Discuss

Research

eBay Changes Listing Rules For Product Identifiers from 1st July

By | Announcements, Automotive, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research, SEO | No Comments

ebay_logo

eBay Australia is changing the listing rules for product identifiers in key categories including auto parts. 

As PARts Australia say – “Ignore it and you may pay a penalty in poor ranking. Embrace it and you may leap ahead of your competition.”

Increasing the accuracy of listing information is an important part of eBay ongoing work to improve the marketplace experience for all users.

That’s why, starting 30 June this year, all new listings of branded items in New and Manufacturer refurbished condition will be required to include product identifiers including the item’s brand, manufacturer part number (MPN), and global trade item numbers (GTINs) such as Universal Product Codes (UPCs) and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in select categories.

eBay uses these product identifiers to help buyers quickly find the items they’re looking for. When you’re selling, including these product identifiers not only has the potential to increase your items’ visibility in eBay search results and navigation, it can improve your placement in search engines like Google and Bing, too.

Read more about the eBay new policy and how important it is for eBay sellers and in particular, those selling branded auto parts.

Power Retail Talks to MotoParts About Auto Parts E-tailing

By | Automotive, Blog, ecommerce, Industry, Research, Web Design, Web Store | No Comments
MotoParts-266x266

Selling automotive parts online has proved challenging for MotoParts, but developing a parts-centric approach has helped the company progress. Power Retail chats to MotoParts’ Scott Shillinglaw to find out more.

With a long history in the B2B commerce space supplying wholesale auto parts throughout NSW and Australia, MotoParts decided to launch into a completely new sales channel to leverage their existing business model. As one of the largest online marketplaces, eBay was the obvious choice for MotoParts to start their online presence and drive a whole new section of growth for the business.

This decision was prompted by the rapid growth of the Australian online automotive parts sales industry (estimated to be worth $380.3 million in 2014-2015 and growing annually at a compounded rate of 17 percent) centred on New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland – areas that have the highest number of kilometres driven.

Power Retail magazine caught up with Scott Shillinglaw, Online Director for MotoParts, to see how the transition came about and how they used PARts Australia for data and technology.

Read more about MotoParts’ Parts-Centric Approach using PARts.

MotoParts Dives into eBay with an E-commerce Solution

By | Automotive, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research, tools | No Comments

MotoParts on eBayRecognized as one of Australia’s top distributors of automotive parts and car accessories, MotoParts boasts of a colourful history in the B2B segment of the market, offering wholesale auto parts throughout NSW and Australia.

In an effort to leverage their current business model, the company decided to dive into a new sales channel, opening a new section of potential growth for the business. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces on the Internet, it made sense for the company to jumpstart their online presence on eBay, this according to MotoParts online director Scott Shillinglaw.

The Need for an E-commerce Solution

To launch a new online sales channel on eBay, MotoParts needed a comprehensive e-commerce solution capable of handling hundreds to thousands of product listings—a solution that could keep up with MotoParts surging online business.

According to Shillinglaw, MotoParts required a robust e-commerce solution that could help manage product feeds, with the additional feature of transforming product data and making it ready for eBay listing. Moreover, the solution had to mesh with the company’s ERP system, in particular, product, pricing, and inventory data, together with eBay and MotoParts’s e-commerce website.

The challenge with automotive parts suppliers is that the complexity and sheer volume of product parts information makes it difficult to find a working e-commerce solution—one that could withstand the impending massive increase in automobile models and corresponding parts within the next few years.

Shillinglaw said that MotoParts needed their e-commerce data to be in a coherent format, allowing their e-commerce managers to list products on eBay by part and vehicle compatibility, all in such a way that entices customers to make a purchase. If the product isn’t presented in a compelling manner, it won’t lead to sales, he adds.

A PARts Driven Solution

MotoParts turned to an e-commerce solution recommended by PARts, an online solution Enform is certified to provide.

With the new e-commerce solution, MotoParts was able to automate and integrate all their product data into one easy-to-access database, through a tool specifically designed for automotive parts content.

MotoParts can now manage and access their product data in one centralised solution, with orders placed on eBay extracted and standardized into a singular format—integrated with the company’s own ERP system. And you can read more about how MotoParts went online profitably with PARts.

