On November 20, 2019, Joachim (Jo) Sebastian, managing director of Everpeaks and Payoneer Brand Ambassador for Malaysia joined Commission Factory client services director Sophie Metcalfe to discuss best practices for Southeast Asian sellers on global marketplaces. The majority of these practices apply to sellers anywhere, so we decided to share that content with a wider audience here.
The overarching theme of the webinar was thinking strategically, and taking a customer-focused view. Sellers need to understand who their audiences are, and what is most important to them. This should be your first step to starting your ecommerce business — and it goes beyond making sure goods match their description to delivering clear, timely communication, fast shipping, simple options for payments and easy issue resolution. All it takes to hurt business these days is a few poor ratings and negative customer reviews.
Sellers should take a strategic approach to starting or growing an ecommerce business. Marketplaces provide a platform for you to reach a much broader global market than you might be able to do on your own. To start, Jo recommended that sellers think strategically about:
- Brand building: Start by selling and building your own brand vs. being a reseller
- Localization: Products and any descriptions need to be localized to the buyers’ markets
- Diversification: While direct selling may have lower margins, taking a diversified approach by selling on at least two different marketplaces can net you greater returns
- Market testing: Test the market by shipping small amounts of your products to the marketplaces, until you know what actually sells
- Customization: This can be a key differentiator for your product, attracting customers to buy from you vs. your competitors
Understand Your Marketplace Platforms
Some common operational areas of focus may vary from marketplace to marketplace. For example, commonly-searched keywords on Amazon may be different from those on eBay. To operate efficiently, you’ll need to understand how each marketplace you’re using works. This will help you target potential customers with the right products, positioning, messaging and pricing.
This comparison, as shown in the webinar, illustrates some of the key differences between Amazon and eBay:
Here are a few areas to focus on operationally on an ongoing basis. Being competent in all these areas will help you convert leads to sales, and retain customers once they’ve purchased from you.
- Keywords - Positioning your brand ideally with the correct keywords can get your brand in front of more potential customers – research what works for each marketplace
- Platform gamification – Each platform has gamification strategies that you can use to your advantage
- Issue resolution – Understand communication channels and the best ways to resolve issues and answer questions
- Automation — Automate your processes as much as you can, to save yourself and your customers time, and lower the risk of manual error
The best plans can go astray when sellers aren’t set up to support their businesses. Being customer-centric means keeping on top of every logistics detail, from proper packing and shipping to taxes, tracking, setting realistic timeframes for arrival, and of course communications. Jo recommends that you:
- Invest in a reliable and trackable logistics partner
- Deliveries must be consistent to keep customer satisfaction and retention rates high
- Keep returns at a minimum to maintain a good bottom line
- Invest in a pickup service for your products to be shipped out
- Be aware of relevant export taxes and duties, and how to manage them
You don’t need to do this alone, either. Everpeaks makes sellers’ lives easier by setting up, managing, strategizing and managing the day-to-day operations of their Amazon and eBay accounts. This can include stock management, pricing and promotions, visual merchandising and marketing, and even shipping and customer service — all you as a seller need to do is produce your goods.
As well as being Payoneer’s brand ambassador in Malaysia, Everpeaks is the first ASEAN company appointed as part of the Amazon Service Partner Network and the first Malaysian company to be given official eBay Channel Partner status.
But what about transitioning customers from buying via marketplaces to buying direct from seller sites? The risk is lower and profits are higher when you sell on your own site — but the drawback is that you’re unlikely to get the amount of exposure as you would through a marketplace.
The short answer is, it’s a balancing game. The benefit of marketplace selling is that customers are purchase-ready. Even if they’re browsing, ultimately they are on that site to buy.
We already talked about diversification and knowing how the platforms you’re using operate. You know your margins are lower by direct selling, so you could try pricing your items lower on your own website, or offering special customization not available through marketplace purchases.
Global Payments for Global Business
If you’re a seller operating on international marketplaces, you have to think about maximizing profits — which includes international payment methods. This includes pricing, minimizing fees when you get paid, determining when you make payments to any suppliers you may have and ensuring they get paid in their own currency to save on exchange and transfer fees.
Payoneer is a global payments service that is used by enterprise businesses, sellers, freelancers and affiliates worldwide. With Payoneer, you can get paid by the world’s leading marketplaces, pay your suppliers and VAT for free, and manage multiple stores in one place — plus finance the next stage of your business growth with instant working capital available to you at low rates.
Which platform is more suited to the Malaysian consumer would you say given the differences you’ve outlined?
"Malaysian consumers may not transact on the marketplace as it is an export platform. If you are a seller, then eBay would be the best, as it gives you awareness and a less intense growth journey."
At what point do retailers move away from the marketplace and go it alone?
"Never. Marketplaces allow for brand representation, it is effectively an extension of the brand. If a consumer sees a product on your site, they will go to the trusted platforms they have shopped with to compare on other marketplace and if you are not present, you are missing out on a sale. You will lose the opportunity for brand exposure and sales. Optimize your presence on the marketplace and get a competent operations team."
Are you a supporter for paying for sponsored listings and do you think it drives significant volume in comparison with organic listings?
"Yes, I am a supporter of paid for sponsored listings. The platform you sell on is gated at the start and one of the ways to overcome the gated element is to advertise. As a new seller, you have to advertise.
Sponsored listings are conventional traditional methods for getting traffic, you pay for advertising within the platform and it generates sales. I have seen significant volume from paid advertising that leads to organic traffic in the future. If they are not aware of your product they cannot buy the product or leave reviews, which in turn, drive organic traffic."
What are the challenging aspects of working with marketplaces?
"Amazon changes every three weeks. I would say the major challenges are: -
1. Keeping up with changes within each market and legislation.
2. Operational excellence and making sure the consumer has the best experience from end to end. It is worth investing in making sure you are set up to service your consumers operationally.
Using a third-party company to manage or advise you on how to approach marketplaces, can save you two to three months and get you up to speed sooner."
Commission Factory, Client Services Director, Sophie Metcalfe
"It is important to understand the place of marketplaces and how you can use it within your overall online strategy, whether you are an established business or seller starting up. The content Jo has shared is valuable to all."
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