would eventually be sold on the platform and will come to determine its success or failure. In addition, they are going to manage orders and service customers. At all these numerous touch points, the sellers are the embodiment of the brand name the marketplace is endeavoring to create for itself. Hence, it is essential that they share the same set of principles and values as those of the marketplace. To the same accord, it is paramount that the right sellers are recruited on
the platform.

nailing the perfect seller acquisition strategy

Different marketplaces follow different trajectories for seller acquisition and there is no comparison as to which is better for the ultimate goal. However, there are some key principles a marketplace may refer to, in order to nail the perfect seller recruitment strategy.

  • strength in numbers: Think big! Despite the extra work, try and recruit as many sellers as possible. Roping in more sellers would reduce the dependence on just a few. Seller acquisition may further be influenced by the growth phase of the marketplace. For instance,
    1. initial growth phase: If you have just launched the marketplace, or are going to, try sourcing sellers that are experienced and have an extensive product catalogue. Since they are already experienced, onboarding will be smooth. Besides, with their experience and products, these sets of sellers will be able to best contribute to the growth of the marketplace
    2. mature marketplace: Once the marketplace is established, it is time to venture into distinct or unique products. Look for sellers that are offering products which are out of the box and infuse the reach and credibility of your platform to promote them. In turn, the new set of products will also help in keeping your mature and loyal customer base intrigued and excited
  • compatibility: Even though it is essential to ‘think big’ and acquire as many sellers as possible, marketplaces need to check that these sellers complement the key messaging and long-term goals of the company. Both the marketplace and the sellers need to be on the same page and share the same set of values, mission, and objectives. The products offered by the sellers, along with the prices and the service quality must be in line with vision and mission of the marketplace
  • training: sellers need to be equipped with the right set of tools and technical know-how to take charge of business operations and order fulfillment. The UX of the platform should be easy and coherent, and the marketplace must ensure that the sellers are fully trained to transact effortlessly on the platform.
  • feedback: At no point should a marketplace stop listening to the sellers; in fact, they need to encourage communication and ensure that sellers are facing no challenges in operating on the platform. In addition, since these sellers often directly connect with the customers, they can share some key insights on consumer behavior and perception of the brand. The same information holds the key to tremendous growth and success of the platform.

Given how critical it is to source the right set of sellers for the platform, seller recruitment can get a bit challenging, tedious, and time-consuming. As a rule of thumb, no marketplace can ever begin too early to start sourcing the right set of sellers for the platform. The key is to find the right source, trust small-scale sellers with big entrepreneurial dreams; and top it up with contemporary technology; fast, last-mile, and reverse delivery; and impeccable customer service.