Today's evolution of marketing practices creates threats and opportunities, and the latest trend is to cultivate great customer experiences by providing an eCommerce marketplace where multiple vendors sell products and services. These platforms are usually united by a common theme--such as supplying products for specific B2B industries or particular customer profiles--but they don’t have to be. Amazon sells products across multiple industries and at both the wholesale and retail levels. The benefits of multi-store eCommerce fall into two primary categories: providing great user experiences for customers and generating additional income streams for which there is no need to store inventory, ship products and manage the administrative tasks of the manufacturing process. B2B platforms can foster expanded relationships with their clients, earn commissions on marketplace products and services, and prevent clients from leaving their platforms just because they need to order products from another manufacturer.

 

The Extraordinary Benefits of the Multi-Store eCommerce Marketplace

The eCommerce marketplace is rapidly becoming an indispensable tool for B2B marketing. Manufacturers, distributors and buying committees prefer to deal with trusted platforms where they can buy all or most of their products from convenient client portals regardless of the original manufacturer. Installing a multiple-store solution offers these stakeholder-specific benefits:

 

For Clients

  • Stores can be client-branded for high-profile customers
  • Catalogs can be automatically filtered so staff can only order company-approved products
  • Access rights/roles can be used for approvals of purchases over a certain dollar value
  • Punch card, re-ordering, bulk ordering, quick orders, re-usable shopping lists make ordering quick and easy across vendors

 

For Store Owners & Sellers

  • Store owners can get a variety of out-of-the-box and custom features when the marketplace software is robust and integrated with other platform software such as CRM, ERP and custom modules
  • Customized SEO capabilities so that store owners can select their preferred search keywords and meta descriptions
  • Order processing based on each store’s shipping policies and preferred carriers
  • Support for storing and retrieving credit card information securely while complying with government regulations (PCI DSS)
  • Ability to get multiple real-time shipping rates for complex deliveries
  • Full access to customer registration data, wish lists, ordering histories and order-management
  • Custom shopping carts and proprietary checkout processes to differentiate each store
  • B2B and/or B2C support
  • Customized RMA modules for returns and exchanges
  • Page templates for faster product-catalog organization, custom navigation and product configuration
  • Custom BIOs or Directory Listing and the ability to purchase ad space in the marketplace
  • Marketplace platforms can offer their sellers store-within-store applications where only the client’s products appear. Sellers can upload custom catalog content, product images, set prices and operate their own “stores” under the marketplace umbrella. Branding, design, pricing and concept all reflect the seller.

 

For Franchises

  • Master franchises can control how their franchisees order key products such as janitorial supplies, paper goods, products for resale and inventory for manufacturing operations and food services
  • Savvy marketplace companies can offer their clients translation services, updated catalog pictures, compelling videos
  • More robust marketplace platforms, like Clarity eCommerce, offer franchise tiered management, which can allow both central and de-centralized administration of franchises and franchise groups
  • Franchises can set their own pricing, schedules, products and language translations, as well as payment and shipping methods

 

For Distributors

  • Distributors can set their own options for which products they want to carry, pricing tiers and branding strategies
  • Bulk import and EDI integration provides automated inventory quantities and product price updates
  • Distributors can, in effect, control their own mini websites within the marketplace platform
  • Distribution portals allow operation managers to handle all orders, inventory functions, shipping schedules, order monitoring and customer service applications from a centralized interface

 

For a Company Store

  • Companies can define how different customer groups order by curating lists of approved products, customizing prices, providing targeted user experiences for different customer profiles
  • Convenient dashboards for administrators to manage their marketplace
  • Simple interfaces allow management to handle orders and route information for drop shipping automatically
  • Robust report builder to allow administrators to create their own custom reports

 

For Clients’ Administrative Staff

Marketplace users can get bundled value additions from the right software when it’s integrated holistically. Integration helps to reduce development costs, speed updates and create efficiencies of scale. These expanded capabilities include:

  • Ability to manage orders and inventory from custom-engineered client portals
  • Generating site-specific feeds for different eCommerce platforms
  • Applying common or custom themes to different stores
  • Facilitating better customer support for operations that need it
  • Unlimited scalability to expand globally
  • Streamlining maintenance costs and optimizing routine management operations
  • Sharing products across different stores
  • Ability to manage orders and inventory from custom-engineered client portals
  • Generating site-specific feeds for different eCommerce platforms
  • Applying common or custom themes to different stores
  • Facilitating better customer support for operations that need it
  • Unlimited scalability to expand globally
  • Streamlining maintenance costs and optimizing routine management operations
  • Sharing products across different stores

 

Why Building a Multi-Store Platform Makes Sound Financial Sense

The right Marketplace software, like Clarity eCommerce, can enable B2B platforms to provide specialized services to clients, distributors, sellers and franchise operations. For clients, distributors and other business associates, the centralized-control benefits of multi-store eCommerce include branding products according to company criteria, tracking information from multiple marketing streams from custom client portals and distribution portals, creating a superior customer experience for both store owners and their clients and managing operations from an integrated database that incorporates orders, changes and customer information automatically.

