Nowadays we are besieged by various web-shops popping up everywhere. They’re on your social media with paid ads, they’re flooding your mail with campaigns, they’re on all your favorite web pages while you’re just browsing or watching videos. We’ve all been there and it can get pretty annoying sometimes.
However, have you ever been on the other side of the fence – managing a multivendor is hard work. If you’re not a big player like Amazon or Ebay you’re juggling backend work, vendors, customers and a million other tiny pieces all at the same time. You’ll want to grab hold of any help that you can get to make your life easier.
eCommerce has been growing rapidly in recent years with no end in sight. Less and less people are actually going to stores for their goods with most of the shopping done online, delivered right to their door. Every vendor ignoring this aspect of business is doing so at their own peril.
When talking about eCommerce there are three basic ways to go about it. You can have a web-shop for your business alone (mostly small businesses), you can run your web-shop with other vendors hosted on your site (can vary from a gathering of small businesses to giant companies like Amazon or Alibaba), or you can simply run the marketplace (something like eBay). No matter which one of these interest you, we’ve found a solution that should cover everything you’ll need – the Dokan Multivendor Marketplace from weDevs.
Idea to store in a day
Most vendors starting from scratch don’t have an IT background, so it goes a long way if the platform they’ll be using to set up doesn’t treat them like experienced web developers. The UI has to be simple to use and intuitive, especially when we’re talking about the frontend where vendors will be doing most of their work (assuming you’re hosting them as an admin). The idea here is to go from an outline to a finished, working store in a day or two.
You’ll also want to use something that is universal. Going with an alternative here isn’t wise. You want to reach a wide customer base to raise your chances of good sales numbers. Platforms like WordPress and WooCommerce are widely used all around the globe (both by vendors and customers) and it’s highly recommended that you’re running a site that is compatible. Everybody tends to continue using something they’re already used to with as little change as possible.
What you can do for your vendors
Speaking of an all in one solution, there are certain eCommerce platforms that specialize in certain types of products. A specialization of this kind can be fruitful if you’re targeting a niche group, but it can be limiting. No matter how well developed the specific direction is, it’s limitations can put off both vendors and customers who simply have no use for it.
Again, when starting up, you’ll want to go for quantity, as wide as possible. Once you’ve got a foothold on the market you can run additional specialized sites that go more in-depth into specifics then general providers.
The line doesn’t stop with just products in general. There are numerous types of products and you’ll want to diversify to include all of them (simple, variable, downloadable, virtual, grouped and bookable) for your vendors.
Now that you’ve made it clear to potential vendors who are looking into using your site for their business that you’ll support everything they can throw at you it’s time for the personal touch. Everybody wants to feel special, this is nothing new, but it also translates to businesses. Every business strives to stand out from the crowd, ultimately growing into a brand recognizable everywhere. It’s your job to provide this for your vendors. You’ll be able to accomplish by using independent stores on your marketplace.
By using independent stores, the vendors themselves can customize parts of the fronted and put their specific touch on how it looks to customers (after admin approval if needed). Giving vendors the option to adjust their part of the marketplace for themselves doesn’t extend only to basic information and visuals, but for the whole business process.
Every vendor should be given the option to set up their own payment and shipping method. This is especially important if you’re running a multinational or even multi-continental marketplace where the same rules simply cannot be applied to everybody. Although laws are catching up with the ever-growing e-market (for example every web-shop registered in the EU is obligated to ship to any other EU country) there are certain restrictions or even a lack of need for certain vendors to provide shipping to certain places or certain forms of payment.
Since you are their provider you’ll want to give them the option to pick and choose, within reason of course, how they want to run their stores. Social media plugins are also something that can’t be avoided in today’s marketing. For convenience, both yours and that of the vendor, these should be left for the vendors to manage.
Building a good platform that gives the vendors using it all they need is a goal for everyone involved. Starting from the outside in, customers will be happy if the quality of products and service in line with their expectations; vendors will be happy that their items are selling; finally, you’ll be happy because the more items are sold the more commissions you get.
There are things that you can and should do for the vendors using your marketplace, but there are also things they can do for themselves within the system you provide. In fact, certain things are better left off to them to get the best effects.
As we’ve already mentioned most of the interaction your vendors will have with the platform is done through the frontend dashboard, enabling them to review every aspect of their business ranging from keeping track of all product sales and financial transactions to updating their store profile and managing the SEO for their store. These are all nuances that require a specific input from the vendors since they’ll know exactly what they want and how to achieve it.
Diversify your offer
When your marketplace has grown enough to bring in even more vendors to your door, you’ll want to provide all of them with an even more diversified selection of options with which they can fully utilize everything your marketplace has to offer.
