Shopper buying frequency on online marketplaces is strong, as 44% of online shoppers buy from marketplaces at least weekly. Of this group, 8% acknowledge making purchases on a daily basis. Beyond this active segment, 43% buy monthly with the remaining 13% making a yearly purchase.
When asked about their experiences with marketplaces over the past year, online shoppers remain passionate about purchasing via Amazon’s marketplace. That was in play for 76% of survey respondents. As there is a lot of clutter on marketplaces from advertising and sponsorship, we wondered if shoppers understood the complexity of marketplaces. As it turns out, close to half (46%) admitted they didn’t know if a product was being offered by Amazon or another marketplace seller.
Who’s selling what? And where?
An array of U.S. marketplaces beyond Amazon, eBay and Walmart, including specialty marketplaces, are also capturing shopper attention. Some 35% purchased from Walmart’s marketplace and 39% ventured out, also buying from marketplaces beyond eBay, Amazon and Walmart. 31% of participants bought from specialty marketplaces. Chinese marketplaces saw 18% penetration, and 6% of respondents purchased from other non-listed marketplaces.
Shoppers are active in the community, leaving product reviews at Amazon and other marketplaces. Amazon was the biggest recipient (46%), while 31% took the time to leave reviews beyond Amazon.
Interest in same-day delivery is seen and will likely grow in the coming year as 20% of those surveyed make those “need it now” purchases. Though marketplace sellers strive for in-stock status, 18% encountered out-of-stocks, which seems somewhat reasonable coming off post-COVID supply chain woes.
A topic we wanted to cover in-depth this year was counterfeit products. Just 9% of respondents felt they received such merchandise.
With assortments on marketplaces perceived to be greater, shoppers may find marketplaces more attractive. Half of marketplace visitors believe they are finding larger assortments with 43% about the same and just 7% less.
Higher prices, longer delivery lead times and out-of-stock products were the biggest marketplace challenges shoppers faced
Marketplaces need to monitor everything from product pricing to shipping fees as customers are savvy and shop around. This is especially true as 39% felt that marketplace prices were higher than they remembered. Additionally, 26% believed shipping fees were higher as well.
Logistics can be challenging for online shoppers with heightened interest in fast delivery. Yet, longer delivery lead times were found among 26% of survey respondents.
Out-of-stocks were sometimes a factor for shoppers (22%) and may have driven them to explore alternative marketplaces. Customer service-wise, just 15% said that limited or longer wait times were seen as problematic.
For 24%, it was difficult to distinguish between going to sellers versus the main marketplace, which was seen as challenging. Marketplaces should assess awareness of where products are made and their authenticity, though. Only 18% discerned if products were made in the USA, and just 17% if products were counterfeit.
Shopper buying frequency: Social marketplaces get increased attention
Social marketplaces like Facebook or Instagram are attractive to online shoppers. Sellers should test them to see if audience fit makes sense. One in four online buyers shops these social marketplaces. It’s also a positive that 19% of survey respondents indicate being more comfortable with the online marketplace model. And 18% are conducting more online purchases via marketplaces.
Sellers must be aware of the clutter factor. Some 20% of survey respondents suggested they dislike it when retailers such as Target and Walmart add marketplaces because the retailers’ sites become cluttered.
More online behavior changes include shopping directly on sellers’ websites instead of marketplaces (19%), increased purchasing on marketplaces (18%), trying new online marketplaces (17%), and shopping exclusively on marketplaces (6%).
The same number of respondents (20%) find the broader marketplace assortment appealing and believe marketplaces tend to have more inventory.
From a dollars and cents point of view, perceptions from 23% were that prices were often lower than other retailer sites. Meanwhile, 16% felt fees were often less than other retailer sites. Yet 14% found prices including shipping fees in line with other retailer sites.
And when it came to customer service, 13% suggested marketplace customer service is on par with the retail sites they shop (13%).