MotoParts eBay Listing

Benefits

After just a few months of using the PARts-recommended e-commerce solution to open a new sales channel on eBay, MotoParts saw a surge in total revenue by at least 5 percent. The complete MotoParts e-commerce solution was also fully functional in just a few months. The company also saw a drastic reduction in resource time and IT expenditures.

But more importantly, the addition of a solid e-commerce solution into the company’s business foundation means they can now open as many online sales channels as they want, with very little work required.

You can read more about PARts and auto data opportunities here

Google Search – Is Your Website Mobilegeddon Ready?

By | Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Mobile, Research, SEO, tools | No Comments

Google Algorithm Update

Come 21st of April, Google will roll out its new “Mobile Friendly” algorithm update which will preference search results for web sites that are mobile friendly.

For your websites, this simply means you’ll get left out in mobile search results unless your website is deemed by Google bots to be mobile friendly.

But wait!

How should you know if my site is ready for mobilegeddon? Fortunately Google, being Google, has already foreseen the outcry of website owners if they opted to bring their algorithm guessing game to such an important update so they’ve actually rolled out more than enough tools to help you prepare for this big day.

Without further delay, here are the tools and information you’ll need to be able to do a self-diagnosis of your site in preparation for mobilegeddon:

  1. Mobile-Friendly Test – just simply put in your website URL and hit analyze and you’ll know within seconds if your site is up to speed. Hopefully you’ll get a result like so:Mobile-Friendly Test
  2. Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report – This is another tool that will help webmasters identify elements of your website that does not fit Google’s mobile friendly standards, because it could be that some NOT ALL your pages have problems. Errors here should be addressed if you want to keep up on mobile search results.Here’s an example result for good measure:Mobile Usability
  3. Mobile Friendly Guidelines – In the case you’ll find yourself in the undesirable side of this update, after using the previously mentioned tools, fret not as here’s all you need to be able to get back in the good light of Google mobile search results.

Remember, this is not just about penalties but also about rewards. A more mobile friendly web site will be rewarded as much as a non-mobile site is penalised.

And as always, if you need help in keeping up with all these changes, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us any time.

Questions To Answer When Designing Website Navigation

By | Blog, ecommerce, Mobile, Research, Web Design, Web Store | No Comments

Organising content for a website calls for designers to ask key questions on their planned Information Architecture (IA). Usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) broke down these problems, providing answers to the 3 most persistent questions many designers today struggle with when building sites.

How Many Categories do you Need?

The general rule of thumb is to have enough categories to show all the information offered on your site or app. However, what’s considered ‘enough’ will greatly depend on the content and intention of a site.

Most simple sites with a small range of content will usually do fine with a few categories. This minimalist approach helps users find the information they want as quickly as possible. Take for instance, Dyson’s website for their Airblade line of products (the Dyson Airblade is the company’s take on the quick hand dryer). The entire website has a solid IA scheme since all variations of the Airblade fit into 5 categories.

Dyson airblade homepage

Dyson Airblade Homepage

At the other end of the spectrum is RestroomDirect, a site that also sells hand dryers as well as a bunch of other fixtures for public bathrooms. Condensing all information on the site down to 5 categories makes it difficult for customers to find information on the company’s full range of products, which is why the site features 7 links in the top horizontal navigation, and 17 product categories in the vertical navigation. This combination allows users to easily access all relevant information on the site as efficiently as possible.

Restroom Direct

www.RestroomDirect.com

Both examples show the basic principle behind determining the appropriate number of categories in a website: go with what makes it easiest for users to access the information they need; don’t box yourself in by trying to hit a predetermined number.

Should you List Categories in Alphabetical Order?

Organising categories by a certain order is another issue frequently tackled by designers, many of whom feel that sorting categories alphabetically makes the most sense.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem, but what you can do is consider the following factors:

  1. What organising principle would be more meaningful than sorting alphabetically?
  2. Will visitors be familiar with the category names
  3. How many categories do you have?

More Meaningful Organising Principles

One approach that makes more sense than alphabetical organisation is frequency of use, which helps the majority of visitors on a site access the information they’re most likely looking for.

An example of this can be found on RightMove.co.uk, a property listing that has the categories For Sale and To Rent as the first two items in the navigation panel. This setup saves users a tremendous amount of time, since it makes sense to highlight content users are most likely to click on.

