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How do I start an online marketplace?
What is an online marketplace?
An online marketplace is a B2C / B2B platform that allows external sellers to offer and sell their product range. For example, think of bol.com on which external sellers can offer their products and where they pay a certain percentage of sales back to bol.com.
Online marketplaces are the main driver of e-commerce growth. By 2020, online marketplaces accounted for 62% of all online sales, totalling around €2.7 trillion worldwide.
Benefits of a marketplace
- Expansion of product range: For a webshop owner, integrating a marketplace in his webshop often also means expanding his product range. Because sellers do not always offer the same brands as the webshop, the customer is more likely to find the product he wants.
- Keeping customerson your webshop: Nowadays, customers expect to be able to find everything anytime, anywhere. By integrating a marketplace in your webshop, there is a greater chance that there is an external seller who still has a product - which is no longer in stock at the webshop itself - in stock. This way, the customer does not have to look elsewhere for the product.
- International offering: If you have a website that operates in several countries, there is a chance that external sellers sell products that you, as a webshop, cannot always buy yourself. This way, you can still offer certain brands to your customers.
- Greater reach for smaller actors: For smaller sellers, with a more limited budget, this can be a solution because they can then piggyback on the webshop's marketing campaigns, giving them a bigger reach faster. This creates a win-win situation for both parties.
How do you get started?
Our client already had an existing Magento webshop, to which they wanted to add a marketplace. We opted to start using Mirakl. .
What is Mirakl?
Mirakl is a French cloud-based e-commerce software company, with headquarters located in Paris (France) and Somerville (Massachusetts). They provide online marketplace software to retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers. Several connectors are available that allow you to quickly link Mirakl to your existing webshop. We used the Magento connector for our project.
In 2012, Mirakl received the "Best Solution" award in the New Services category of the E-commerce Awards. The following year, they won the IBM Smartcamp Award. In May 2014, Mirakl was a finalist in the IBM Business Partner Beacon Awards. In 2020, Mirakl was named a WEF Technology Pioneer.
Mirakl Magento connector
The Mirakl Magento Connector allows users to manage their Mirakl marketplace from one central location in Magento. This removes the need to switch between multiple back offices and also lowers the barrier to get up and running with your marketplace. Below, we will discuss some of the connector's key features.
Through the shop list, you as a marketplace operator can quickly see which shops are connected through Mirakl. You can easily see here whether:
- an external seller is open, closed or suspended from the shop,
- whether the external seller offers free shipping and,
- whether it is designated as a premium seller.
You can also see the URL identifier key of each shop here. In fact, each external seller also gets a page on the webshop where potential buyers can find more information about the marketplace sellers. The external seller has the option to provide a description of his company, the potential buyers can also view his contact details here, the seller can announce his return conditions and shipping methods here, and the reviews received for the seller can also be viewed here. An example of a marketplace seller page can be viewed here.
Example of a marketplace vendor page
As a marketplace operator, Magento also lets you view the product offerings of third-party sellers. Here, you can view the product SKU, title, price, number in stock, and the seller. You can also see whether the product is active on the website or not.
You can also add information about the seller in your webshop, so customers know they are dealing with an external seller. You can do this, for example, by adding a text next to the product (for example: Product is sold by "NAME SELLER"). Furthermore, it is possible that the external seller offers a different delivery cost/delivery period than the customers are used to from the web shop, so make sure this is clearly stated on the product detail page, the shopping cart or in the checkout.
Example of information about external vendors on the product detail page and in the shopping basket
Magento recognises whether orders placed are Marketplace orders or not. These orders must then be transferred to Mirakl. Of course, one order may also contain Marketplace products and products from the webshop itself. The payments must then reach the right parties.
To be able to quickly see whether an order is a webshop order, a marketplace order or a mixed order (order with webshop products and marketplace products), we have added a column to the Magento order overview showing the type of order.