 

Punch-Out-Store Alternative to a Full Marketplace Platform

Smaller B2B operations can often generate the benefits of a multi-store operation by using punch-out catalogs to manage multiple stores or channels from a single admin panel. These basic kinds of stores can be set up very quickly with the right integrated software, and administrators can set custom rules for each store or channel. These punch-out catalogs allow products to be shared across different stores, but each store can personalize content, site messages and the targeted customers who view the content. The features of a punch-out catalog include:

  • Customer-specific pricing
  • Stores that can be public or private
  • Easy to build customized stores for special customers, frequent buyers and different types of orders such as janitorial products, office supplies, manufacturing materials, etc.
  • Stores that have their own domain names and URLs
  • Sharing an integrated database for products, customers and orders
  • Designs that can be customized for each store

 

Enhanced Security for Multi Vendor eCommerce Platforms

A robust API layer in an integrated marketplace platform not only facilitates sharing data but also enhances security. Some information can be automatically disseminated, while data that affects security are subject to verification protocols. An integrated, robust platform offers hassle-free setup, the ability to accept payments from multiple payment gateways and responsive design for optimal display on any computing device.

 

Advanced Integration Techniques Create Outstanding Customer Experiences

Customers want hassle-free ordering, automated processes, compelling content and immediate answers to their questions. A single company can often do a good job when it only has its own products to consider, but multivendor eCommerce marketplace platforms have these issues multiplied by the number of vendors and stakeholders involved. That’s why platform integration, advanced marketplace software applications and expert implementations are so important to the process.

Marketplace platforms are becoming more and more popular as consumers want ever-faster ordering capabilities. Retail eCommerce sales are expected to grow from $1.915 trillion to more than $4.05 trillion by 2020. [1] Facebook is currently developing a marketplace platform to compete with Amazon and eBay. Social media “friends” can now buy and sell with like-minded individuals. Amazon manages 36 percent of all marketplace sales, and eBay has 8 percent of the market, but their percentage of the market should drop as more marketplaces--like Facebook’s--come online. About 55 percent of eCommerce sales come from branded stores while 45 percent of all online sales now come from marketplace platforms. [2]

It’s interesting to note that offering complex catalogs and thousands of SKUs serves other purposes than just generating income--these customer-centric efforts are all about curating an outstanding customer experience. One study found that 87 percent of catalog marketers make most of their money on fewer than 1,000 SKUs despite the fact that 36.8 percent of sellers carry between 1,000 and 10,000 SKUs. [3] Creating a platform for marketplace eCommerce is just carrying the option of offering customers expanded choices a bit further than expanding product catalogs and the addition of catalog content from thousands of stores, if done properly, will become rich SEO content that helps drive traffic to the marketplace.

 

Choosing a Vendor and Development Partner for Marketplace eCommerce

The right software vendor and development partner will offer you many choices for leveraging the latest marketing trend--marketplace platforms. Customers in brick-and-mortar stores would find it annoying and inconvenient if they had to check out products in each department, but they want to be able to do so if they are only buying from one department. Development agility can provide your company with expanded options to serve your customers’ best interests. That might mean creating punch-out catalogs, developing multiple-store management technology or building a world-class marketplace platform where clients can manage unique stores-within-stores to provide the ultimate in consumer convenience. Clarity has been designing and building such marketplaces for over 10 years. Give us a call for a free consultation regarding your marketplace.

 

References:

[1] Blog.amasty.com: All you need to know about Facebook Marketplace in 2016

blog.amasty.com/need-know-facebook-marketplace-2016/

[2] Bigcommerce.com: 135 Statistics About Online Selling

www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-trends/

[3] Webretailer.com: 10 Statistics from the Online Marketplace Seller Survey

www.webretailer.com/lean-commerce/statistics-marketplace-seller-survey/

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