Rightmove

If you were to organise categories on this site alphabetically, you would get the unintuitive result below.

Rightmove labels

Standard Labels

However, there are instances when alphabetical organisation is more efficient. If you have categories under just one label (e.g. product names or brand names), users naturally look for information they know, like a particular word—alphabetical organisation is more helpful in this situation.

Do you Need Hover Menus with Touch Devices

With the advent of mobile devices that rely on touch interfaces, UX designers are wondering whether sites should still have hover nav menus.

Hover activated menus are unwieldy for touchscreen users. Even with menus adapted for use with a tap instead of a hover, touchscreens are just too small to display an entire menu. This can result in problems scrolling the menu without deactivating it by touch something else on the page.

However, just because a part of your audience can’t use this feature, doesn’t mean you should withhold it from everyone else. Hover activated menus are still easy to use on conventional desktop interfaces.

The key here is graceful degradation: ensure that customers who can’t use hover activation still have a means of accessing your content. A good example of this setup can be found on the Fedex website, which provides both hover and tap options for all their users, whether on traditional desktop interfaces or touchscreens.

Fedex

The full Fedex website has hover-activated menus

Fedex mobile version

The mobile version of the Fedex site automatically replaces hover menus with a simpler tap interface

As always good website design is about taking in to account your audience and how you can get them to the information they are looking for quickly and easily. It is worth spending time in the initial concept phase on these types of questions to avoid costly redesign and coding later on.  Need help with your site, want an objective review? Contact Enform today.

The Current State of Motor Sport in Australia, Marketing Opportunities

By | Automotive, Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Research | No Comments

Motor Sport in Australia

Motorsport involvement whether as a participant, sponsor or parts supplier can provide some big Brand affiliation benefits for your business or Brand.   These need to be articulated through all your communications both on and offline, and above and below the line. Successful cross promotion and association is an important way of linking your brand to the BIG business that is Motorsport.

A Look at the Current State of Motor Sport

CurrentState

The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), the governing organisation in Australia’s motor sport scene, recently published a study highlighting the important role played by the motor sport industry in the country. The study, conducted by multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young, delved into the economic contributions, value add, and employment figures surrounding the industry in 2013.

Also included in the study are figures on the number of participants, car clubs, and motor sport venues across Australia, with data sourced from more than 4300 surveys completed by clubs, category managers, and other participants, as well as financial statements and databases figures from governing bodies.

Some interesting statistics gleaned from the Ernst & Young study include:

Volunteers

Around 17,419 licensed volunteer officials in Australia are to be thanked for running most of the country’s annual motor sport events.

Culture

Motor sport commands a sizeable share of the Australia’s sports industry, being the fourth most watched sport in the country. In addition, more than 80 percent of those surveyed reported ‘being with family and friends’ as an important reason for their involvement with the scene.

Regional Locations

Over 30 percent of participants come from regional areas. Meanwhile, 85 percent of motor sport venues are accessible to those in regional locations.

Competitors

Motor sport competitors reportedly spend anywhere between $12,000 and $15,000 per year on sport-related activities. For those in the aftermarket industry, it’s worth noting that competitors spend $60,000 motor sport vehicle purchases and initial modifications.

Venues

The biggest impediment to continued participation in motor sport events is the current condition of tracks and venues. The majority of those surveyed claimed they would participate more if these were improved.

Participation

Participation

Over 150,000 people participate in motor sport all over Australia, whether through competing, officiating events, or participating in car club activities and events. The country’s motor sport industry consists of the following closely related components.

  • Auto related industries like the aftermarket industry
  • Competitors
  • Officials
  • Car clubs
  • Governing bodies
  • Events and pro teams
  • Tracks and venues
  • Other participants (non-competing car club members)

Motor sport also encompasses a wide range of disciplines, such as:

  • Speed
  • Circuit
  • Speedway
  • Rally
  • Drag racing
  • Off-road
  • Go-kart racing

Both Circuit and Speed take up the largest share in audience and participation, direct output, employment, and valued add among motor sport disciplines in Australia. Together, the two account for more than 60 percent of Australian motor sport industry output.

Industry Output and Value

Australia’s motor sport industry is directly responsible for more than $2.7 billion in direct industry output, $1.2 billion in added direct value, and generating more than 16,300 jobs.

