Hello, Annette! Right now you are launching your own eCommerce marketplace that's opening on May 19, 2018. Share your fresh experience with our readers, please.
Annette, what are the most important aspects a future marketplace owner must keep in mind before starting the business?
There are so many aspects of starting an online marketplace that need consideration. Some of them you can predict prior to starting and others you simply learn along the way. This process will always be part of being an entrepreneur. I would say that the key to it is drawing out a plan and being very clear on the structure of your online marketplace. The vision you have for it and the future you plan to create not just for your store, but those who join the marketplace as sellers, as well as those future customers that will be using it to find their favourite pieces.
Another piece of advice that I would love to pass on is to invest plenty of time to research the platform you'll be using. There are a lot of choices out there in today's world, many designed for single-seller online stores, with plenty of apps to plug in that promises the ease of creating a multi-vendor marketplace. One of the harder parts of this journey was finding the right platform that was designed 100% for a multi-seller market, one that understands the essential needs of organization, user-, and room for future growths. I'm excited to be using the CS-Cart Multi-Vendor software and with over 1,300 marketplaces built with it worldwide, being the most popular solution they sure know what they are doing!
What is more challenging to start—a multi vendor marketplace or a traditional single-seller store?
Having done both, I would say that there is much more of challenging in starting a marketplace. With a single-seller store, I was able to bring the vision and products I had in mind to life by putting in the work. Regardless of what I work on, I become quite passionate about it and will work endlessly until it's complete. Starting a multi-seller store is entirely different as it requires me to lead the idea and concept not just for myself, but for those that are part of this new venture. It means keeping everyone updated on progress, launch dates, and collaborating with many different types of creatives at once to make this marketplace successful.
Although it's certainly more work to create a multi-seller marketplace, it's even more exciting because it's also building a community of creatives that have joined together with the same vision.
You can ask any creative business owner, and they will tell you that although they consider their job the best in the world, doing what they love, it can be lonely at times. My goal with this isn't just to create the most defined marketplace of ethically handmade pieces from around the world, but build a community around the markets. A place where we can all come together and grow.
Do the marketplace storefront design and navigation matter at the start?
Beautiful designs and user-friendly site navigation is incredibly essential in launching strong. Web design is something I also enjoy, and it's helped me piece together my storefront design. As far as investing in a unique design or spending that budget elsewhere I believe that the best businesses out there don't use unique branding as the backbone of their business, they use the products they sell, the pieces that truly define what their company is all about. I'll always strive to have a beautiful, user-friendly website, but I do not feel the need to hire a designer to create a unique one of a kind brand and store design for my marketplace because this business is so much more than just a layout.
My advice would be to find a theme you love, as there are some incredible affordable pre-made themes available and use this as your platform to display your products. As long as you have a unique idea, with unique products, a clean, organized theme will do the job.
It's also important to keep in mind that where you start, is not where you will end. Throughout the years you'll make adjustments, you'll grow, you'll change your design, and as you're moving forward in the right direction, all aspects of your business will improve with it, including your store-front design. The goal of running a successful business is not to have it all figured out on day one; this is simply where we start.
How to stand out from your competitor marketplaces and fight giants like eBay and Etsy?
It's easy to stand out when you're willing to stand alone. We believe places like eBay and Etsy, which all started out small at some point in time have a wonderful place in today's economy. They serve a purpose, and we have no desire to replace them or become them. We have a very defined vision for our company, one of them is ensuring that all pieces sold on our marketplace are truly handmade by creatives from around the world. Something no other online marketplace is genuinely doing. It is the core of our business and it's what makes our company unique from anything else you'll find out there.
We are a marketplace where artisans feel passionate about what they create and sell. We sew, knit, crochet, and embroider. We weave, spin, and felt. We hammer, carve and toil. We design patterns and share our skills and love for the craft. All of us strive to hone our skills and develop our style.
The beautiful thing about unique ideas is that you eliminate the worry of competition, as a business owner myself, I applaud all other businesses, small or big and believe there is enough room for everyone.
"You don't have to blow out someone else's candles for your light to shine."
We have some great marketing and advertising plans ahead to get our shop sellers in front of the best potential customers and are beyond excited to help hundreds of small businesses reach new levels for their business.