A smart thing to invest in is a booking integration which means more vendors for you. Anyone who is providing a service like renting rooms, cars, supplies, etc. will be able to use your marketplace to sell their services.
Since services or bookings, in this case, function a little differently than products it’s very important to take into account all the things that simply don’t matter when talking about products. The most obvious one being the availability. This is a different kind of availability since there is no stock involved. Instead, you’ll have to give the customer a schedule where they’ll be able to choose for what time period they want to book the apartment or any other item or space that can be rented.
Now that you’ve given a home to all the booking vendors it’s time to add other potential vendors. An auction system is something that has been used successfully on sites like eBay for years, so why should you be any different.
The target audience here should be small vendors or those specialized in memorabilia. Since most of the products you’ll sell at auctions are, in general, unique and therefore more valuable, or at least more specific and rare than regular items in stores the turnover, in general, is going to be smaller, but the profit per item should be higher.
Going the extra mile
Everything mentioned so far can be viewed as core functions an eCommerce marketplace should have. If you’ve got everything covered, you should have enough to keep them satisfied. However, why not make small, quality of life upgrades with features some other marketplace provider might not have a spread a good word of mouth which can go a long way in securing more marketplace users.
One of the ways to make your vendors happier is to make their (and by association your) customers happier. One of the ways to do this is making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. Eliminate endless browsing through categories and tables and implement an intuitive search bar that gets them exactly where they want to go in a flash.
Once they’ve found what they’re looking for there is a possibility they’ll need more help with the given products. There are a couple of options that will enable you to make them interact with the vendor. The enquiry is probably the oldest method, and what was previously done by mail or phone can now be done through a quick form. Be sure to make rules regarding response time and look to answer your customers as soon as you can.
On the other hand, we’re seeing more and more sites using live chat services. These have proven to be even more successful in getting your customer satisfaction up. The great thing about these is the (usually) instant response and ease of communication because of the real-time back and forth. Another thing to consider is that everybody uses these types of chats nowadays so it’s probably the first thing customers will look to as an interaction tool.
Both of these are primarily used to get information on a product/service or to resolve minor issues. For more complex problems there has to be a support ticket system implemented. Whether it’s concerning financial issues, a product not arriving on time, or being delivered defective certain problems will require more time and even more people to solve.
One thing to keep in mind is that it has come to it that a customer had to submit a support ticket, then it’s serious and you should look to resolve it as soon as possible. Put in place policies that will help both the customer and the vendors when these situations occur.
In order to keep customers more trusting, you can implement modules such as customer reviews and seller verification. The former will let customers share their experiences with vendors for others to see which will in turn greatly help uncertain customers to feel more secure while shopping. The latter helps primarily you as the admin of the marketplace to verify the identity of the vendor and thus giving them your certificate which, again, provides a customer with an added sense of security.
The geolocation module is another option that can be used primarily as a source of information when using booking services. Go through locations, see how they correlate to yours and make your trip plans accordingly. A number on a page can be abstract, but when you see the radiuses and distances on a map it’s much easier to get a better perspective of what you’re looking for.
The financial aspect of any commerce, in general, is always delicate. Whenever there is money involved you’ll want to be open anything your customers are most comfortable with. In line with thi,s you’ll want to provide as many payment options as you can. These include credit and debit cards through Stripe, PayPal, direct bank transfers, Moip, etc. everybody is used to something and keeping your customers in the comfort zone is sure to boost your sales.
After the payment, you’ll obviously want to issue invoices. This is, of course, an obligatory practice for any shop, be it online or offline and shouldn’t be ignored. Be sure to look into the laws and regulations regarding invoices in order to keep everything above board and you’re good to go.
Other modules that import various benefits into your marketplace for all concerned include Follow Store (for a social media presence), Color Scheme Customizer (for customizing your dashboard), Export Import (as the name suggest export and import as CSV files), ShipStation (manage your shipments), Single Product Multiple Vendor (for selling one product by multiple vendors), Subscriptions (enforce subscriptions for your vendors), Vendor Staff Manager (create online staff for your store) and Vendor Vacation (temporarily close your shop while on vacation).
eCommerce is the future, there’s simply no denying it, and we’ve already touched on it here. Getting into the whole thing is going to become practically essential in order to run a successful business, but going in head first could be contra productive. If you’re going to build a marketplace from the ground up, you’ll need a stabile infrastructure that has already proven itself to be more than good in handling the workload.
The Dokan Multivendor Marketplace platform is great because it offers everything you’ll need both in its parts and as a whole. You’ll have the option to go all out put everything on a server and try your luck against the big dogs on the market, but you’ll also be able to create something smaller concentrating on a niche market, or a local/regional area. This variability is why anybody can use it and the fact that it does everything so well is why everybody should.