Output&Value

Other Benefits

Australia’s motor sport industry provides other notable benefits, chief among them its positive contribution community development.

Motor sport has deep roots in Australian culture, with an influence encompassing more than just the 76,377 people who compete or officiate in events. For instance:

  • Half of all motor sport participants, or 76,775 of 153,152 participants, may not be competing or officiating in events, but they are active in other club activities related to the industry.
  • In 2013, the 1,391 motor sport car clubs that took part in the survey held around 6,247 events.  The 460 car clubs affiliated with CAMS held 4,311 events, with more than half being non-competitive social events.
  • Family participation is strong in the motor sport industry, with 80 percent of survey participants reporting ‘to be with family and friends’ as being ‘very important’ and ‘somewhat important’ when choosing to participate in motor sport.

Enform can help you capitalise on your association/involvement with Motorsport by working with you to create Marketing strategies that will maximise the exposure of your Brand using the mega Motor Sport Industry Publicity machine. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Email Accessibility: Making Sure Everyone Reads your Email Campaigns

By | Automailer, Blog, Comment, eDM, Research | No Comments

Email Accessiblity

Vision impairment and blindness are far more serious problems than you might think. It’s estimated that there are about 285 million people all over the world who suffering from blindness and visual impairment. In Australia, about 357,000 people report problems seeing even with eyeglasses and/or contact lenses. This is a topical issue with the current lawsuit against Coles.

As far as emails and web usage are concerned, these issues impede the efficacy of getting your message across. Fortunately, you can enhance the accessibility of your campaigns sent via Enform’s Automailer with a number of practices designed for the vision-impaired and users relying on screen reading devices, and audio prompts.

Below are some of the basic requirements for email messages to be considered accessible.

Use Descriptive Subject Line

Sounds easy enough, but you’ll be surprised to know how many campaigns out there have subject lines that aren’t descriptive enough. The subject line is what draws readers to open the email, so it should descriptive and concise.

This is even more important to people with vision impairments, who rely on subject lines to see whether emails are worth opening up or not.

Consistent Logical Reading Order

HTML email newsletters are typically coded with tables, the most reliable method of building layouts compatible across desktop, webmail, and mobile email platforms. However, these tables have to be planned and built carefully, taking into account users relying on keyboard-only access, who might not read the content in the order intended. For example, screen readers go through tabular content from either left to right or top to bottom.

Use Code to Indicate Headings

HTMLT heading tags <table>, <body>, <h1> and the like are critical to ensuring screen readers understand content hierarchy in email messages. Simply styling text by changing the font and increasing font size won’t work with assistive devices.  These visual cues have to be coded into the text for screen readers to understand them.

Provide Obvious Contrast Between Text and Background Colours

Users with vision problems or colour blindness are less sensitive to colour contrasts and luminosity when reading images and text on emails, so it’s important to differentiate text, images, and background with the right colours and contrast. Colours should be chosen not just for aesthetic reasons, but for accessibility too.

You can choose from a number of applications to test emails for contrast and help integrate non-colour based cues for everyone to understand your messages.

For Images, Be Sure to Offer Text Alternatives

Again, screen readers rely on code to relay content to vision impaired users, so images that serve an aesthetic purpose (i.e. preserving layout) should contain null alt attributes (alt=””) to signal they should be ignored.

However, images that should inform screen readers, like company logos, should have alt text to notify their meaning to screen readers. Example below.

<img src=”enformlogo.png” alt=”Enform Automailer” />

Incorporating these steps into your campaigns isn’t difficult at all, and simply means taking an extra step to expand the reach of your email messages. Give them a try and your campaigns may just reach more people.

Google to Rollout Close Variant Keyword Matching End of September

By | Announcements, Blog, ecommerce, Research, SEO, Web Store | No Comments

exact-phrase-match

When people go to search engines like Google, it’s not all the time that they key in their queries correctly. According to Google, at least 7 percent of all searches on their search engine contain some sort of misspelling, with longer queries more likely to have a typo. Web users don’t have the time to care about such trivial matters, especially in this time and age of shorter attention spans and a continually growing hunger for information. People expect to connect with products, services, and businesses they’re looking for.

