What is the best way to promote/market an online marketplace?
I am planning to launch an online marketplace (for buyers and sellers) in a particular niche/category. In other words, it would be a storefront website, where sellers would create their store and buyers would come to purchase the goods.
This means, I won't be be doing any production, shipping, selling etc, but just giving the platform (but ONLY in a specific niche, thats where I would be different from Ebay or any other website).
Now, the problem is the promotion/marketing of such website, which seems to me a Chicken & Egg problem. If I contact sellers to come first and create their store and list their products with images, why they would spend time and resources to do so (when there are no customers). Similarly, there is no point for customer to visit website when there are No buyers ...
Please advise on how should I go for its marketing?
Your challenge is one that is very common. Especially amongst individuals who see an opportunity in buying one of those inexpensive clone scripts (fiverr, eBay, etc) and then figure they can also build a monster, but soon realize that they don't have tons of employees and funds as the big boys do..
Your venture, (if you are seriously planning to put all of your time, energy, funds, etc into building a 2 sided marketplace, and trying to turn it into a profitable business) will require allot more than just figuring out how to market it. Especially if you are still in the "planning to launch" stage.
I will give you only simple answer to start with.
Your "sellers" are the ones to focus on at first.
Invite them to put up their products, (free), and give them the tools to easily promote and sell their stuff. Then make sure that "they" do much of the promoting and the selling for the most part. As in, give them tools to share their stuff on Facebook, twitter, etc. And give them a great reason to do so.
Many professional sellers (if they know what they are doing) will be promoting their stuff anyways. And they will reach their buyers via social media, etc. It's your job to convince them to add "your" website link to their stuff. (not eBay, etc). This way the buyers that they find, will fix the second half of your challenge.
Having said all that, you should really sit down and write a detailed business plan. More specifically, one that "should" actually answer the question you pose, as I can almost guarantee that your question will only be one of many other challenges to overcome.
If you decided to launch an online marketplace it's because, at some point, you found a need in your target market, and if you were doing it right, those potentials showed interest in it. The better approach is introducing to those same people you are connected with the platform and invite them to post a couple of their products. You have to create or come up with a plan for your group pilot. There should be a way to reward them or motivate them to become the first 'publishers'; limit this participation (12-25 people) and with those couple of products, you are, somehow, ready to market. Initial phase involved feedback, testimonials and suggestions- that is way it is nice working with pilot groups (they give us some sort of validation and possible paths). Entice first vendors/suppliers carefully. Serve them well. And they would be glad to give you suggestions and testimonial, which counts a lot for marketing material as well. As someone told in this thread, it is not a chicken-egg issue; you cannot invite invite anyone to buy if there is nothing in it. Focus on your providers. Fill in the marketplace first.
I am currently working on a similar "marketplace" website although not an ecom one that yours seems to be. From a marketing point of view I have found that rather than marketing the high tech "Features" of my platform I get better results from explaining the "benefits" that buyers and sellers get (which in some cases overlap). Let's face it most people are more interested in what's in it for them, than how much we spend on creating something wonderful and advanced.
The SEO side was fairly easy as I just created pages targeted at both parties and optimized those pages.
I should warn you that if my experience is anything to go by then this can quickly become an expensive exercise and you may wish to consider crowd funding this. I say that as I have now been funding my own site for over 2 years
You need to establish and prove the need through real buyers and sellers. Even if it means you offer sellers free space until which point there is justifiable momentum that they start making money. Once you prove your value proposition to the ones you wish to charge, then you can charge based on their return of investment being worthwhile. Create the market then stage two is making money from that.
To crack this Chicken & Egg problem of yours, you need to start pitching your store to merchants to list their products for free & enable them to promote their products like Arnold has suggested.
As for how exactly you should be marketing your store, here a few tips:
- Promote it on social media through graphical updates & by joining relevant groups
- Invest in paid advertising (PPC)
- Do keyword focused content marketing around the particular product category you are targeting
- Invest in paid marketing a little
- And yes, don’t forget about the SEO, since in long terms it is what going to help your business thrive
Plus, like you have said that you are still planning to launch a multivendor store; in case you haven’t begin with the process, I would suggest you to build it using a readymade multivendor script. There are plenty of them. To name a few, Yo!Kart, CS-cart, & X-cart. Personally, I would recommend Yo!Kart, for its features & flexibility.
Here is the link if you want to check: http://www.yo-kart.com/
You need to find out where your target market and ideal customer resides and hangs out online. Don't assume, do the research to find out. Then promote your service there.
What youre asking is not a chicken or egg problem its more of a 'if you build it they will come" situation. Create your platform well - then promote it to likely parties.
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When it comes to promotion, marketing and SEO of the marketplace is not different than the eCommerce store. The one thing that is different is that the admin will have to focus on both sellers as well as customers. The management depends on the platform on which your site is built. For instance, if your site is based on CMS platforms like Prestashop. Magento, OpenCart and others, then, you can find extensions to upgrade the site into a marketplace. One such extension is https://www.knowband.com/opencart-multi-vendor-marketplace-plugin.
With such plugins, the product, order, shipping, and other transaction management becomes effortless. However, when it comes to the prominent chicken and egg problem of the marketplace, then, patience is the key. Focus on the niche market and offer best-ever user experience. Once you have successfully expanded your customer base, you can attract more and more sellers at your site. Refer to this article for more such details: https://www.happiestminds.com/Insights/ecommerce-marketplace/
Marketing a marketplace is a tough challenge indeed. There are many things to consider, even bigger than the problem you just mentioned, although that is a quite common problem. It is like the chicken and egg story but I think you have to bring the sellers into the site first. There is no other way. Buyers come second.
How do you do this?
Give sellers an incentive or a really strong reason for promoting their products on your site. Some are looking to sell their products any which way and will welcome the opportunity. It is tough to compete with the big dogs like Amazon or eBay, but you need to focus on your niche. Play to your strengths. Unlike Amazon, eBay, or some other huge e-commerce site, you aren’t selling anything and everything. Focus on your niche. Narrow your concentration. This also helps you in marketing, as you only need to target a certain niche market. This means limited demographics.
Who is your buying persona?
Since you are only launching the marketplace for a particular category or subgroup, identify your persona and market to them. It is impossible to beat Amazon in every aspect, but you can overcome them in some. Other e-commerce sites are a testament to this. Treat your small size as an advantage and promote, promote, promote. Push your company, your site, services online and on social media.
Although your marketplace is online, promoting it in the real world helps as well. Use promotional materials to increase awareness of your site. Attend events related to your niche and hang up posters and distribute flyers there. The more people that know about your site, the better. All the best!