In the previous episode, we talked about recruiting sellers and onboarding them onto marketplaces and, more generally, platforms. Another key phase in the success of your sellers, from the outset and in the long term, is the support you give them. Christophe de Sahb, expert in e-commerce and seller management and Business Development Manager at Webhelp, unveils 3 best practices to support your sellers and boost your marketplace performance.

In order for a marketplace to be active and commercially viable, there must be a Minimum Viable Ecosystem (MVE) that brings together those stakeholders that are key to the commercial launch of the marketplace – the first sellers and the first buyers. As we have seen previously, when it comes to sellers, this ecosystem has to be identified, recruited and onboarded ([Back to basics] The foundations of a successful a B2B marketplace: the seller management).

The next phase, known as the set-up phase, is based on the operational preparation of these sellers. This new phase involves key steps such as creating and setting up the store in the marketplace solution’s middle office (the area managed by the sellers), or creating a product catalogue that is attractive, practical and aligned with the platform’s value proposition.

Although the necessity and advantage for a seller to become operational as quickly as possible seems obvious in theory, this is a complex process with human, technological and organisational implications.

One reason for this is that sellers who are experienced in the platform model are in very high demand. It is therefore important to identify the sellers that are most relevant to your platform, target them and clearly communicate your added value, and offer them the right level of support.

3 tips to support your sellers from the outset and in the long term:

1/ From onboarding to brand support

Once the sellers have been successfully onboarded and are operating independently, the work doesn’t stop there. Support is required for more technical areas such as regularly updating catalogues for cyclical businesses, which can involve adding a lot of new collections. In this regard, the operator must offer a brand support service, either directly or through a partner.

2/ From catalogue creation to content management

During the catalogue creation and update phase, it is crucial to ensure the quality of information, compliance with the platform’s classification system and consistency between the data entered in the product management tool and the data shown to buyers. In particular, the data must comply with the platform’s editorial line (photo/video quality, standard information provided, ecolabels, etc.). For example, for textile products, if information on care or composition is not provided, buyers are not likely to choose these products, which will have an impact on the seller’s and the operator’s revenue. It is also essential that the price displayed by the seller on the platform is, at the very least, consistent with the retail price displayed by the brand.

3/ Managing customer relations

The seller must be able to respond promptly to its customers’ questions or requests. This is essential both from a customer satisfaction perspective for the seller and from a reputational perspective for the marketplace operator. Defining, qualifying and attributing levels of responsibility and SLAs (Service-Level Agreements) based on the issues found and their criticality (Level 1, 2 or 3) may be carried out with a partner that specialises in customer relations. Level 1 will preferably be managed by a single stakeholder – the marketplace operator or the customer relations expert – so that the brand is not affected by poor customer service.

In summary, ensuring that sellers are operational, sufficiently independent and surrounded by effective tools provided by the operator is one of the keys to successful marketplaces and platforms.

Although the operator has to be involved in certain key phases at the beginning of the project (such as creating the store or developing the first catalogue), the complexity of certain processes will require expert support in order to enable the seller to ramp up quickly and ensure that its operations are scalable, whilst also managing costs. This will particularly be the case for managing customer relations, which requires the operator to have already implemented a certain level of customer service internally with proven processes.

We will be talking about the next step soon, once the platform has been launched; this step involves managing orders and payments. This is known as Order-to-Cash, which covers all processes involved from order to payment (credit management, order processing, invoicing, payment reminders, payment collection and debt collection).