For instance, a person trying to find “kid scooters,” “kids scooters,” or “kid’s scooters,” will want to see the most relevant Google ads regardless of these small differences in the search phrase. This is precisely why Google is turning to close variant keyword matching as a means of intuitively connecting search engine users with the people and businesses they’re looking for. The solution will apply to all exact and phrase match keywords.

Since its introduction in 2012, advertisers on Google’s AdWords program have enjoyed varying degrees of success. The company notes that the majority of advertisers are already matching to close keyword variations, garnering an average of 7 percent more exact and phrase match clicks with similar conversion and clickthrough rates. Besides this growth in keyword coverage, these incremental clicks directly translate to potentially crucial opportunities missed by low search volume keywords, a common occurrence when misspellings and abbreviations are concerned.

Widen your Reach

Beginning late September, Google will be rolling out close variant keyword matching to all phrase match and exact match keywords. It’s worth noting that close variant matching was already “switched on” by default in the campaign settings, so many advertisers won’t even notice any change in their keyword matching activity.

However, advertisers that opted out will notice the option to disable close variants disappear sometime around the last week of September. All exact and phrase match keywords will then connect to close keyword variations, allowing you to broaden your reach towards more potential customers with the most relevant ads, while at the same time, trying to lower your cost per click (CPC) and improve your clickthrough rate (CTR).

widen reach

 

What Does this Mean?

There’s always some level of anxiety present when Google makes changes to its search engine protocols and paid advertising program, as even the smallest changes can have huge effects on a company’s SEO and PPC campaigns, undoing several hours of work.

However, we at Enform actually see this update as helpful to our clients, as it cuts out the complexities of matching several lists with abbreviated, misspelled, and slight variations of your keywords just to get the coverage you want.

This time around, all you need to focus on is adding close variants of keywords that you don’t want to trigger your ads, to your negative keywords list. This is a far quicker way of shaping your traffic and reducing costs per click; it doesn’t hurt that this also offers a better ad experience to your potential customers.

It’s worth pointing out that Google AdWords tends to trigger ads with keywords that are most identical to search queries, so that doesn’t mean misspelled, abbreviated, and other close variations of your keywords are useless. Try to look how these close variants perform, they just might be able to stand independently as separate keywords with their appropriate bids.

A Different Point Of View

This mandatory change may have larger implications that mark a loss of control which is bad news for SEM (search engine marketing) professionals.

With this release we are heading towards a “keywordless” world where Google dictates when your ads appear and for what search terms.

With Google recent release of Shopping Campaigns, ads are generated using Google Merchant Account inventory feeds instead of keywords. Google is gaining more and more control of ads and advertisers may not be able to even control the outcome or put up a fight.

As long as AdWords keeps delivering results advertisers want, there won’t be many people complaining. Product Listing Ads are getting advertisers more results, and generally so will close variant matching, so it can’t be that bad…right.

google_robot

However, it’s time for the negative keywords to the rescue, that is for advertisers who feel very strongly about exact match terms, there is still the option to use negative keywords to weed out irrelevant queries.

 

3 Tips on Getting Website Product Descriptions Right

By | Blog, ecommerce, Research, SEO, Web Design, Web Store | No Comments


product description matters

E-commerce solutions like PARts B2 provide detailed product descriptions and details from the supplier using a database 

The basic tenet of e-commerce: Help the customer find your product and get what they want. If a potential customer can’t find your product, you obviously won’t get a sale.

However, connecting with relevant product pages is just the initial phase of the purchase process. And while it’s true that many sites have made improvements to their navigation and information architectures, many product pages on e-commerce sites are still in need crucial improvements.

Enform’s clients already know that product pages should do more than just have a product image, a generic description, and an option to add to the cart. Instead, the page should sell the product, convincing users that the product on the page is exactly what they’re looking for.

Yet as simple as that sounds, many pages fail to do this.

Product pages are especially important since they fill the gap of the traditional shopping experience, where users are normally able to touch the product, examine its packaging, and test or fit it before the purchase. Online, users can only go by what they see on the product production.

Multiple e-commerce studies by web usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) show that as much 20% of all observed task failures, or times when users abandoned or failed to make a purchase, were caused by poorly written or incomplete product information.

NN/g recommends the following tips for website product pages.

