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Do you have a great idea that could make you money? Consider selling through an online marketplace

If you have a great idea, whether it’s a product you’ve designed or make yourself, or even a great service you can provide to people… Chances are, you’ve thought of how you can make money with that idea, right? You’ve probably entertained the possibility of being able to use an online platform of some sorts, after all, you’re spoiled for choice these days with all the available ways to advertise online… and maybe you’ve even heard of ways to sell your products through an online marketplace. But what is an online marketplace, and what are the benefits?

Wikipedia defines a marketplace as:

“A type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. Online marketplaces are the primary type of multichannel ecommerce and can be a way to streamline the production process” –>

What you could take away from the above is that, multiple sellers with (possibly) multiple products can sell online through one platform, which is managed by a single provider. We could liken it to a grocery store that stocks many different products, all produced by many different manufacturers. The customers have a variety of choices and are able to purchase just about everything they might need, and because of the nature of some human beings (myself included!), manufacturers increase sales chances for their items that customers might not necessarily need, but see and buy anyway. Sounds like a good idea to have your products visible in a central place that is known and frequented by people for their product offerings, isn’t it? Convert the grocery store to a website that allows for multiple vendors to list products with a checkout and payment facility, and you have an online marketplace.

So, let’s get back to your great idea and why a marketplace is a good choice to make money from it…

Your online presence – good marketing takes time

Creating a way to generate awareness about your idea on your own is all good and well, and can be done very simply… but you have to be able to increase that awareness by linking that one way to other ways of being seen, therefore increasing your online presence. Sounds easy enough right? Until you start doing some research online and realise that this will take time, lots of it. You see, it’s not just about checking your interesting newsfeed anymore, as a business owner it’s about generating the interest yourself. Doing this requires good content and regular check-ins and interactions, frequently and consistently.

As Debra Sinclair, founder and director of community engagement at Liquid Mango Consulting, says in the article “6 steps to an effective social media presence“, an effective digital presence takes time to cultivate and maintain,

“Consistency is the most important thing – you need to be creating content, publishing and engaging online as often as you can.”


I’m willing to bet that your great idea probably takes a large chunk of your time too, time that is better spent creating your business offerings rather than the awareness about them. That’s where a marketplace can help.

The nature of online marketplaces themselves organically increases more traffic than the average website. This is due to having many vendors invested in the promotion of the site they are selling on through their own marketing means, that very same site you would be selling on. There is sharing, liking and mentioning by family, friends, and friends of friends that you’re not even aware of, but that will increase traffic and your own business’s visibility. Added to that is the proactive marketing that the site owners would undertake themselves, after all, your business is their business. They will be investing a lot of time, and probably money too, into promoting the site as much as they can and creating traffic generating content consistently. This means your customer reach to larger audiences is increased without you really having to do a thing.

 Online marketplaces – saving you time and money

On the subject of time, we’ve looked at how online marketplaces save you time by doing the heavy lifting from a marketing perspective, now let’s look at other ways you save both time and money.

Creating a store on an online marketplace is inherently designed to be as quick and easy as possible for you, the vendor. In as little as an hour or two, you can have opened a fully functioning online store that is ready to sell. Your product images and descriptions can be uploaded, your store and shipping policies set, and you can even customise the invoices your customers will automatically receive.

Compare that to the time involved in creating a standalone website, which can take months to achieve, and it’s really no comparison at all in terms of time saving. Not to mention the huge costs involved with developing a fully functional e-commerce website, registering and hosting a domain, securing payment gateways and enlisting the services of specialists to ensure everything is place, technically and legally. Marketplaces most likely will charge you a fee, either monthly or commission based, or both, but these fees will most likely be comparatively lower than the fees you would pay for maintaining your own website. Far less hassle too.

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“Especially for small business owners, who don’t have the resources to establish their own e-commerce business or website, a marketplace allows them to build a reputation and gain visibility without expending a significant amount of cash.”  – Kevin Jessop, The Marketplace Model: A Proven Model for Success & Why the Shipping Industry Should Adopt It

There may also be marketplaces that have the option to open a store with no monthly fee at all, which means even greater savings and ultimately more profit to grow your business.

 Improved customer experience – online marketplace tools for success

Now that we know how an online marketplace benefits you as a seller, shouldn’t we be thinking of how your customers can benefit too? Of course! A positive customer experience should be a number one priority and is key to selling successfully, and ensuring your business’s sustainability through repeat business.

There are a number of reasons why customers are choosing online shopping, as outlined in the article by Ida Domingo on Odyssey titled, “7 Reasons Why Online Shopping Is Better“. One of those reasons is customer reviews.  More and more research conducted about online shopping behavior is finding that customers are placing a lot of value on reviews, and in most cases, that reviews will actually sway their decision to buy or not to buy. To have customers be able to review your products is one of the features that online marketplaces provide. Having great reviews on your storefront is a powerful selling tool and one you can easily achieve through providing great customer service, and of course your great idea.

Another online marketplace tool that helps you provide that great customer service, is your product descriptions and store information sections. One of the appeals to online shopping that customers enjoy, is the fact that they can find out a lot more about the product they are purchasing online than they would when shopping in a conventional retail store. Providing your customers with detailed information about your products and services through your storefront, is a guaranteed way of building credibility and giving your customers what they need, thus improving their shopping experience.

When your customers engage with you, never underestimate the importance of providing them with feedback. Every review is important, be it good or bad, because it tells you what you are doing wrong so you can fix it, and what you’re doing right so you can continue doing that. Responding effectively to customers through the various communication channels available to you through an online marketplace, is a great way to ensure that personal touch that people love and ensuring happy loyal customers.

Lastly, you are a customer too! Online marketplaces rely on your business to do well, and so should provide you with all the support you need in opening up your store with them. You as a seller and customer, should expect to be given all the information you need to run your store, have a store that functions well, on a site that is being well promoted and you should have additional options and features that will enable your business to be as successful as possible. Exploring an online marketplace’s website should give you a good indication of whether or not your expectations will be met.

The online shopping movement – be where your customers are

According to the PayPal and Ipsos third annual cross-border commerce report, South Africans’ online spending is forecast to be over R53bn in 2018. There is an upward trend in the e-commerce industry that is only set to grow as more and more people use mobile technology to do their shopping. So if your customers are buying online, where you should you be selling? Online, correct!

Don’t get left behind in the e-commerce trend. Do some research to find out what a marketplace will offer you and if it will be a good fit for you and your business needs, and get your online business up and running. You can turn that great idea of yours into a profitable reality in no time.

Happy Selling!
The Voetsy Business Blog Team

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