With the holidays approaching, many resellers may think it’s too late to set up or expand their marketplaces to take advantage of the holiday rush. That is not the case. If you leverage the right technology, you can accelerate the process of setting up your marketplace from weeks to hours, and never have to hold any inventory.
While most resellers are motivated simply to generate income, those who are also social influencers may find that having a robust e-commerce presence can help them get paid more for posts. E-commerce success can have an amplified effect, making it even more important to get started now.
Pick a Platform
I’ve been helping resellers get set up for about five years, and the most popular place to start is Shopify, which is not only the largest e-commerce platform but also the easiest to use.
Once your Shopify account is set up, you’ll be able to start connecting to brands and set up your back-end infrastructure (such as payments). Shopify has apps to cover just about anything you need.
WooCommerce is a Shopify alternative that’s becoming more popular — it’s a plug-in for WordPress that can make your WordPress site into an e-commerce platform. It’s an on-premises solution, rather than hosted in the cloud (like Shopify), which could give you more control over your marketplace. However, using it requires some additional technical skills. For that reason, here, I’ll focus here on Shopify.
As I mentioned, there are many apps for Shopify. If you are trying to get your marketplace up and running quickly to take advantage of the holiday shopping season, here’s what I recommend that you look for in terms of features:
1. Real-Time Inventory Updates
In one case last holiday season, a reseller lost 20 percent of orders when its brand partners ran out of inventory, and the reseller didn’t know it. This is a common problem for resellers, because most don’t receive real-time inventory updates from their brand partners.
Here’s what that looks like to your customer: They place an item in their cart, check out and pay, and maybe even get a confirmation email. An hour, or a few hours, or a day later, they get an email from you saying, “Oops, sorry, that item is out of stock.” Now they have to go get it somewhere else. Do you think they will be back to shop with you? Probably not.
My advice is to look for a way to access real-time inventory updates from brand partners so this doesn’t happen. It’s also useful if the app offers a queuing feature — that means if a brand’s order system is down (as infamously happened to Target on Cyber Monday 2015), your orders remain in a queue and are fulfilled as soon as the brand’s system comes back up.
Without queuing, your orders would just be turned away. Some Shopify apps will even offer you a guarantee that no order will ever be lost.
2. Access to Brand-Name Goods
There are two broad approaches to reselling: Offering authentic goods from known brands on commission; and purchasing offshore knockoffs (generally from China) at wholesale pricing, and then marking them up to sell.
The former is generally lower volume, but higher income. The latter is more risky and can take longer to set up. If your goal is to get up and running by the holidays, go the authentic brands route. Just make sure your commissions (which are generally 5-15 percent) will cover your costs.
3. Authentic and Broad Inventory
There are Shopify apps that enable you to connect directly to multiple brands at one time — you don’t have to establish those brand relationships yourself. This makes it infinitely easier to get up and running.
Picture an online catalog, much like Amazon. These apps let you search for the products you want to sell — Vans shoes, for instance — and then just click on the ones you want to sell. They are automatically added to your Shopify storefront.
You don’t need any relationship with Vans, and in most cases you don’t have to go through any approval process. (Some select brands do require approval, but it’s generally handled seamlessly through the app.)
4. Easy Integration
Many resellers are solopreneuers or small operations without tech teams. Make sure the Shopify apps you select offer simple integration, so you aren’t bogged down with complex technical issues.
It should really take just a few clicks to get everything set up. For instance, go the Shopify store, pick the products you want to sell, and click “add to my products.” That whole process should take less than 20 minutes.
5. Shipping Quotes and Coupon Codes
In the age of Google, customers shop around online, especially for high-ticket items. They will compare not only the price of an item, but also its shipping cost. They will search online for promo codes, and try multiple codes until they find one that works.
If your marketplace falls down in any of these areas, customers will move on and order somewhere else, including directly from the brand. These features are table stakes for a new reseller. Don’t give your potential customers a reason to leave.
6. Simple, Seamless Purchase and Return Processes
On average, about 10 percent of items purchased are returned over the year, but that surges to about 25 percent during the holidays.
Resellers need to think about what that will look like ahead of time, and make sure all their brand partners provide a simple return process for customers. Otherwise, they won’t come back and buy from you again.
Tap User Groups
Once your marketplace technology and infrastructure are all set, I recommend you explore Shopify user groups online. One good one is Shopify Ninjas on Facebook.
Every day, hundreds of resellers like you are posting advice and questions, helping each other. If you happen to be in LA, you can visit Shopify’s pop-up shop to get one-on-one advice from Shopify’s own experts.
I hope this advice helps inspire you to take the initiative and get your store going before the holidays!