How to find new customers and grow your business, straight from the experts

Jul 13 2021 | Dr. Tiffany Raymond

You’ve taken your business from idea to product. Perhaps you’ve launched your own website and sales have been promising. Now you’re looking to grow and attract new customers. Online marketplaces and channels are a great place to start.
It’s easy to see why millions of entrepreneurs and businesses are already selling on such marketplaces. In fact, marketplace sales rocketed an estimated 42.6 percent in the U.S. last year1, lifted by the rising ecommerce tide as shoppers shifted online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Online marketplaces and channels offer a number of compelling advantages. They can help you instantly reach tens of millions of potential customers. They make it easy to get up and running. And many offer additional resources such as international selling, discounted delivery, and access to their data and analytics.  
 
But not all marketplaces are the same. And not all will be the best fit for your product or service. I spoke to Tim Osborn of ecommerce platform Ecwid and Jason Lively of The Glitter Guy to hear their expertise and advice. Here are five pro tips to help you get started.
 
  • Know where your customers are. A common mistake is thinking that you have to set up shop on every marketplace and channel out there. Understand where your audience is spending their time and engaging, and then focus on that channel.
 
“You don’t need to sell everywhere. If you’re selling custom machined parts for farmers, you probably don’t need to be selling on Instagram.” Tim Osborn.
 
  • Do your homework and compare platforms. Marketplaces can differ widely in ease of use, smoothness of the purchase process, and cross-platform syncing. Some channels may charge for certain features. If you have limited resources you may want to prioritize platforms that are simpler or include more in their basic plans. Keep in mind that social channels are massive media businesses in their own right that answer to many different stakeholders, not just the needs of business owners.
 
“A lot of people are unfamiliar with the fact that Facebook uses ever-changing algorithms to tailor our individual social media experiences specifically to keep us interested. What I see in my feed advertised daily is not what you see. This can easily lead a business owner to believe that there is far more hype behind something than there is. As business owners we need to be able to step outside of the consumer mindset and be sure that we are doing more complete research and analytics outside of social media before making any substantial business decisions.” Jason Lively.
 
  • Have a plan to communicate and engage with customers. We all love happy customers and the warm glow that comes from a positive review. But a big issue many fledging online businesses face when selling on social media is how to handle negativity. Whether it be an angry customer, an aggressive competitor, or just general misinformation, you’ll need to stay diligent about what is being said about your company and product. Rapid, honest engagement is critical.
 
“If you are up-front to your customers when you make a mistake -- and you will make mistakes -- then that pretty much closes the door on the idea of you being dishonest. By constantly sticking with this, we have noticed that more often than not our customers will come to bat for us before we even need to touch the keyboard.” Jason Lively.
 
  • Make sure you understand shipping. Shipping may seem like a technical detail or afterthought but it can quickly become a giant headache. This is especially true for international orders, so be sure to research the costs before committing to anything. Shipping costs are also a top reason that customers don’t complete an order. Counter this by creating incentive programs to help offset shipping costs.
 
“In the beginning we had a free shipping threshold set that would apply regardless of location. We soon learned that we did not do nearly enough research on just how high shipping costs could get, and at times we were left covering shipping costs that basically ate up the entire profit of the order. We have since created a shipping discount program for international customers that no longer leaves me covering anything out of reason.” Jason Lively.
 
  • Be willing to experiment. One of the great advantages of digital marketplaces is the speed at which they evolve and add new capabilities. Compared to brick-and-mortar retail, it’s relatively easy to try new tools and approaches. Keep in mind that success probably won’t come overnight. Be patient -- you’ll soon find out what works and what doesn’t. Be ready to iterate and change your approach as you learn.
 
“You rarely ever get it right the first time. So don’t get too attached to one thing. Be willing to experiment and try new things and make changes as you learn.” Tim Osborn.
 
Done right, online marketplaces and channels can help take your business to the next level. These are just a few expert tips to start thinking about. To learn more, download our detailed checklist to guide you through key questions and help you pick the marketplace or channel that is best for your business.
 
 
 
What’s covered in the checklist?
Audience
  • What is the channel or marketplace’s audience breakdown?
  • Does that audience match your target?
  • Where are your audience likely to begin their search?
  • Are similar products being sold on the platform?
  • Are your competitors on the platform?
 
Marketplace or channel
  • Does it have features customers tend to prioritize? (Free shipping, quality guarantee on purchase, discounts and/or coupons, popular payment options, price matching)
  • Does it have features business owners tend to prioritize? (Easy to set-up, good pricing, flexible, drives traffic to my website, superior functionality)
  • What are the channel or marketplace’s best practices?
  • Can it sync inventory across multiple channels?
  • How does it integrate with other platforms, channels, and payment systems?
  • What payments methods does it accept?
  • What advertising opportunities does it provide?
  • Can you advertise through different channels?
 
Avoiding common mistakes
  • How long will it take to set your business up on the platform?
  • What are your three, six, and twelve month goals for the platform?
  • Do you have the resources (time and money) available to make this a success?

Who are the experts?
  • Dr. Tiffany Raymond, Head of Global Customer Advocacy and Experience, PayPal. Dr. Tiffany Raymond, PhD, leads the global Customer Advocacy team at PayPal. She is passionate about working with merchants of all sizes across PayPal’s portfolio and consults with them on ecommerce best practices and optimization.
  • Tim Osborn, Associate Creative Director, Ecwid. Tim is a veteran content creator who’s spent the last six years helping small businesses around the world succeed online. As the global creative lead for Ecwid, Tim specializes in delivering high-energy content to teach first-time business owners about everything from e-commerce software to marketing their products and finding the right shipping strategies.
  • Jason Lively, President, The Glitter Guy, Inc. The Glitter Guy is a glitter and craft supply company that is family owned and operated in Voorhees, NJ. Launched by founders Jason and Sara Lively out of their shed in November of 2018, The Glitter Guy has now grown into an almost 50,000 sq./ft. facility earning them the title of "fastest growing glitter supplier."
1“Etsy doubles its sales as small-business demand skyrockets”, Insider Intelligence | eMarketer, March 2021

The content of this article and template are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.
 

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