Retailers say they will increase their use of marketplaces, which is leading to a surge in new incentives by marketplaces eager to bring them on board.

Online marketplaces are introducing new tools, better terms and wider opportunities for sellers as they look to broaden the number of merchants who sell goods on their platforms.

The moves come as retailers say they plan to expand their use of marketplaces. Some 24% of 100 retailers surveyed by Digital Commerce 360 between July and September of this year say they will increase the number of marketplaces on which they sell goods.

Given such potential for new sellers, all major marketplaces, including the one run by Amazon Inc., which is ranked No. 1 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 and No. 3 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top Online Marketplaces, have debuted merchant-focused initiatives in recent months.

But according to one industry expert, the marketplace that stands to be the biggest winner as retailers look for new places to sell is the one run by Walmart Inc. (No. 2 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 and No. 9 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top Online Marketplaces).

“Walmart today is what Amazon was back in 2014,” says Norman Farrar, a seller on multiple marketplaces and the host of “Lunch with Norm,” a podcast for marketplace merchants. “I have brands on Amazon right now. I’ve got brands on Walmart right now. A lot of people don’t realize that the opportunities on Amazon are absolutely not the opportunities on Walmart.”

advertisement

New optimization tools

One vendor that sees an opportunity in helping retailers already selling on Amazon expand to the Walmart shopping site is Helium 10. In October, the Irvine, California-based analytics provider debuted a set of optimization tools for use on Walmart. Helium 10 said more than 1 million retailers and entrepreneurs have already used their tools to grow their businesses on Amazon. The expansion allows current Walmart.com sellers to use Helium 10’s tools and “empowers Helium 10 sellers on Amazon to tap into Walmart.com’s robust marketplace in a data-driven manner,” the vendor said in a press release.

“Walmart.com is a massive opportunity for ecommerce merchants, but many have little to zero guidance on how to excel in the space,” said Bradley Sutton, Helium 10’s chief evangelist and director of training.

The new tools will let sellers compare Walmart and Amazon’s product data at a glance and help merchants optimize for search on the two marketplaces where keyword opportunities vary. Farrar says that can be crucial for retailers looking to duplicate their success from one marketplace on a new platform.

He says he’s seen brands take “their Amazon listing over to Walmart and they fail. They’re not ranking (in search),” he said. But by using sophisticated search-optimization and product-description tools, retailers can learn the nuances of each marketplace and adjust accordingly.

A merchant “can verify this easily. You can go into Amazon and start typing a keyword and you’ll see the suggested keywords. You can go over to Walmart and start typing the exact same thing. For example, if you sell pet beds. On Amazon, ‘dog bed’ is where you want to be; that’s where all the search volume is on Amazon. Walmart is the complete opposite. If you try the market on ‘dog bed,’ you’re going to get nothing. It’s not going to be as powerful as ‘pet bed.’”

advertisement

Amazon seeks new marketplace sellers

In October, Amazon announced that third-party sellers on its marketplace can now offer buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and delivery services from their own brick-and-mortar operations.  The move could prove particularly attractive to retailers that may have avoided the marketplace because they sell large, fragile, or perishable goods.

Under the “Local Selling” initiative, Amazon would serve as a sales and payment platform, but local retailers would handle fulfillment. Shoppers in specific ZIP codes can buy items from marketplace sellers on Amazon.com and choose same-day pickup at the seller’s local store or delivery.

“Amazon’s recent announcement to roll-out ‘Local Selling’ confirms the need and business opportunity for retailers to meet consumers where they are, particularly as consumer preferences continue to be redirected in an omnichannel environment,” says Harvey Ma, senior vice president of omni, consumer and retail performance of North America at NielsenIQ. 

Amazon has a particular reason to take steps to attract new sellers (and hold on to the ones it has.) The internet giant faces considerable pressure from legislators following reports that it manipulated search results and copied best-selling products on the marketplace.

advertisement

Beyond Amazon

New tools and services for sellers are popping up on other marketplaces too.

EBay Inc. says it now processes 90% of its global on-platform volume through its managed payments initiative, which aims to get merchants paid faster when they make a sale through the marketplace.

EBay, ranked No. 5 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces report, also recently made a move ito bring in B2B sellers by launching a new strategic partnership with bidadoo, an online B2B marketplace and auction company. The bidadoo marketplace sells equipment and heavy machinery such as forklifts, tractors, excavators and related parts and products.

In October, marketplace Poshmark debuted Closet Insights, a dashboard that provides sellers with inventory and sales data in real-time. Poshmark, No. 33 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top Online Marketplaces, sells both used and new apparel and accessories.

That same month, Poshmark also announced its first acquisition: Suede One, a solution using machine learning, computer vision, and human review to authenticate sneakers virtually.

advertisement

Meanwhile, mobile marketplace Wish unveiled a program in which sellers who meet certain standards for shipping and customer reviews will be eligible for commission discounts, faster payments and better placement for their products within the app. Wish is No. 15 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top Online Marketplaces.

Etsy, has been bringing in merchants through acquisition. The marketplace acquired U.K. apparel shopping app Depop in early June for $1.63 billion and Brazil-based handcrafted goods marketplace Elo7 in early July for $217 million.

Etsy is No. 18 in the ranking of Digital Commerce 360 Top 100 Online Marketplaces.

The competition among the online marketplaces for sellers is likely to get tougher in the coming months as new entrants crowd the marketplace field.

Two well-known brands launched marketplaces in 2021: Lands’ End (No. 68 in 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000)  and Hudson’s Bay Co. (No. 30).

advertisement

And in October, crafts and hobby retailer The Michaels Companies, No. 106 in 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, said it would soon launch a marketplace for craft supply sellers. And back in March Verizon Media, owner of Yahoo, said it would build an online marketplace called Yahoo Shops.

Favorite