The best online marketplaces for selling your products internationally
Commerce marketplaces have been steadily gaining popularity on both the consumer and trader side in recent years. This trend is evidenced by the 18% increase in gross merchandise sales on online marketplaces with a total of USD$3.23 trillion spent according to a report from Digital Commerce 360 on the top 100 online marketplaces as of 2021.
For more clarity on what kind of marketplaces are being referred to here, we shall consider websites where users can browse information on numerous products and services from various vendors and brands, and make direct purchases. While online marketplaces make up 67% of global online retail sales, the top 100 marketplaces still generate over 90% of global marketplace sales.
This should be a stark reminder to retailers that it is extremely important to be selling on the right marketplaces or risk being one of those in the crowd fighting for a share of the remaining 33% of global online retail sales.
So what should one look for in a great marketplace?
As an eCommerce business owner looking to maximise sales by listing your products on online marketplaces, here are a number of factors worth considering in order to make the right choice:
An eCommerce store owner should look for marketplaces with a wide range of products across different categories, including the ones you sell, and of varying brands,.Yes, finding an online selling platform that caters to the niche or vertical you’re in is good, but it isn’t the end.
You want to make sure that even if you’re retailing for a single category like women’s fashion, you are still able to sell all other items falling under that category - like dresses, hats, jewellery, shoes, bags, scarfs and other accessories. Once a customer perceives your brand as reliable after a good shopping experience, they’ll likely prefer to consolidate their order from one channel and within one shopping trip, instead of going through the hassle of getting different products you offer from multiple platforms.
Online marketplaces charge varying fees or commissions for selling on their platforms and you need to do more than just pick one with the most affordable fees. It helps to register with a platform that offers tiered plans with different pricing depending on the services or features you’d like to have in your package.
This kind of structure allows you to start small at a lower cost and gradually upgrade to the higher premium plans with added features relative to your sales growth and evolving business needs.
Large and active audience base
It goes without saying that a website that gets more visitors and garners more conversions all the way through to the checkout is more ideal for your business. However, there’s a little more nuance to how you should apply this ideology.
eCommerce store owners ought to try and find out which products on those marketplaces sell most, or get more views. A marketplace may accommodate your carpets and other furniture products, but you may find that amongst all their household product listings, people visit mainly to buy kitchenware.
This may not translate well to your business. Some of this marketplace sales data may not be easy to come by but you can always rely on consumer reports, social proof like reviews, ratings and testimonials both on and off-site, along with some other basic analytics tools to learn more about these websites’ traffic.
International selling features
If you plan on growing your store to sell to customers in various countries, you should be on the lookout for marketplaces that offer international selling features. These range from shipping and courier options to payment methods and region-specific price and tax information among others.
Such features not only make it easy for shoppers to have a good estimate of what it will cost to buy from your store, but also provide greater flexibility in how they pay for, receive and return goods. You’re also more likely to discover and expose your products to smaller segments of the market where larger competitors may not have a foothold yet.
Discovery and promotion features
The most popular online marketplaces are quite crowded and there’s stiff competition over whose products get more views and sales. It is very advantageous to select a marketplace that not only has its own native programs that boost visibility for winning products but also gives you the ability to pay for better placement and partner with the platform in discount efforts.
A good online marketplace should also have a robust system for gathering social proof and incorporating user-generated data into its product placement framework. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and widely used online marketplaces for cross-border selling.
Top regional and global online marketplaces
Founded in Singapore in 2015 under parent group Sea Ptd Ltd and backed by Tencent Holdings, Shopee is a mobile-first marketplace that currently holds the title of top eCommerce site locally. As of Q4 2021, it recorded the lion’s share of traffic among competitors at 16.15 million monthly site visits in Singapore alone, and 88.9% year on year growth in GMV across all markets for the year to US$44.4 billion (S$60 billion).
