Go Beyond Amazon
The COVID pandemic has made the importance of online channels even greater. Already growing exponentially before this era of sheltering in place, eCommerce has become the lifeblood of retail. If you sell housewares online, you may even be experiencing an uptick in orders as people self-quarantine and discover new brands through the internet.
Even before the pandemic, it was difficult to overstate the dominance of Amazon’s online presence. Nearly 40% of all retail eCommerce purchases are made on Amazon, and that number continues to grow. Instead of Googling something, more people head directly to Amazon when they shop, as the percentage of searches launched on the site is somewhere between 45 and 60%. The incentive for Amazon Prime members drives a lot of that activity—over 112 million Americans currently belong to Prime—along with the undeniable fact that the Seattle-based behemoth seems to carry just about everything. And then some.
That said, whether you’re hoping to grow your customer base or you’re pivoting to a stronger eCommerce presence during COVID, Amazon is not the only place to focus your online selling efforts. While failing to embrace Amazon is probably a missed opportunity for your brand, so is ignoring other online channels that are healthy and vital competitors to the marketplace leader.
Five online marketplaces other than Amazon.
Wayfair. With nearly 20 million regular customers and annual growth rate of 40%, Wayfair and its associated stores—AllModern, Joss & Main, Birch Lane, Perigold—have become go-to destinations for shoppers seeking housewares. Wayfair shoppers turn to the site because it offers a vast cross-section of goods and price points, in categories that range from kitchen items to furniture.
Wayfair operates like a traditional retailer—it pays wholesale cost to suppliers and sets the price in its stores. That means it doesn’t take a percentage of sales or a commission. It also collects the shipping costs.
Responsibility for shipping itself, however, falls on the supplier. Wayfair adheres to the dropship, which means they won’t hold your inventory in their warehouse. When an online buyer makes a purchase, the order is sent to the supplier. Your company is responsible to pick, pack, and ship the item or items directly to the customer. You will need to meet the specific Wayfair shipping requirements. In addition to meeting ship-by dates, Wayfair-branded packing slips and labels are also required.
To begin selling on Wayfair, you provide information about your products and drop ship capability. Typically, the company reviews applications and responds within 3-5 business days.
eBay. The original still has some juice. Launched in 1995—seriously, 1995?—eBay experienced ups and downs over the years as it has shifted its focus to keep up with the ever-changing online retail landscape. It remains a great destination if you are launching a business with very little capital. You’ll retain control over pricing. There are also three plans to choose from as a seller—the Standard plan with no monthly fee but charges when items sell, the Plus plan with a monthly fee, and a Premium plan with advanced merchant tools.
That said, eBay is still a bit like the Wild West—your products could be going up against typical sellers with new merchandise, or a re-seller of slightly used products at seriously discounted prices. You’re also more likely to find yourself up against counterfeit goods. Despite these and other negatives, putting eBay on your list of online marketplaces means you’ll be getting your products in front of lots of eyeballs and an audience that is comfortable buying online.
Walmart Marketplace. The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer is no slouch when it comes to online selling. After being slow off the mark when internet shopping was first gathering steam, Walmart has invested heavily in the channel and is now a major player. While it plans to shutter Jet.com, the online marketplace it purchased for $3.3 billion in 2016, the systems it acquired have helped fuel the growth of Walmart.com. CEO Doug McMillon has noted the purchase of Jet helped make brands more “comfortable” selling on Walmart.com.
Like Amazon Seller Central, Walmart Marketplace is a place for third-party sellers. On the site, there are more than 35 categories where products can be listed. The online shopping experience has also been improved—the design is no longer tired and dated like the original, and free delivery is available on orders larger than $35. These and other changes have made Walmart Marketplace more attractive to the millennial demographic, a group that spends $600 billion each year and makes over 50% of their purchases online.
Walmart also has an attractive fee structure for sellers, charging commissions according to the specific category. If you’re struggling to gain attention on the hyper competitive Amazon, Walmart Marketplace has special appeal. While it’s growing, it still has fewer sellers than Amazon. You’ll have fewer eyeballs on your products, but you’ll also be facing less competition for their attention.
There are, of course, drawbacks. Walmart built its brand on low prices, so you’ll be forced to accept lower margins. And you’ll have to manage a lot—Walmart requires sellers to handle everything post-sale, including exchanges and returns.
