The importance of marketplaces in today's customer journey

Saskia Thomassen
Team Lead Marketing at EffectConnect
23 November 2021

It is often said and written: marketplaces are essential in an online strategy. But what does this mean for a brand? And what issues are at stake that make a brand hesitant to add marketplaces to its online strategy?

During Shopping Today we gave a presentation together with bol.com about the importance of marketplaces in the current customer journey. Based on a number of statements, we discussed the importance and challenges of marketplaces for brands with each other and the audience.


Bart: “The role of a brand on marketplaces is changing. When bol.com started the Plaza in 2012, it was a nice catalog where a number of third-party vendors were active. These were mostly resellers. Brands had not yet discovered those platforms. Those brands were already busy with the marketplaces idea, but specifically offline. They were mainly active at department stores such as Loods 5, where you can display your goods within a shop-in-shop concept. And then suddenly bol.com started a marketplace. This changed a lot.”

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About the speakers

Bart Vintcent

Bart is CEO at EffectConnect. His relationship with bol.com goes back years, when we built the very first integration for bol.com in 2012. Since then, we've had a great journey together and are now Gold Partner of bol.com.

Daphne Baak

Daphne is Category Lead for Fashion at bol.com. In this role, she is responsible for all commercial activities, customer journey, marketing, promotion of the category Fashion at bol.com, both own and through partners


A platform diminishes my brand experience

Daphne: "Yes, we hear that regularly. I work for fashion, and there it comes along in twofold. On the one hand, the product groups, which feel strange for the industry and the segmentation doesn't feel quite right. And on the other hand, the environment is not inspiring enough. People then say that they can't build their brand on a platform.

You can best compare this product segmentation with a digital Kalverstraat (a well-known shopping street in Amsterdam). There's a bookstore, an electronics store, but also various fashion brands. The customer walking there finds it perfectly natural to find different offerings in the shopping street. So in that sense we understand the argument about our segmentation, but compare it to that digital Kalverstraat. The online customer also expects there to be different offerings on a marketplace. In terms of brand experience, we do indeed hear that people feel there is little room to build a brand. It's not inspiring enough, and consumers don't want to buy clothes in an electronics store."

“We have done research from bol.com on consumers' online search. And we see that today's consumer shops in two ways. On the one hand, very functional: I'm looking for Dr Martens, black, size 39. That search often starts on Google. But also increasingly on our platform. For that functional journey, you can already organize a whole lot of brand experience. You have to make sure your product photos are up to scratch, your content is in order and your product description is correct."

“On the other hand, you have the inspirational journey. Our research has shown that consumers do this very much in their environment: What are friends wearing, what are people wearing in the schoolyard, what do I see on social media, what do I see on TV? Inspiration already starts offline and continues online. And then the consumer moves from the inspirational journey into the orientation phase.


And when you talk about a platform, as a consumer, you want to end up in a fashion store or a home furnishing store. That's what we at bol.com have been working hard on over the past year."

"We have recognized the feedback from partners and used it to build our platform.

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Inspiration on bol.com

So whether you're looking for fashion or living items on bol.com, which are very inspirational categories, as a consumer you first enter such an inspirational environment on our platform. This also happens with the electronics or books segments; you get much more of an idea that you are in an electronics store or bookstore. So we are building more and more journeys. We are very good at the functional journey. Now we are combining that inspirational with the functional journey."

Bart: "So how does this work with other categories?"

Daphne: "You see, for example, in electronics people are looking for all kinds of technical aspects and they often like to test things. We make sure that there is much more information available that supports the conversion to a purchase. That way you support that customer who doesn't really want to or can't put down a concrete search query yet."

Question from the audience: "How does that work if you as a brand want to share more information on the platform. Do you then have to pay, for example, for such a 'premium' spot?"

Daphne: "We have several options for this. On the one hand we have the brand registration for brands. You can then become a content owner as a brand owner. That means you become the owner of all the content for your brand, regardless of whether/how many resellers are on the platform. So you can ensure that all content expressions are in line with how you as a brand would like it to be.

In addition, there is data available. As a seller on bol.com you have a lot of insights. As a reseller, you obviously have access to your own data, but nowadays, there is also additional data available. Of course, there is a fee for this.

And then there is the bol.com Retail Media Group (BRMG). Here you can think of "Sponsored Products, so you can get your products to the top (against payment). In addition, for example, you then have a lot of interaction with me and the team. We look at our marketing calendar, what do we find important, what do we see coming up in search, what is the consumer looking for. And we then share that."