Offering extensive category coverage, Shopee retails Fashion, Electronics and Media, Toys and Home Appliances among others, with full logistics and fulfilment support. It also has a pilot International Platform for Singapore sellers to reach customers in potentially 6 other countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Apart from a Seller Education Hub that provides tips and courses on setting up your storefront, accessing user-friendly reporting dashboards, and scaling on the platform, Shopee also has free marketing tools to help sellers boost product visibility, and organises high impact Mega campaigns capitalising on key shopping events for sellers to participate in.
Coming in just behind Shopee, Alibaba Group owned and Rocket Internet-backed Lazada is considered the second most popular eCommerce marketplace in Singapore, with 9.2 million recorded monthly site visits in 2021. A leading player in Southeast Asia, the platform has around 150 million customers and 1 million active sellers across the region and wrapped up 2021 with USD $21 billion in GMV.
Like Shopee, Lazada also offers a Lazada University, where successful sellers can educate new ones on how to set up their operations on the platform and increase sales and get tips for improving their store profitability. This effort is also complemented by the easy-to-use back-end administration and weekly reports on store performance delivered via email. According to a study, top-selling categories on the marketplace in the first 3 quarters of 2021 across the region included Groceries, Beauty, Electronics, and Home and Living.
Amazon is one of the top global eCommerce marketplaces where sellers stand a good chance of increasing sales with minimal marketing costs. With over 40% of its total unit sales coming from third-parties, it is one of the best eCommerce websites supporting over 30 product categories.
Some vital global features of this platform include the ability to choose between your own fulfilment, or fulfilment by Amazon where you don’t have to worry about packing, shipping and returns, thanks to its 185 fulfilment centres around the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that Amazon has at least 310 million active customer accounts being served by over 9.5 million sellers around the world as of 2021. In Singapore, Amazon garnered US$140.9 million in 2021 alone, led by Electronics and Media category sales.
The platform also facilitates international selling, with a formidable back-end to track inventory, manage sales tax collection, etc. Check out local tips and guides for new Singapore vendors looking to sell on the platform here.
Established as the world’s online marketplace since 1995 with around 159 million active users as of Q2 of 2021, the American multinational eCommerce marketplace eBay needs no further introduction. The platform has a tiered fee structure for sellers of different sizes and inventory levels, as well as subscription plans to maximise sellers’ listing allowances.
Conceived in the U.S., Etsy offers a user-friendly interface and smooth experience when adding new shops and product listings. It is the go-to marketplace for those trying to sell to niche markets such as handmade crafts and jewellery, bodycon apparel, etc., with 7.5 million active sellers, 96.4 million active shoppers, and US$13.49 billion in global sales in 2021.
Etsy also has robust analytics tools built into it, enabling sellers to gain accurate and actionable insight into the major drivers of sales. Its unique offering in the form of Etsy Pattern is ideal for brands looking to build and customise their own eCommerce website outside of the Etsy platform.
Based in China and owned by Alibaba Group, AliExpress has over 150 million active users and 200 million monthly visits globally. Its support for 38 payment channels, 51 currencies, 12 languages and shipping availability to over 200 countries makes it a frontrunner for international selling.
Opening a store is free and the commission charged per sale is quite competitive (5-8% depending on the category). Your business can sell to all the available countries and you only compete with other vendors.
Furthermore, AliExpress has a secure and speedy payment system where you can receive your cut the minute a customer confirms that the product has arrived.
Rakuten runs the largest eCommerce website in Japan, serving millions of customers. Traders can sell products in over 10 categories internationally, as the platform has helped over 49,800 sellers deliver to 79 countries. The platform also supports the personalisation of storefronts to reflect your business’ brand image.
A key standout feature is R-mail, an email marketing tool that enables effective retargeting of previous buyers, and access to a dedicated eCommerce consultant, in addition to its in-built loyalty program that rewards usage and engagement in exchange for points and rebates.