 

  1. Pages Should Answer Customers’ Questions

NN/g’s research specifically indicates that many users simply couldn’t find enough information to make an informed purchase decision. Now, there’s no way to guarantee that your product pages will answer all questions by potential customers, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for the bare minimum either.

answer_question

The J. Peterman Company is a company known for using lengthy, verbose stories for product descriptions, in their print catalogs as well as online.  They also follow their more eloquent prose with standard facts about the item for sale, such as “pointed collar,” “shell buttons at center front,” “1-inch grosgrain ribbon (antique white) at neckline and left front placket,” and “adjustable cuffs.”

 

Besides the most obvious features of the product, shoppers also want to know the smaller details on products they’re eyeing, and that can be anything from accents on clothes; furniture dimensions; product care information; size of toys; storage recommendations for edibles, to whether or not a hotel has a heated outdoor pool working all year.

Where many sites get it wrong is in their focus on basic information, or sometimes even the wrong information.

 

  1. Go Straight to the Point

Just because we told you not to settle for basic information, doesn’t mean you should input long-winded descriptions of your products. There’s a difference between a complete product description, and a wordy one. Users want information that describes the product, not incessant please to buy. One or two calls to action will suffice, don’t go too overboard with the marketing messages.

to_the_point

Forever21’s brief description covered key details about the product, its construction, and how a customer could wear the item. This was followed by a bulleted list of product details, including fabric, measurements and care which is quite a good example of going straight to the point.

 

Users often skim through text when browsing and reading online, and are more likely to read at the beginning of the text than the end. Given the importance of the first few lines of your product description, don’t waste it on text that doesn’t help the user.

Another great way of conveying the specifics of a product is to use product photos. NN/g’s found out that large and detailed images are a tremendous help to users wanting to know more about a product. Unfortunately, many sites settle for small images that fail to show sufficient product details.

 

  1. Make Comparisons Easy

Several online shoppers view the ability to compare multiple products as a crucial factor in shaping their purchase decisions. It’s imperative that you offer a facility to help users decide which of several products is best for them in a smooth and easy manner.

make_comparisons

Pottery Barn listed information about dressers in a consistent and descriptive way. Two bedside-tables descriptions began with brief overviews, and then bulleted lists that provided comparable details about the products, listed in the same order for each. Each listed dimensions, followed by materials, features, finish information, and hardware details.

 

It also helps if you can reduce the need for comparisons by making your product line simple if your catalogue allows for it. For those that can’t, such as e-commerce sites that carry multiple vendors, some help with tools is needed.

Many e-commerce sites already have tools that enable shoppers to compare products side by side. Some of these are effective, others not so much. According to NN/g, the key here is to offer comparable information in an easy to compare manner between similar products. It also pays to be consistent in the volume of information featured for every product; customers don’t like seeing plenty of information on one product, and hardly any on another.

Overall, remember that many customers are actually looking for a reason or confirmation to buy your product or transact, try not to disappoint.

5 Key Global Online Marketplace Brands

By | Announcements, Comment, ecommerce, Uncategorized, Web Store | No Comments

global online market

The process of global expansion has changed significantly over the last 5 years, so much so that eBusiness decision makers are no longer expanding internationally through the traditional method of building several direct-to-consumer websites. These days, many leaders are creating official accounts that act as online storefronts on various marketplaces to further their reach.

The sheer number of these online marketplaces might make it difficult for you to choose where to create a storefront, which is why we at Enform have narrowed down your choices to 5 leading marketplaces that offer compelling reasons for business owners and brand managers to extend their reach through their sites.

Why Marketplaces?

In several countries, marketplaces offer plentiful options for brand stores across different categories and represent a huge chunk of all online sales in their respective territories—it’s an opportunity just waiting to be exploited.

Although global online marketplaces are home to thousands of small to medium enterprises selling their wares on these platforms, these marketplaces have increased their options specifically for official brand owners.

Marketplaces are highly appealing today because they:

  • Offer instant access to a large audience. These buyers are major hubs for international shoppers. This eliminates the need to build an international customer base from the ground up, as marketplaces already aggregate online shoppers in their territories for you.
  • Streamline entry into their international markets. Entry into new international markets has never been easier with global marketplaces. One of the key obstacles that impede the entry of brands into new markets is the cost of building new direct-to-consumer websites solely for a specific region.

Marketplaces solve this problem by offering a smooth, low-cost entry into a foreign market. Furthermore, the top marketplaces have existing relationships with third-party providers that provide customer service or after sales support—something brands no longer have to spend on.

