Merchants: What’s Missing from Your Marketplace Strategy?
When retailers sell on marketplaces, they’re usually focused on the elementary keys to success: competitive pricing, affiliate advertising, and site promotions. But there is one other crucial factor that’s often forgotten: building a strategic partnership with your marketplace. Many retailers have found that they can multiply their sales many times by leveraging their account managers and working together to build an integrated strategy for their business.
Partnership Case Study: ASICS
One retailer that took advantage of building an in-depth partnership with its marketplace account manager is ASICS®, a true sport performance brand known for running footwear and apparel. ASICS employed the high-touch services offered by Rakuten to collaborate on a branding and promotional strategy specific to ASICS.
The results far exceeded ASICS goals. ASICS achieved significant year over year growth on the Rakuten marketplace.
By collaborating with their marketplace account manager on an ongoing basis, using a variety of tactics, and optimizing throughout the year, ASICS was able to not only drive metrics upward, but to deepen their engagement with marketplace customers.
Some of the tactics that drove ASICS’s growth were:
- Creating an ASICS branded storefront to showcase the complete brand experience
- Promoting ASICS in marketplace emails throughout the year
- Leveraging the marketplace’s rewards program to provide value to customers
- Offering coveted styles available exclusively on the marketplace.
The effectiveness of these efforts was the result of the strategic partnership between ASICS and their marketplace account manager. ASICS contributed in-depth knowledge of their brand, and the marketplace offered expertise on selling on the platform.
Marketplace Partnership Best Practices
Any retailer looking to boost their sales can benefit from a stronger, more strategic relationship with their marketplace account manager. When it comes to building a successful partnership, five best practices remain true.
1. Meet Regularly
Merchants and their marketplace account managers must establish a consistent meeting schedule. The account manager has the inside track on their marketplace, and merchants have it for their business. Bringing this knowledge together during regular meetings allows for collaboration, new insights, and sales growth opportunities.
2. Leverage Exclusivity
Never underestimate the lure of offering a product exclusively on one marketplace. Marketplace account managers can provide data and knowledge on the best categories, timing, and even colors and sizes, to powerfully drive sales of an exclusive product.
3. Remember, You’re Not Alone
Oversold items, customer returns, and order tracking snafus happen to even the most organized merchants. Marketplace account managers can help come up with solutions in these situations. Having worked with many different sellers over time, they’re seasoned problems solvers and can guide merchants through most customer service issues.
4. Take Advantage of Promotions
To maximize profits, it’s beneficial for a merchant to use a mix of their own promotional dollars and those provided by their marketplace partner. The key is to leverage the right promotion at the right time. Marketplace account managers can help strategically plan upcoming promotions and determine whose promotional dollars make sense to use.
5. Maintain Your Brand
On many marketplaces, merchants can create a branded storefront where marketplace customers can be directed to exclusively shop their brand. This builds awareness for merchants and can translate to a better experience for customers. Marketplace account managers can help to strategically drive traffic to the storefront using promotions and affiliates.
The possible rewards for retailers who build a strategic partnership with their marketplace account managers are: extraordinary sales growth, a better customer experience, and smoother selling. While not all marketplaces offer high-touch partnership opportunities, some do. If merchants are not taking advantage of this when possible, they’re missing out on a key driver of marketplace success — and they’re leaving profits on the table.
Blog post by Cynthia Lee, vice president, merchandising & sales, for Rakuten.com, the US arm of the #1 e-commerce site in Japan. Cynthia has spearheaded Rakuten.com’s significant growth, buoyed by its strategy to partner with its merchants for growth. Over Cynthia’s career, she has held a variety of roles in different business models including e-commerce, marketplace, brick-and-mortar stores and brands, with leading companies such as Sephora, eBay, Williams-Sonoma Home and Neiman Marcus.