When it comes to taking eCommerce stores international, United Kingdom based Fruugo is one online marketplace Singapore businesses can massively benefit from. This marketplace supports 46 countries, 28 languages and 31 currencies, and is already integrated with many popular eCommerce platforms. You can also access translation tools upon completing the signup process to make international selling much easier. Fruugo has also seen millions of products across thousands of brands listed by hundreds of retailers, and the website has garnered over 240 million web visits in 2021.
Part of Global Fashion Group, Zalora was founded in Singapore in 2012 and has grown into one of Southeast Asia’s leading fashion and lifestyle e-commerce players. The retailer has presence in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
With over 50 million logged visits a month across its regional sites, it offers an extensive range of local and international brands and has expanded from men and women’s apparel to luxury, beauty and home and living products. Apart from a broad network of logistical services across the region, it also offers end-consumers multiple payment methods including cash on delivery. Sellers who choose to partner with Zalora also enjoy insights from their data analytics platform.
TRENDER, and 1SS (One-stock solution), a modular multi-channel e-commerce fulfillment service that allows brand partners to consolidate their stocks in ZALORA’s e-fulfillment centres.
Zalando is a German-based eCommerce platform focused on retailing fashion apparel and shoes that is great for store owners seeking expansion in Europe since it is present in at least 17 European countries. These include the U.K., Norway, Sweden, Poland, Austria, Spain, Belgium and Finland.
The platform gets over 7 billion site visits a year from more than 48 million active customers, and offers over 1.4 million fashion products across 5,800 brands. Zalando also has helpful customer agents when it comes to registering as a seller, and offers Marketing Services to help brands harness profit maximisation strategies.
Now that we’ve listed some of the top online marketplaces, let’s lay out some strategies that can help you achieve international success while selling on these platforms.
5 online marketplace strategies to sell internationally
Harness social proof – Many shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that other people have given a thumbs up. Getting buyers to give you good reviews can be tough, which is why you should always strive to offer as smooth a customer experience as possible, even on a third-party marketplace. Providing easy brand store navigation and clear, relevant product listings and descriptions are key. Additionally, depending on the marketplace capabilities, you could also explore offering small incentives in the form of free goods, coupons and vouchers, discounts, or temporary free access to some premium account features to encourage customers to leave reviews.
Watch the competition – Whether it’s simple site visits as a customer or going deeper with analytics tools, keep an eye on your competitors’ moves, especially relating to things like free shipping and surprise giveaways. These will help you adjust your prices accordingly. You can also go as far as automating the repricing process. Do not neglect minor moves like theme changes and new product sections.
Deter counterfeiters – Many will go to great lengths to get customers’ attention, in efforts to get a larger share of pie. Look out for retailers who may go as far as spamming shoppers with fake offers in your name. Remind your customers about the unique identifiers of your brand messages and always stay ahead when it comes to informing them about new offers. You can also subscribe to some service providers who specialise in thwarting counterfeit programs.
Leverage promotions – You most probably won’t hit your sales targets through pure organic traffic. Engage in promotional activities (like Shopee Mega campaigns or eBay deals) that are supported by the platform you’re selling on. Don’t be afraid to explore paid advertising solutions, both natively in the form of on-platform ads, and off-platform through affiliates or external traffic drivers to reach potential customers outside your established base.
Optimise product content – Highlight key information, unique benefits of your brand or product and even stock levels to influence buying decisions, and make sure to display high-quality product images from multiple angles. Ensure that titles, image metadata and other product information is in-line with popular and relevant keywords to improve visibility among users.
A global business account to connect to your global marketplaces
As you begin to sell internationally on your marketplace of choice, a necessary step is to have a compatible global business account that allows you to connect and collect your foreign currency revenues. Airwallex’s foreign multi-currency account connects seamlessly with leading global marketplaces such as Amazon, Lazada and Shopee. You can hold funds up to 11 currencies and send 30+ currencies to over 130+ countries.
With a single global business account, you can collect your payment faster, with no surprise, foreign currency fees that eat into your margins. Set up your Airwallex business account today, with zero setup or monthly fees.
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