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IRX 2017 The new role for marketplaces in multichannel retail

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For retailers and brands from Waitrose to Sainsbury’s to Burberry , the Alibaba Group’s Tmall marketplace is now a channel of choice as they target the Chinese market.

All recognise that selling via the marketplace gives them the opportunity to reach the millions of Chinese shoppers who now have both the aspiration and the means to buy from foreign merchants.

Others are partnering with marketplaces including Amazon, eBay, in Europe, Zalando . They’re opening branded stores on third-party sites as they make the most of the opportunity to sell to new audiences. Gap , for example, started to sell on Zalando as it looked to reach a wider European audience than it had in its own right. Retailers from Asos to HMV have also enabled smaller sellers to do business on their own on-site marketplaces as they look both to provide a service to customers and to gain incremental revenues.

It’s not so long since many retailers and brands steered well clear of third-party marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. They believed that by selling via these sites they’d lose their highly-prized control over the way they presented their brand, and they would lose the insight and data that they gain from sales on their own websites.

But the mood now seems to be changing – and driving that is the customer. More than half (55%) of US shoppers now start their retail searches on the Amazon website, according to a 2016 BloomReach study. That figure was up from 44% a year earlier and suggests that many retailers and brands will miss out on the intent to buy their products unless they are available on that site.

In the same way, retailers who previously would not sell via marketplaces in Europe and North America recognised that to sell in China they quite simply had to use a marketplace, whether Tmall or Why? Because they recognise that’s where most sales – and searches – take place.

Marketplace eBay said last year that its own research shows 88% of UK consumers expect to find their favourite brands through online marketplaces – but that those with “secret restrictions” that prohibit some brands being sold on some platforms, are missing out on potential sales.

One reason that consumers are now shopping via Chinese, and other, marketplaces around the world is that those sites have made a real effort to raise their game, by weeding out counterfeit goods and developing partnerships with the trusted brands that shoppers want to buy from.

Perhaps, then, it’s now time for those retailers that have held out against the marketplace to do the research and find out where their existing and potential customers are searching for their brand and buying. If that’s on marketplace sites, then this could be time to make the marketplace part of their retail strategy. By doing so directly, they may gain the insight ito customer behaviour that they value, but they’ll gain the contact details for shoppers that they can then target and persuade to shop directly on their own websites, and in their stores. Marketplaces – could be a win-win situation.

Find out more about how retail brands can use marketplaces profitably at the Marketplaces Revolution Conference at IRX 2017.

The Marketplaces Revolution Conference, to be held on April 6, is part of the InternetRetailing Expo, which runs from April 5 to 6 at the NEC in Birmingham. To learn more IRX 2017, its sister conference eDelivery Expo and to register for free, visit and

Attendees can also get a 25% discount on their train fare to the NEC when they book through the IRX or EDX visitor information website.

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