Question from the audience: "What if I as a brand am not situated on the Kalverstraat, but on the PC Hooftstraat (well-known street in Amsterdam with lots of luxury brands).  I then have a certain positioning. How do I then make sure that I don't end up between brands that are on the Kalverstraat?"

Daphne:"Here we have again set up a distinctive journey. You have to think of options such as: check out our premium brands, check out our sustainable brands, etc. Here we also make a distinction between the inspirational journey and the functional journey. A functional search will take you straight to a product page. But if the customer is still in the inspirational search, then it's indeed important to make that distinction and to help the customer in his search. And so we do this through these kinds of separate journeys, to make sure that the customer lands there as well."


As a B2B organization, I cannot sell D2C

Bart: "As a brand, if you now see that you have possibilities on bol.com to implement the inspirational piece, and you feel that you can also do something with it, then it is also good to not only look at the opportunities of marketplaces, but also what the impact is. Of course, you're used to sending in bulk to retailers and to customers who know about your products.

But then suddenly you are selling D2C. There are then quite a few aspects within D2C that you, as a B2B organization, have to take into account. You're going to have individual deliveries, you're going to have individual invoices to customers in a system where you normally have customers with price lists, you need a consumer customer service. Those are all things that you have to think about carefully. So if you think: I can do something with these marketplaces and I can put my brand experience well away on bol.com, then there are a few things you need to pay attention to. You can find extensive information about this in our white paper: The operational impact of D2C for wholesalers"

 

If I sell on marketplaces, I will come into conflict with my resellers

Daphne: "This is a very interesting one. It depends on what type of brand you are and whether you work with resellers. But we do hear regularly that it is difficult to explain why you are present on marketplaces yourself. The point is that consumers are there and they are looking for your product and they expect to find it there. So you will miss that consumer group if you are not present. And that brings you back to the two types of searches: functional and inspirational. We notice that there is an interaction with these resellers.

A solution to this is segmentation. You can make sure that you segment your collections so that you can offer something slightly different on a marketplace."

Bart: "And besides, as a brand you don't have to sell on marketplaces yourself, but you have to be there. Suppose you want to stick to the model of selling exclusively through resellers. Then you can use the trademark registration at bol.com. Then you are the owner of your brand, even though you don't sell on there yourself. Then you only improve the content and keep control over it, without selling on the platform.

Furthermore, we are also seeing more often is that a brand is going to work with those resellers to get the whole D2C journey right. So there are all kinds of directions you can go as a brand."

 

The consumer will find me online anyway

Daphne: "That's right, they will find you. The only question is: where does he convert? You see that bol.com is very dominant and that many searches start there. If you look at SEO and SEA and where does this traffic land, it is often at bol.com. Of course, we have a huge marketing machine behind this. In that inspirational phase, the customer may indeed end up on your website for inspiration. And when he then arrives at the functional phase, you see that he is going to perform a specific search. So it's best to make sure you have your content in order. If a customer lands on a location other than your own website, you have to make sure that the brand experience is also in good order there."

Bart: "So it's not and/or, but and/and. You just have consumers who are huge bol.com fans. They have the app on their phone in their pocket. So as a brand you just have to be there. The issues I see coming up there is: Do I want to sell there? I can imagine it, but the question is more, "Is my buyer there? ' Because then I just need to be there."

Daphne: "Yes, on bol.com there are 3 million visitors a day. That's quite a few."

Question from the audience: "What I am missing on bol.com, is some kind of trend page. If I'm looking for a dress for my girlfriend, I might also want to buy a sweater from that brand. So then I have to search for that brand on bol.com now, but maybe I would actually like a trend page, where I can see a kind of clothing rack of that brand so I can pick out nice things together."

Daphne: “That can be created on bol.com, so-called brand pages. Now it is still the case that, if you have found the dress, you have to go back to the overview to continue shopping. So we still have some steps to make here at bol.com. That you get more of a shop-in-shop idea, so that they stick with your brand and your category.”

Question from the audience: “You just said that as a brand, you need to be present on the platform for visibility. But then does that customer get a bad brand experience if something is out of stock?“

Bart: "Yes, that has mainly to do with ownership of your brand and your content, to make sure everything is in order. But indeed, stock is also important. I also see an important collaboration with resellers here. If, for example, an item is no longer in stock at your location, but at your reseller's location, you can work together to ensure that you never run out of stock."

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Would you like to know what you need to think of as an organization when selling directly to consumers? You can read all about it in the white paper: The operational impact of D2C for wholesalers.

Download this whitepaper