Bonanza. Often considered an eBay alternative for craft types, Bonanza has become a one-stop shop for anything from a beaded bracelet to a 4K flat-screen TV. Since its launch in 2008, buoyed by lower seller fees than eBay, it has gradually increased its sales and audience numbers. Today, Bonanza claims more than 150,000 daily visitors. It’s a far cry from Amazon or Walmart Marketplace, but it’s hardly insubstantial.
Since it’s smaller, it’s easier to stand out on Bonanza than on Amazon. Bonanza also makes it easy to start selling—it lets you import your inventory directly from Amazon or eBay. If you’re expanding from your Shopify or WooCommerce store to selling on Bonanza, you can also import easily from those entities.
When it comes to selling fees, Bonanza is far less expensive than Amazon, eBay, or other larger online marketplaces. It’s free to open and start making sales. Once a product sells, you’re charged a small percentage of the final price. As your sales grow—and you pay more commissions—your products are listed in more channels on the site. In other words, if your products are selling well, Bonanza puts them in front of more shoppers. High volume sellers can take advantage of the membership option, and pay a monthly or annual fee.
If you’re already selling on Amazon, adding Bonanza is an easy to way to find more customers. The volume will never come close to matching what you can get on Amazon because the audience is so much smaller, but the site makes it so easy to get started that the time and resources are worth the minimal effort.
Niche. No, we’re not talking about niche.com. Instead, we’re reminding you that many people shop for items on sites that focus on a specific category.
If you’re of a certain age and remember the dawn of eCommerce, you’ll recall sites like pets.com and socks.com. Don’t forget that Amazon started out selling only books. Category-specific shopping was all the rage—until it wasn’t.
But there are still people who want to buy specific products from online marketplaces that specialize. Electronics, toys, housewares, crafts—these are a few categories where people turn to sites with a more specific focus.
NewEgg, for instance, has been gaining momentum, appealing to a seriously tech-savvy audience between the ages of 18 and 35. Its demographic does skew male, but it has expanded its product inventory to grow its appeal among female shoppers. It now offers health and beauty items, office supplies, and automotive accessories, along with more consumer electronics than it did in the past.
You’ll have to apply to sell on NewEgg, but this marketplace is known for being start-up friendly. A bit of an underdog itself, it has some special programs to help nascent companies. One of the big selling points for NewEgg users—it offers a Prime-like service to drive repeat business—is the speed of its fulfillment. It uses a robot-powered system that gets high demand items out extremely quickly.For sellers, NewEgg is appealing because it offers some of the lowest commission fees among all the online marketplaces. Combined with its focused audience of shoppers, it is worth the effort for sellers of technology products.
Another niche offering with real traction is Reverb, a UK-based online marketplace that focuses on products for musicians and has impressive reach. Whether it’s a full-time career or a hobby, music sparks passion and the people who buy instruments and equipment to make it are particular about their purchases. That’s why Reverb has become a go-to for many.
It’s free to list—a 3.5% fee is applied when a product sells. Reverb Payments also takes 2.7%. All in, the relatively low fee structure and ease of listing products without risk means it’s easy for sellers of musical instruments or gear to reach an audience that appreciates this marketplace because it provides good value and a sense of community.
Unlike Reverb, sellers on The Grommet are carefully vetted. Its goal is to introduce out-of-the-ordinary products to its audience of quality-oriented and values-based consumers. In other words, this is a curated online marketplace and you’ll need to make a submission to be included in it. It’s competitive—The Grommet reviews 300 submissions each week and features three.
What do they look for? In the words of founder Jules Pieri, it’s a product from, “…someone who is solving a problem in a fresh way and there is something about the company that people can relate to.”
If you’re honest with yourself and believe your item is extraordinary or your company has a powerful story to tell, submitting to The Grommet could be a very valuable investment of time. Shoppers on this online marketplace are unusually dedicated to the products sold on it, and startups that received a big boost from it in the past include Fitbit, GoldieBlox, and SodaStream. Maybe yours is next.
The list of niche marketplaces goes well beyond those mentioned here. If you are a brand with a product or a product line that serves a specific audience, research your options and seek out one that would let you stand out far more than you will when you become another listing on Amazon.
Amazon, sure. But not just Amazon.
For most, a presence on the world’s largest online marketplace—and when measured by market value, the world’s largest company—is a given. Whether you feel comfortable with such dominance or not, it’s difficult to ignore the potential it can provide.
But it’s important to consider all your options. There are other online marketplaces where you will be able to differentiate your brand more easily, and some that deliver more of the kind of consumers you need to be successful. Make sure you focus some attention and resources on them, and avoid being completely dependent on Amazon.