Amazon & Co: Why there is no way around marketplaces for retailers

Stefano Viani


13 Jun 2019 e-Commerce Marketplaces

Amazon has become an integral part of German online retail. As early as 2017, 45% of Germans started their product and price research on Amazon. This means that significantly more product-related search queries are made via the marketplace than on Google. 90% of German consumers have also already shopped on Amazon, with 35% even using the Amazon Prime premium programme (source: Pwc study "Total Retail 2017").

Impressive figures that are likely to have risen further in the meantime. It is no coincidence that Amazon recently achieved first place in the BrandZ ranking of the 100 most valuable brands for the first time.

It is therefore worthwhile for online retailers to take the step from e-commerce to digital commerce. This means that anyone who wants to assert themselves as a provider on the Internet today should not limit their web activities to operating an online shop. Instead, it is advisable to realise connections to popular marketplaces as part of a multichannel strategy and to create integrated shopping experiences across all channels.

As a magnalister partner, Blackbit advises on marketplace and omnichannel commerce

We have added magnalister to our partner network so that our customers can utilise the potential of well-known marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Rakuten or as easily as possible. magnalister is a provider of a market-leading tool that allows online retailers to easily connect their web shop to marketplaces in order to increase their sales. The useful interface is available for various shop systems such as xt :Commerce, Magento, Shopware and Gambio and is available in different service packages.

Blackbit ist magnalister-Partner

The most important retailer benefits of the magnalister interface:

  • Upload items directly from the shop to the marketplaces
  • Automatically import orders
  • Compare order statuses such as "shipped" or "cancelled"
  • Manage orders, invoices and inventory centrally
  • Set up customised extensions via the hook point system

We are delighted to have magnalister at our side as a strong partner in marketplace marketing and are constantly training our multichannel commerce team to provide our customers with ideal advice in the increasingly complex digital commerce environment.

Interview with marketplace expert and magnalister founder Peter Mähner

BVDW-Leitfaden Die 8 Stufen des Connected CommerceTo what extent do marketplaces help retailers get started in online retail? What prerequisites should marketplace newcomers have? And what challenges do they face when starting out on Amazon, eBay & Co. - In an interview for the BVDW guide "The 8 Stages of Connected Commerce", Blackbit Managing Director Stefano Viani clarified these and other exciting questions with magnalister founder Peter Mähner:

STEFANO VIANI: Hello Peter, you have been offering a platform for data exchange with online marketplaces for 8 years now. Can you tell us what has changed in recent years from your perspective? Can a retailer still take a first step into e-commerce and open up a new sales channel by participating in online marketplaces?

PETER MÄHNER: Hello Stefano, basically every retailer can still get started on online marketplaces today, even with a small budget. Amazon and eBay have established themselves as the largest sales channels. But and Zalando have also continued to hold their own. This year, however, we are also seeing well-known providers such as DaWanda and dropping out.

In addition to the establishment of marketplace sizes, I see the most serious change in the dynamics of the requirements for retailers in terms of how their products must be offered on the marketplaces. This is due to constant changes in legislation, such as describing products with detailed features, but also the adaptation of fundamental marketplace concepts, such as the "product-based buying experience" recently introduced by eBay, in order to meet the increasing demands of buyers.

STEFANO VIANI: What does the retailer need to bear in mind? What expertise, human resources and technology are required to get started?

Peter Mähner, magnalister(Photo: Peter Mähner, magnalister)

PETER MÄHNER: In my opinion, the most important thing is to have the right attitude towards the topic: the opportunities compared to a traditional retail shop are still unique. Especially in terms of budget, manpower and risk.

However, there is work involved that many people underestimate or are not prepared to do: Retailers must familiarise themselves with the rules of the individual marketplaces and be able to accept them. For example, EANs are also mandatory for variant articles, images must be supplied in high resolution and possibly with a white background, product features such as "material composition" or clothing sizes must be specifically defined. Unfortunately, some of these rules do not adequately describe the marketplaces. There are also some hurdles with their interfaces that you might not expect.

However, if you have the right attitude, the possibilities are immense. So you can also start as a "one-man show". There are a number of inexpensive tools and plug-ins that partially automate processes such as purchase and payment processing or data synchronisation through to posting. They save you an army of staff, which would be unaffordable given the often low margins. Logistics can also be outsourced to Amazon, for example, as part of the "FBA" programme: this is convenient, inexpensive and, above all, highly professional.

E-commerce can be seen as a modular system in which you simply put together the tools and services you need for your requirements. The retailer does not need to be a programmer to be able to use the tools - but they do need to have a basic technical understanding: configuring and operating administrative interfaces, processing an Excel list and exporting it in various formats or mastering a simple image processing programme. If you can't get any further, you should contact a consulting internet agency such as Blackbit.

STEFANO VIANI: Does a retailer still need their own shop and if so, why?

PETER MÄHNER: They should always have their own shop. It provides more independence and offers the opportunity to establish your brand in terms of content and design. Above all, however, a web shop today also serves as an administrative hub for product ranges and orders. There are helpful additional modules and connections to the largest merchandise management systems and marketplaces, with a large community of retailers and developers who can help you if you get stuck.

STEFANO VIANI: Is there a typical progression of a retailer from beginner to full marketplace professional?

PETER MÄHNER: Every retailer story is different. But as they grow, retailers often encounter the same questions and problems that have already been outlined above.

Marketplace professionals are characterised in their development by the fact that they have a "think big" attitude. They act according to the motto: "Where there's wood, there are chips." They don't dwell on unnecessary details and concentrate on sales, order processing and customer satisfaction: if 5,000 items are listed on the marketplaces, they care less that the marketplace discards 20 of them. They ask less about how much a service costs and more about how much they can earn with it. Or how they can use it to make processes more efficient. And they don't let hurdles stop them. For these retailers, the marketplaces often reflect a very positive business development. Within a few months or even just weeks. In our experience, newcomers who don't have this attitude will fail sooner or later.

STEFANO VIANI: Is there anything you would particularly like to recommend to all marketplace newcomers?

PETER MÄHNER: Above all, they should enjoy their product and sell something that really fulfils a demand. As mentioned before, the right expectations are extremely important, otherwise fun quickly turns into frustration. Then comes the commercial aspect: even if the costs of the individual services are often low and sales are primarily billed on a percentage basis, the basic costs quickly add up to several hundred euros per month. There are returns, "lost" shipments and customer queries that cost time and therefore money.

The good thing is that many costs can be switched on and off quickly, as most services do not have long contract terms. The risk is therefore very manageable. The retailer should rely on a well-known shop system for which there is a large community. It is advisable to start with a small range of products on one or two marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay. Perhaps only 5-10 items at first to get a feel for the effort involved in product maintenance, listing, order processing and accounting. Then calculate, plan and realise an upward scaling.

Finally, the beginner should always bear in mind the possibilities of today: Never before in the history of retail has it been possible to sell from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world - and to reach around 200,000,000 online buyers for your products with comparatively little effort. This view makes the one or other hurdle shrink to a micro-problem and is simply fun.

About the Author

As Executive Director of Blackbit digital Commerce GmbH, Stefano Viani manages all areas of the agency in the offices in Göttingen, Hamburg, Berlin and Kiev. His passion is the development of marketing strategies and their implementation in concrete measures.

In his free time, Stefano is passionate about riding his motorbike or working out in the gym.