10 Ways to Exploit Online Marketplaces to Boost your Export Business

Online marketplaces have been an absolute godsend for exporters in India and abroad. The new-age exporter no longer has to travel long hours in a cramped plane to meet prospective buyers and showcase his products. Nor does he have to spend precious dollars buying exhibition space in expensive trade fairs and carrying tonnes of samples and marketing collaterals, in the hope that business will materialise from the few genuinely interested buyers who turn up at the booth. Online marketplaces have created the perfect virtual space where exporters can showcase their products and communicate with prospective buyers at a fraction of the cost that exporters would spend when the Internet had not become so all pervasive. And today there is no exporter worth his salt, and we lay a strong emphasis on the ‘no’ here, who does not have an online presence in one or more online marketplaces.

Exporters, big and small, have made a bee-line for online marketplaces, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). Take for instance, the big Indian brand Amul making its debut on the Amazon Global Selling Platform in November 2016. With the Global Selling programme, Amul and many other Indian exporters can now sell their products in nine countries, which include US, UK, Japan, France and Canada – it’s a total consumer base of 300 million, which includes a huge Indian diaspora that is nostalgic for all that is Indian. At present, the programme lists 25 million products from 18,000 sellers in India. These exporters include famous retail brands such as Fab India, Biba, Himalaya, Organic India and Liberty Shoes among others. And this is just the tip of the iceberg as this is just one of many B2C platforms.

The real opportunity for exporters however lie in the B2B international marketplaces. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, as we all know, has played a pivotal role in promoting exports from Chinese SMEs, with great success. And the B2B marketplaces of today have evolved to not only listing and showcasing of products but to full-service platforms. Today, these B2B platforms provide services from credit rating and due diligence of buyers to facilitating export inspection and export credit financing to receivables recovery services, all under the same umbrella. There really is no conceivable reason why an exporter will not avail the services of an international marketplace.

International marketplaces surely offer immense scope for Indian exporters to expand their global footprint. But it can’t be all that easy, can it? There sure is an art and a science of exploiting a marketplace to maximise your benefits. Read on to find out how!

1.Research the market, identify your audience on the world map and choose the right marketplace.

Before setting off on your export expedition, a thorough market research pertaining to the demand for your product will stand you in good stead. It’ll help you to focus on selling to specific regions where the demand actually exists. And targetted selling means less expenses and more profits!

And as they say, all marketplaces are created equal, so do ensure that you choose the right marketplace for your products. The sheer number of choices available to exporters today is not only remarkable but can be very confusing as well. Some marketplaces are bespoke in that they specialise in particular products; mjunction for instance specialises in bulk steel and metals, others cater to a wide range of products.

2.Map your product to the needs of your international audience.

It is already known that the Indian government has started mapping region-specific exports to increase its share of global trade. You should do the same. In the age of Internet, data is the new gold. And you should make use of the immense foreign trade data that is available. A careful analysis of the data can point you to the right market for your products and may even help you price it right. You may have to spend on buying trade data, but we think it is money well spent and will allow you to flourish at a greater speed.

3.Diversify your customer base.

Regardless of the size, every company needs to boost its bottomline. Almost all companies are constantly searching for new customers. The global market is teeming with opportunities to expand your customer base. Rebrand, reposition and re-purpose your products and showcase them in the virtual space at a fraction of a cost of the physical marketplace. There are very few cost-effective options than the virtual marketplace to try and innovate with your existing product lines.

4.Expand your product basket.

A diverse and varied product range facilitates exporters to sell their products better in online marketplaces. It is important to note that the sellers’ products must complement the buyers’ need. After all, you sure wouldn’t want your products to be seen just as a matter of curiosity and not make a sale because you don’t come across as a serious seller who can offer a variety of products.

5.Make yourself atleast a little aware of the technology your international marketplace uses.

Technology is the backbone of any marketplace, and to a large extent defines how your potential buyers perceive your products. What should you look for? A solid technical platform and the correct tools for listings management and easy catalogue integration to ensure that the products are listed and displayed properly. If the customers need to struggle to find a product, they’ll simply walk away, buying being out of question!

6.Ensure quality photographs – A picture speaks more than a thousand words.

Products that you put up for display on the marketplaces need to be photographed well. They need to be appealing so that they grab the attention of the customers. High-quality visuals help in product differentiation too. On the other hand, even if the product is good, poor-quality images of the product can create a perception of poor quality products. Good visuals also help a customer to remember your products better once they have seen it.

7.Choose SEO-friendly product titles and labels.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) isn’t something new. Most businesses are aware of the importance of appearing high in search rankings. The same principles apply to listing products on an online marketplace. Ideally, sellers should ask their marketing managers to put as much thought to labels and key words as they would put on an advertisement SEO specialists can also help to decide what would be an efficient title for a particular product category. This would help both in terms of being attention-grabbing and raking up search engine rankings. For instance, if you are selling kitchen items, customers would mostly search for the product by it utility. As such, mentioning the utility at the beginning of the title would be critical in getting picked up in searches.

8.Apply pricing tools.

Price is among the most important factors in a buyers decision making process. Besides, everyone loves a bargain. Most good marketplaces will provide pricing tools which allow sellers to compare their prices with the current best price of similar products. The prices for your products should then be adjusted accordingly. There is ample data available on most marketplaces to help you price your products right. Use them and buyers will flock to you.

9.Know your competition.

The name of the game is knowing who your competition is. A basic research, with tools that the online marketplace should be able to provide, will tell you who you are up against. Find out who your competitor is selling to and what price? Does the competition have something that you don’t? Can you set yourself apart? Are there markets that your competitor hasn’t been able to tap into. These small bits of information can help put you way past the competition.

10.Know your buyer.

This possibly is the most underplayed but most important factor when availing the services of an online marketplace, a factor that can make the difference between success and failure. A good marketplace should be able to provide you with background information about a prospective buyer. Does your prospect transact many times in small batch sizes or is he prone to give just a few large orders? During which season does he buy your product the most? Is there a sweet point as far as pricing is considered? Armed with this knowledge you can negotiate a win-win deal.


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