Sell on a marketplace or sell in one’s own digital shop? It is a discussion — and, more recently, a robust debate — with those on each side, convinced that their models are the right ones for a digital world.
In one corner are advocates of buying a domain name and setting up a solo shop on the world wide web as the best strategy for building an individual brand name, and keeping control of the customer and the customer experience. Selling on a marketplace, they say, puts that model at risk.
In the other camp are those who say that marketplaces are the place to be — since 50 percent of all online spend today happens at one marketplace in particular, and 60 percent of all product searches start at some type of marketplace. Selling exclusively in one’s own shop is a good way to make sure customers never find a seller where consumers are buying and starting their buying journeys.
It is an interesting debate, but, ultimately, the wrong one, GoDaddy VP Products: eCommerce, Mobile & Consumer Engagement Greg Goldfarb told Karen Webster in this week’s Monday Conversation.
“Our long-time perspective on this is [small businesses (SMBs)] have to sell where it matters. And with over half the eCommerce worldwide happening on marketplaces, guess what? That is where loads of consumption is happening, and that is where SMBs have to be,” he said.
At the same time, however, having a branded store and experience to offer consumers is also critical, particularly for businesses that have their own unique brands of goods or services. Merchants need to build that hub for their more loyal and invested customers.
The trick is to remember that, as much as the current debate tries to frame them as such, these two methods of eCommerce don’t have to be competitors — and shouldn’t be, Goldfarb said.
“Given a chance,” he told Webster, “these two things work well together, hand in hand.”
It’s why GoDaddy acquired Sellbrite earlier this year. Sellbrite is a digital commerce platform that offers merchants a one-stop shop to plug into digital marketplaces and social media channels, as well as comprehensively manage things like inventory and fulfillment across all their chosen web channels.
Prior to the acquisition, he noted, GoDaddy had already integrated Sellbrite’s technology into GoCentral, its website-building tool for SMBs. That tool allows sites to design, build and customize, as well as embed commerce and set scheduling functions, among other tools it offers to small businesses. The acquisition of Sellbrite, and the addition of marketplace tools to GoCentral, all point toward the same goal: making it easy for SMBs to be everywhere they want and need to be online, with the tools necessary to succeed.
The One-Stop eCommerce Hub
While it is impossible to look at the explosive growth of marketplaces worldwide and not see a growing wave that merchants need to be surfing, what mostly pushed the launch of marketplaces wasn’t the trend lines, according to Goldfarb. It was merchant and retailer clients. These clients already knew they needed to build their brands across marketplaces and social channels on top of their own digital stores, and they want to do so. They know they are losing out on sales by not being on places like Amazon and Etsy.
Wanting it and knowing how to do it, though, aren’t the same. It can be a hassle because merchants that want to be on many marketplaces have basically ended up trying to manage all these channels separately. That, he noted, is not easy work, and often ends badly.
“It is very easy to get lost in the swirls of what they have to do, and how to keep these channels connected, and how to keep track of order fulfillment from a few different sources or make sure that inventory listings are accurate across channels so that they aren’t selling items they no longer have in stock,” he said.
What GoDaddy can do — care of Sellbrite’s technology — is essentially allow merchants to more easily place themselves on the popular marketplaces on which they might want to be present via an easy and holistic experience, managed through a single dashboard. Inventory is integrated and managed in real time across all marketplaces and channels, and the retailer can pick the payments processing provider that best meets its total need — set between Square, Stripe and PayPal.
This can all happen quickly, Goldfarb noted. Once upon a not-so-very-long time ago, sellers were sending applications, and waiting two days to be approved for merchant accounts from acquirers. No one is doing that now.
Now, retailers are looking for the shortest path between two points: from online storefronts to payment-enabled storefronts, capable of doing business where consumers are looking for things to buy. One of those first stops is registering a domain name and getting a URL — their online address.
Goldfarb said that, increasingly, that short path is signing in with a provider like GoDaddy, which can integrate one’s existing Square or Stripe account, and choosing what marketplaces and social channels with which they want to supplement their digital shops. Getting up and running is measured in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.
“In the world of eCommerce success, [that] means successfully reaching and converting the consumer. And whether that is happening on the site we host with our payments-processing arrangement (or on Amazon, Etsy or eBay’s), we are happy just the same if our customer is succeeding where commerce is happening,” Goldfarb explained.
Building The Next Generation Of Services
The GoDaddy Marketplaces product, thus far, he noted, has received an overwhelmingly positive response from customers, who, in the beta testing phase, reported an increase in sales on average of 115 percent. GoDaddy is far from the only player entering into this field — lots of players are beginning to look at the potential of connecting small digital merchants to big marketplaces. However, Goldfarb said he is confident that his company is packing the easiest-to-use solution with the widest applicability.
As GoDaddy looks to what is coming next, the potential for all kinds of projects dot the horizon. It has seen the number of “hybrid services” in eCommerce — businesses selling both a physical good and a service — proliferating.
Additionally on the roadmap is data gathering, and figuring out how to use that data to give a better advantage to merchants. GoDaddy is about to have a unique view of data when it comes to seeing how certain merchants and verticals perform on certain social and marketplace channels. The obvious use of that data, he noted, is to help merchants optimize their expansions so they can best put themselves in their target customers’ paths.
The final frontier is personalization. While Goldfarb didn’t have specific plans to announce, he was willing to drop a big hint about what it could mean in the future.
“We are really looking at the more personal logged-in experience for the consumer — and with that often comes memberships, or the ability for the seller to bring in new formats on offering products and services,” he said.
An interesting set of tea leaves, indeed, to read.