Use online marketplaces to get your sales soaring

Use online marketplaces to get your sales soaring
Grow London Local
Grow London LocalMatching London small businesses to support

Posted: Mon 27th Nov 2023

Online marketplaces can be a powerful way to sell to customers in London and beyond. But not all marketplaces work for your business – here's what you need to know.

Whether it's Amazon, eBay, Etsy or another platform altogether, here are our tips for finding the right marketplace for your audience and making sales that will grow your business.

Understand the marketplaces

To be successful selling on a marketplace, you need to choose one that's suited to your business. Think about who will be searching for products like yours, and what competitors might be offering.

There are lots of marketplaces to choose from, but the most popular in the UK are:

  • Amazon: A trusted, reliable platform with more than 300 million UK visitors a month. It has a huge product range, efficient customer service and options to handle your inventory and shipping.

  • eBay: Take advantage of a massive customer base, flexible selling options, a range of payment and shipping methods, and more.

  • ASOS: Set up a store, list your products and connect with buyers looking for distinctive and trendy clothing and vintage pieces.

  • Wayfair: A global marketplace for furniture and other homeware products.

  • Vinted: A marketplace for second-hand clothing, home, entertainment and pet care products.

With around 960,000 sellers in the UK, Etsy is a platform for handmade and personalised products such as jewellery, fashion, art and homeware. UK-based platforms Folksy and Not On The High Street have a similar focus.

There are also platforms specific to London if you want to target customers local to you. One example is BuyHaringey, which allows businesses in the borough to use loyalty offers to attract local shoppers in person and online. Check your council's website to find marketplaces in your borough.

How to choose an online marketplace

Think about how your products will stand out. For example, while Amazon is the most popular marketplace, the competition is fierce. So, do you have the resources and expertise to attract customers?

It's similar for Etsy, which lots of people use to find handmade goods from around the world. Although Folksy has much less traffic, its focus on British products may be better for you.

Starting locally on a London platform can be a good way to dip your toe into the world of online marketplaces. Visit your council's website to find marketplaces in your area.

Know the costs

Most platforms charge fees, so you need to be sure it's worth your while financially.

  • Amazon's professional plan costs £25 plus VAT per month. On top of that, there are referral fees (8% to 15%) for each item you sell, and extra charges if you want Amazon to fulfil your orders, for example.

  • eBay charges business sellers a range of fees. At the basic level, there are pay-as-you-sell charges, but you'll pay more if you set up an official eBay shop.

  • Etsy and Folksy don't charge you for setting up a store, but there are fees to list items, and commission when you sell.

  • Not On The High Street charges a one-off joining fee of £199 plus VAT and 25% commission (plus VAT) on all sales.

These fees might seem high. But if an online marketplace is where your target customers shop, it could boost your sales significantly.

On the other hand, you don't want to make a loss, so work out all your costs before you decide which marketplace is best for your business.

Write effective product descriptions

You'll attract customers if you describe your products well. Adding the right keywords helps your products appear higher in search results on the marketplace and on search engines like Google.

Not sure about keywords? They're the terms a customer might use to search for products. If you sell London-themed products, for example, use related words in your descriptions, such as these London products on Folksy.

Etsy lets customers search for sellers by location. Use "London" in your profile description and you'll attract those people who want to buy from London businesses.

When writing your descriptions, use clear, simple language that explains the products and tells the customer why they should buy it. Short paragraphs and bullet points make descriptions easy to read.

Think about how the description will look on a mobile device, as that's how many customers access online marketplaces.

Use strong imagery

Good images are crucial in helping your products stand out. They're often a deciding factor in whether customers buy from you.

Most online marketplaces have minimum sizes for images. There are usually other requirements too, like the main image on Amazon needing to have a pure white background.

If you can afford it, it's worth paying a professional photographer to take photos of your products. They know what it takes to make product images look really engaging.

If you decide to create images yourself, consider using a light box. They allow you to take high-quality and well-lit photos, and are available quite cheaply online.

Remember that a lot of people use marketplaces on a mobile device, so your images must be clear and crisp.

Promote your marketplace store

Once you've set up your store, use your social media to let customers know. You can add buttons that link to your store on your website, and include details in your email newsletters.

Many marketplaces offer advertising services to promote products. These help you appear higher in search results or feature your products more prominently on the page.

Deliver good customer service

You want satisfied customers, so make sure you provide excellent customer service. Many people read reviews before deciding whether to buy. If you have several negative ones, you could miss out on sales.

If customers contact you with questions, try to respond quickly. If you encounter problems with deliveries, let customers know in advance. Customers also expect to have complaints dealt with promptly and efficiently.

Monitor your social media for customer enquiries, as shoppers may not contact you directly on the marketplace.

Some marketplaces offer paid services that take care of your stock and shipping – eBay fulfilment by Orange Connex and Fulfilment by Amazon are two well-known examples. These are very useful options if you don't want to pack and deliver orders yourself.

Measure your success

You need to know that selling on an online marketplace is worth your time and money. That means constantly monitoring how you're performing.

Most platforms provide detailed data, so review this often. If your store isn't delivering the sales and engagement you need, make some changes, like checking that your website is mobile-friendly and easy for people to use. And remember to show off your products with high-quality photos and clear descriptions.

There are many e-commerce and online selling experts who can help you improve your sales. You can also often speak to agents at online marketplaces for advice.


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