Payments from Marketplace or mixed orders
The webshop operator already used Buckaroo as Payment Service Provider, Mirakl uses MangoPay. So for the Mirakl integration, we set up a MangoPay account for our customer. The payments from Magento are transferred to Buckaroo, because Magento knows which orders contain a marketplace product, the payments from these orders can be automatically transferred to MangoPay, the marketplace payments are then in turn, from MangoPay, paid out to the seller of the marketplace product.
As there may be orders with a product from the website operator as well as one or more marketplace products, the amount of these orders is split. MangoPay in turn knows which amount to allocate to which seller.
Important considerations when starting a Marketplace
If you are thinking about setting up a marketplace, it is a good idea to draw up a number of rules that external sellers must comply with. For example, if your website has a delivery time of 3 working days, agree with the external sellers that they too have to comply with this in order to offer products on your website.
As a webshop owner, you can set up a set of rules in Mirakl that an external seller has to meet. If a seller does not comply with these rules, he or she can automatically be suspended. The external seller can then still access his store via Mirakl, but the products will no longer be shown in the webshop.
Keep in mind that questions about an external seller's order/return are discussed directly with that seller. It is therefore important to lay down clear rules about this as well, so that external sellers know what is expected of them in such cases
Also bear in mind that the overall rating of customers for your website, from the start of a marketplace, is also influenced by customers' experience with your external sellers.
What else should I consider when starting a marketplace?
Because you will now be working with several external sellers, it may take more time to manage your webshop. Take this into account in advance, see who can take on these tasks or consider hiring an extra employee for this purpose.
- Check and approve external sellers: External sellers need to be approved before they can offer products on your website, this way you always have control over your external sellers. It is also a good idea to check the sellers thoroughly before approving them. Is it about a particular brand, for example? Then always look them up first so you can possibly already see if customer experience with this brand is positive.
- Product quality control: As the webshop responsible, you can determine whether the sellers have to adhere to the shipping costs set by you, or whether they can set them themselves for their offers.
- Shipping Costs: Als webshop verantwoordelijke kun je bepalen of de verkopers zich moeten houden aan de door jouw opgestelde verzendkosten, of dat ze deze zelf mogen bepalen voor hun aanbod.
- Monitoring customer communication: As shop manager, you have insight into the messages sent by customers and the response they receive from the external vendor. It is important to monitor these messages from time to time as well, because the website rating of customers is now also partly based on the contact they had with the marketplace seller.
- Promotion of marketplace: Obviously, it is important to make sure that potential sellers know that you are launching a marketplace, so this will also take some time.
These are some of the things you need to consider when setting up a marketplace. Try to think about this before you start building your own marketplace.
You don't get something for nothing
Finally, you also need to think about how you want to introduce the marketplace.
For a successful marketplace, you obviously need some reliable external sellers, who can not only expand your product range, but also interact with your customers properly. It is therefore important to think carefully about the strategy of your marketplace.
- While developing your marketplace, start thinking about a communication campaign to engage customers and potential sellers.
- Use a press release to explain to potential sellers how the marketplace will work and how it will benefit buyers and sellers.
- Free up space on your webshop to highlight the marketplace and inform buyers about the marketplace experience.
- Create a separate page on your webshop where potential sellers can easily contact you (e.g. via a contact form).
- You can also already start introducing the marketplace to your audience by including it in your e-mail marketing, paid ads, social media, ...
During the launch
- Start launching your communication campaign that you have already worked out for the launch.
- On your webshop, highlight the marketplace. Consider a banner on the homepage that links to a blog or news item about the website's new feature.
- Include the launch of the marketplace in your e-mail marketing, or send a separate e-mail about it to your customers, describing the benefits they will experience through this integration.
- Communicate about this new extension of your webshop via as many channels as possible.
Would you like to expand your website with an online marketplace?
Are you thinking of expanding your webshop with a marketplace? Then feel free to contact us, we will be happy to think along with you and develop the desired solution