Marketplaces are a must for every consumer brand (even if you don't sell on one)

Marketplaces such as bol.com and Amazon have assumed an influential position in a very short time, gaining influence on how and where consumers do their shopping. Some brands have good reasons not to want to sell on marketplaces. But even then, you need to have a presence there as a brand.

Laptop shopping data overview

Major platforms such as Amazon and bol.com have emerged as clear e-commerce winners during the COVID pandemic. However, many brands and retailers are still struggling to assess whether and how they can successfully participate in the platform economy. To help brands make these decisions, Let’s answer a number of strategic and operational questions about marketplaces in this blog.

First things first: what is an online marketplace?

A marketplace (also called an e-commerce marketplace or digital marketplace) is a website or app that enables selling between suppliers and buyers. With sales of $386 billion in 2020, Amazon is the largest B2C e-commerce marketplace worldwide.

As a result of marked shifts in consumer behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer purchases on online marketplaces have skyrocketed. In addition, marketplaces are responsible for a drastic shift in the customer journey. Where the assessment phase used to be carried out mainly via search engines, contemporary consumers increasingly start their search for products on a bol.com or Amazon.nl.

The platform economy in the Netherlands and Belgium

More than half of all online purchases are made via marketplaces, according to research by Multiscope and AUAS. In Belgium, too, there is a rapid transition to a platform economy, the economic system in which supply and demand are connected by smart algorithms.

The top 10 of BeCommerce's Shopping100 is dominated by online marketplaces and streaming services. With 12.5 million active users in the Netherlands and Belgium, bol.com is the market leader. But for how long? Amazon.nl is already in third place. That makes the Dutch branch of the American e-commerce giant more popular than Coolblue (in fourth place) and AliExpress (number five). Amazon.fr is doing well in Belgium, with 8.73 million users.

Why brands avoid marketplaces

As a brand, visibility is key - especially in the digital world. Marketplaces can help out in this regard.

Despite the increasingly important role that marketplaces play in the customer journey, many brands are reluctant to engage. They have several perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so. For example:

  • As a brand, you don't want to get in the way of your resellers

  • Selling through marketplaces puts pressure on margins

  • A massive platform like bol.com or Amazon doesn't pay special attention to your brand

For brands that make these trade-offs, it is worth realising that marketplaces offer more than just an extra sales channel. In fact, avoiding e-commerce platforms can sometimes cause considerable damage to your brand. And that's the most important message for brand managers, online marketers and brand strategists: marketplaces should always be part of your brand strategy.

Marketplaces as part of your brand strategy

Okay, you have your reservations about selling through a marketplace. But what if your resellers run out of stock? And that outlet stock, your longtail products: aren't they just somewhere taking up valuable space? Through marketplaces you can be smart in your responses to capricious consumer preferences.

It’s worth mentioning that you do not have to sell. Marketplaces, for example, can be used just to give your brand awareness a huge boost. With bol.com and Amazon.nl alone, you already have an audience of 15 million people. And then there are the niche and luxury marketplaces that generally have rock-solid content strategies with fantastic brand engagement results.

How about a bigger digital presence?

Gone are the days when a website was enough for a proper, digital presence. Our experts happily assist in bringing about a digital ecosystem - optimised and on-brand - fit to serve your business goals.

Een sterk creatief concept is altijd een goed idee

Stay in control of your trademark with trademark registration

As a brand you have several options when it comes to your approach to marketplaces. You can sell your products directly through a sales account, indirectly as a supplier, or B2B through resellers. And then there is the sales less option, trademark registration, which is always a good idea. You don't sell your brand, but you retain complete control of your brand on the platform.

This should never be regarded as a superfluous luxury. At iO, we regularly see harrowing examples of product pages "gone wrong" with typos in the product titles, inimitable product descriptions and unclear product photos in grim places. This is damaging and unnecessary because trademark registration protects you from such branding mistakes happening at all. Trademark registration is already an option for Amazon, but bol.com has also started implementing this process.

Trademark registration via marketplaces is worthwhile

With trademark registration you retain control over the product information of your own brand items. This product information is then protected and cannot be changed by a third party. This gives you the certainty that your brand items are presented in the same way everywhere. At the moment, only text content is protected at bol.com: this means product titles, descriptions and specifics. In the future, the protection will also apply to product images, something that is already the case with Amazon.

Amazon has even more great features for registered trademarks:

  • A+ content – Helps you to highlight your brand story and product descriptions.

  • Sponsored brands – Ads with your logo, brand name and up to three products.

  • Amazon Stores – Your own branded, multi-page shopping environment.

  • Brand Analytics – Data on search terms, customer behaviour and more that helps you make smart well-informed decisions.

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What conditions do you have to meet to register your trademark?

For trademark registration on bol.com or Amazon, you must be the owner of the trademark in question. The trademark must be registered with an official body such as the BOIP trademark register. Your brand has to be visible on the original product packaging, or on the article itself. If you comply with this, the marketplace will approve your registration request within a few days.

Start your marketplace marketing in 4 steps

When you have completed the trademark registration, the marketing game can begin. We follow a simple but effective step-by-step plan:

  1. Review – A review of the brand: what is the current situation? How many providers are there? What is the quality of the content?

  2. Keyword research – Which keywords connect to your brand items? Which keywords are missing?

  3. Optimise products – Optimise products according to the marketplace standard: product titles, descriptions, and specifications, using the insights from your keyword research.

  4. Testing and optimising – Content optimisation: testing with variations in text and image.

Sandra van der Meijs
About the author
Sandra van der Meijs
Marketplace Consultant - iO

Having worked at renowned brands at FNG Group and Smartwares Group, Sandra is right at home in the world of marketplace marketing and automation. She brings first-hand expertise, along with high-level social skills, and a real sense for ambitious targets. Her number one rule? Know how to make all the difference as a brand.

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