For every brand and manufacturer, the greener pasture of online marketplaces is hard to ignore.
Even you, reader—someone who is likely on the manufacturing side of product business—are also a consumer. You’ll know without us having to tell you that online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Walmart have taken root in our daily buying habits.
These giants make up over a third of all US online sales, and third-party sales on marketplaces are expected to surpass $450 billion in 2024.
It’s no wonder many companies are drawn to uploading their product catalogs to get in on the action.
However, without a vision for lasting customer loyalty, the short-term revenue you’ll reap may cause a surge in acquisition costs—hampering your long-term gains.
Start by planting a seed
None of this is to say you shouldn’t be considering listing your products in a major online marketplace—in fact, quite the opposite.
Marketplaces provide incredible benefits, including—
- Visibility to new audiences for greater brand awareness, especially critical for new products or emerging businesses
- Frictionless transactions that build customer confidence and lower the barriers to trying a new brand or product
- Quick expansion opportunities into online sales without the expense of creating a fully-owned ecommerce site
But, making a sale through a marketplace is a long way from acquiring a loyal, repeat customer.
Poor Pest Control (Read: Competitors Abound)
The low barriers to entry for you also mean low barriers for competitive fast-followers. If a customer is willing to try your brand, they may be willing to try your competitor's brand the next time they’re browsing the marketplace.
Community Gardens Have Strict Access
The marketplace owns the relationship, trust, and customer data. Especially with tightening privacy controls, brands need to find other ways to move closer to customers to serve them better.
Sunday Lawn Care—known for its highly customizable smart lawn care plans and thoughtful user experience—recently took the leap outside of their own ecommerce platform to Walmart.
Joe Griebel, Director of Physical Product, describes the shift, “We launched at Walmart last year, and that was a really new kind of challenge because, before, we could really control the experience on the ecommerce side. But with Walmart, you have maybe three seconds of attention. So we've had to really shift the core things we're talking about.”
Those “three seconds of attention” are marketplace touchpoints—so the aim, then, is to treat those as seedlings. The single transaction is a seed planted in the customer’s mind, but it is still very much in need of nurturing, just as Griebel implies.
Every purchase on Amazon or Walmart needs thoughtful, continuous cultivating before eventually blooming into a loyal customer relationship.
Nurture the marketplace lead
Rather than setting a marketplace sale as an end goal, consider it instead the start of a customer journey.
But without data from the initial sale, the question remains how do you engage with the customer? The answer—the product itself gives you a proverbial green thumb.
There are dozens of potential touchpoints to interact with customers across the whole product lifecycle, each opening opportunities to ripen your relationship.
Actionable steps to add along the customer journey:
- INSTRUCT. Product packaging should lead to the brand website to easily access use instructions, how-to videos, or service contacts.
- OPTIMIZE. Make sure to connect users in a community to learn new uses for the product and support add-on capabilities.
- EXTEND. Consider parts, consumables, or services that will be needed over time to extend the product life, and offer those directly.
- ACCESSORIZE. Are there consumables or services that can be ordered as a subscription to enjoy the product fuss-free months and years after the initial purchase?
The folks at Sunday have this down pat.
“Right now in all of our retail packaging, we have a link back to what we call ‘The Shed.’ It's purely a resource relationship,” Griebel explains. “And I think that's something that we've always prided ourselves on from the beginning is that we want to build a relationship with our customer that's not purely transactional.”
The key here—what all these steps add up to—is a stand-out product experience that’s so compelling customers won’t want to return to the marketplace for any related products, they’ll just keep coming to you.
Stake Out Your Own Plot of Land
That last step above is a biggie. Accessorizing your product with potential line extensions or exclusive offerings customers will need to “re-up” regularly helps you enter the subscription economy.
According to the Subscription Economy Index™ (SEI), nearly two-thirds of subscribers (64%) feel more connected to companies with whom they have a direct subscription experience versus companies whose products they simply purchase as one-off transactions.
Subscription models take customer loyalty one step further by ensuring long-term recurring revenue for as long as you plan to have that product on the market.
A Harvest All Your Own
Marketplaces are becoming increasingly unavoidable channels for realistically keeping up with ecommerce today.
But in a community garden, you have to pay dues, your access is restricted, and your plants are exposed to pests you can’t control.
By sowing seedlings in massive marketplaces, and nurturing them along the journey of your product lifecycle, you can lead them directly on the path to your own subscriber base. Your own plot of land with your own long-term revenue.
In Sunday’s case, Griebel describes their process: “We definitely let customers explore a little bit more. We have a concept that we call the ‘Sunday Store.’ So now you can buy one-off items that are in the subscription. But again, at the core is our smart lawn plan. So once you've done all your research, we still guide you through the process.”
If it seems like a tall order to make all these changes to your customer journey, you may not yet realize the magic of a Product Information Management (PIM) platform.
Not all PIM platforms have the same benefits, so ideally you’ll need to look for one that is—
- Flexible enough to support different product types (original OR subscription refill)
- Scalable to quickly deploy in new channels and regions for quick growth
- Connected to customer data to keep a consistent journey from initial purchase through the lifetime of the product.
For all this, plus the perk of a familiar user interface, take a look at the PIM solution from Propel.
Marketplaces get you volume but not brand loyalty. It’s up to you to tend your garden with compelling product experiences and ideally a direct subscription—and ultimately, recurring revenue.
Learn more about how to capture your customers’ interest and retain brand loyalty by watching our Converged Live webinar, “A Marketer's Guide to Engaging Product Experiences.”