Marketplace Challenges

Of course, marketplaces aren’t without their share of challenges. eBusiness leaders should take note of the following:

  • Marketplaces might demand that you offer your products at discount prices. Marketplaces often revolve around the concept of offering bargains to shoppers. True enough, eBay’s Fashion Galleries are home to several outlet shops, Rakuten likes to wow shoppers with deals right on their home page, while Tmall has several brands offering extended sale periods on certain special holidays. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but for brands looking to sell their products near their retail price, this can be a problem.
  • Marketplaces can put a dent on creativity. Some marketplaces like to maintain a level of uniformity across all the brands on their sites, so the rigidity of these templates can mean having less wiggle room to stand out with your storefronts.
  • Marketplaces offer limited to no access to customer behavioural data. The top marketplaces share some data with sellers, albeit not as much as you would get if you ran your own e-commerce site. For instance, Tmall shares data on page views for product listings, store traffic, conversions, transaction prices, and more. However, Tmall and other marketplaces fail to offer information on the product paths of customers, which means having no idea on your customers’ browsing behaviour.

The Top 5 Global Marketplaces

Amazon

amazon

Established in 1994, Amazon stands out as the only company featured in this report that handles operates international marketplaces alongside conventional online retail businesses. With the combination of online retail and marketplace offerings, Amazon is easily the dominant online retail player in the United States as well as in a number of international territories.

Outside American and Canada, Amazon drives 85 percent of its revenues from Germany (35% of international revenues), Japan (26%), and the United Kingdom (24%).

Some of the key takeaways from working with Amazon include:

  • Amazon brand store reach extends across several countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, and India. With its global reach and uniform technologies, Amazon presents an attractive and easy option for brands to build official stores across multiple markets.
  • Amazon actively reviews brand stores and makes recommendations on improvements. The online retail giant offers brand stores the option to incorporate several features and tools into their systems, which include online video and access to deep product information.
  • Another area where Amazon separates itself from other marketplaces is in the kind of customer information it provides to sellers. Instead of receiving data on customer shopping behaviour, brand stores are provided with an Amazon service where the company automatically evaluates for a brand for performance in key areas. The results of this review are placed in a dashboard that compares the seller against rival stores in the same category.

eBay

ebay_logo

No marketplace discussion is complete without a mention of eBay. Starting out as an online auction site in 1995, eBay has since expanded into one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. At present, the site runs localised customer-to-customer (C2C) marketplaces across 22 countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region, with more than half of all its total revenues derived from outside the United States.

Key takeaways to bear in mind entering global markets with eBay include:

  • eBay’s brand stores are primarily targeted towards key markets and categories, for now at least.  Although the company’s international marketplaces have a wide reach, its enhanced offerings for brand stores are significantly concentrated. It wasn’t until 2011 that eBay created a commission-based brand store serviced named Fashion Gallery in Australia and the United Kingdom; eBay’s localised marketplaces in these regions boast of more than 100 brand stores, with offerings ranging from accessories, apparel, and footwear. Fashion Outlet is a brand store offering in the United States that works the same way.
  • eBay provides brands with the option to use its fulfillment options, or to turn to the company’s logistics systems. In addition, brands can also benefit from eBay’s resources when answering inquiries related to Fashion Gallery.
  • Brand stores wanting to make an impression on customers will be happy to know that eBay’s brand store offerings are highly customisable, with Fashion Galleries having their own hub of pages to distinguish them from the rest of the marketplace.
  • Individual brand stores can be customised according to the desires of managers and owners, who may want to build marketing-heavy pages, or a store that focuses on conventional eCommerce layouts.

Mercadolibre

Mercadolibre

Founded in 1999, MercadoLibre is the leading online marketplace in Latin America, operating marketplaces across 12 countries in the region. As of 2013, more than 40 percent in the company’s revenues came from Brazil, while 25 percent came from Argentina. Key markets for the company include Mexico and Venezuela.

Key takeaways for brands expanding on MercadoLibre include:

  • While MercadoLibre has operated successful marketplaces in Latin America, the addition of brand stores is a fairly new development. The first brand store emerged in Argentina in June 2013, Brazil the following year, and Mexico earlier this year. The most popular sellers focus on fashion—apparel, footwear, and accessories. Overall, however, MercadoLibre sees a significant percentage of sales coming from computer hardware and electronics.
  • MercadoLibre provides localised features for the Latin America segment. For brand owners, the company labels brand offerings to distinguish them apart from regular marketplace vendors. In addition, shoppers can search for products specifically within the brand site. Other localised features include instalment payment schemes, and local payment options.

MercadoLibre also offers an online wallet called MercadoPago, plus the option for customers to pay via local payment centers such as boletos bancáriosin Brazil or Oxxo convenience stores in Mexico.

Rakuten

Rakuten

Established in 1997, Rakuten has grown to become Japan’s dominant eCommerce company, boasting of more than 85 million registered users, and a market share pegged at 30% in the country.

Over the last decade, Rakuten has bolstered its expansion plans by acquiring several international eCommerce and fulfillment companies from all over the world, allowing the company to offer international shipping from its domestic marketplace, as well as launch multiple marketplaces outside of Japan. The company runs marketplaces in the US, UK, Thailand, Taiwan, Spain, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Germany, France, and Austria.

Brands interested in expanding through Rakuten should take note of the following:

  • Rakuten is unique due to how it operates different types of marketplaces, depending on the region their based in. The company brands its marketplaces differently around the world; for instance, in countries like Thailand, France, and the UK, Rakuten operates a co-branded site with the Rakuten name alongside a partner marketplace acquired by the company. On the other hand, marketplaces in the US and Brazil only bear the Rakuten name.
  • Offerings for brand stores are available on Rakuten’s flagship site in Japan, as well as other select marketplaces. Still, brand stores are most established in Japan, with Rakuten providing several enhanced brand services such as fulfilment options and customer service solutions—the latter being a major challenge for brands as Japanese customers have some of the world’s highest customer service expectations.
  • Localisation is perhaps the most compelling reason for brands to sign up with Rakuten. Brand stores by Reebok and Toys R Us on its flagship store are heavily tailored for the Japanese consumer in terms of site design. Rakuten describes its brand stores as completely blank canvasses, with only a small header on the top marking the store as being under the Rakuten Marketplace.
  •  Payment options are also localised, with shoppers given the option to pay at convenience stores as well as through a myriad of offline and online options unique to Japan. Other markets see a similar style of localised payment option, such as cash-on-delivery for metropolitan districts in Indonesia, and instalment schemes in Brazil.

Tmall

Tmall

Anyone looking to penetrate the Chinese market should take a hard look at Tmall. Operated by Alibaba, Tmall was first launched in 2008 as a separate site from its C2C counterpart Taobao. Today, Tmall caters to shoppers in China, Taiwan, as well as SAR regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Tmall stands out for providing a marketplace experience that guarantees genuine products to customers, and liberal customisation options for brands wanting to control their store’s shopping experience.

The site is the dominant player in China’s B2C eCommerce segment, with estimates of its market share in the country hovering around 50 percent—far beyond any other marketplace in the region.

Brands looking to tap into the Chinese market through Tmall should take note:

  • Tmall is a favourite among many global brands selling online in China and surrounding territories. With more than 100,000 brands, around 2,000 of which are international companies, Tmall boasts of an estimated 500 million registered shoppers.
  • The variety of brands on Tmall is impressive, ranging from consumer electronic brands like Samsung and Apple, apparel brands such as Nike and Levi’s, as well as a variety of brands in surprising categories like food. In fact, ice cream company Haagen-Dazs sells around 2 million RMB or US$ 325,000 of products on the site every month.

Final Thoughts

thoughts on market

Opportunities for brands to sell their products through online marketplaces are growing quickly, all while the marketplaces themselves are trying to meet the specific demands of their growing clientele. For eBusiness leaders of global brands, here are some key takeaways we at Enform have outlined for you.

  • Analyse how marketplaces can match your needs. Some marketplaces allow you to tap into multiple markets, while others enable to really delve deeper in one specific region. Examine your partnership options and see which ones are in line with your global expansion goals and more importantly, your budget.
  • Don’t shy away from giving marketplaces your feedback. Let marketplaces know what features and tools are important to your brand. With marketplace solutions evolving as we speak, now’s the best time to let them know what things should be integrated into their offerings for brand vendors.