Marketplace adoption expands
Marketplace purchasing will likely be steady in the coming year as two in three online shoppers plan to purchase about the same from marketplaces. Comfort with the model sees one in four shoppers indicating they will be buying more or exclusively from marketplaces. Positively, only 10% will buy less, and 5% said they don’t buy on marketplaces.
Many shoppers will experiment when smartly tempted by marketplace sellers. The majority of shoppers (52%) are willing to buy from unfamiliar marketplace brands or sellers. The biggest opportunity is convincing those that are on the fence that a site or brand is a viable option and to gain their comfort among the 29% of participants on the fence.
Online marketplace exposure and purchasing often leads to direct purchasing, which is likely to be more profitable for the merchant. Over half of online shoppers surveyed indicate that they have ultimately purchased directly with that merchant. This added product visibility via marketplaces can serve as a strong customer acquisition vehicle, making it one of the reasons retailers are participating more on marketplaces.
The role of ratings/reviews in helping shoppers make smart selections has bottom-line impact for sellers. 96% of online shoppers read and make purchases based on ratings and reviews. Reviews always influence the majority (55%) when making purchases. Meanwhile, 41% occasionally see such an impact.
Thus, online marketplaces must make sure reviews are robust. Smartly positioning reviews within the shopping experience ensure strong viewership.
Marketplace shopping starts with better prices and free shipping, along with in-stock products that can be delivered fast
Online shoppers seek the fundamentals when choosing to shop at marketplaces over going directly to retail sites. Price is the driving factor, selection appreciated, and convenience a given. Topping the list of influences in driving online shoppers to marketplaces is better prices (52%) and free and discounted shipping (51%).
Delivery speed is also an important influence in selecting marketplaces. 41% of survey respondents refer to it in choosing a marketplace. Shipping efficiencies, at 25%, also were a factor.
34% of survey respondents see marketplaces, at their core, as more convenient ways to shop. For 25%, it may be the broader selection in a category and for 20% the influencing factor in a wider range of categories in one location. Meanwhile, 17% found they were ideal for repeat purchasing (17%). But more interesting to me is that they have a unique opportunity to help online shoppers find very specific items (34%) while also trying unique products (24%) that sways shoppers toward marketplaces.
Past experience is an important indicator of future purchasing. It served as an influence for 20% of those surveyed as well.
From a tactical perspective, ratings and reviews — and more comprehensive product information (14%) — power purchasing. Higher seller feedback and ratings were influencers for 25% of participants.
Shoppers have a preference for in-stock products, and 34% found it influenced their behavior.
Other marketplace tactics that came into play from an influence point of view included loyalty programs (19%) and mobile apps (18%). I’m surprised only 13% cited superior service. It should go without saying.
Top concerns related to online marketplace purchasing are logistics, fees, product authenticity and return limitations
Online shoppers want the products they purchase to be of top quality and as represented on the site. Encountering counterfeit products was top of mind for 35% of participants. At the same time, 30% cited issues around subpar product quality.
Because long shipping times can cause buyers to worry (39%), inventory and delivery transparency are welcome. 22% of these online shoppers expressed concerns that an online order would never ship.
Shoppers expect marketplace goods to come from trusted sellers. Some 30% had trepidation about non-U.S. sellers. Simultaneously, 29% worried about whether the seller was not reputable or certified.
Shoppers like to have flexibility in their return choices. Some 33% of surveyed online shoppers found a lack of return options a challenge. Having customer service and support available is a given. 28% of respondents cited it.
A lack of product or seller reviews concerned 27%. The validity and authenticity of product reviews also was an issue for 29%.
From the money and savings vantage point, 38% found shipping costs too high, while fraudulent business practices including counterfeit goods were on the concern list at 35%. Unexpected additional expenses such as sales tax (22%), finding U.S. products at lower prices (16%) and financing options not available (11%) also were on the minds of these shoppers.
Online marketplaces continue to have an opportunity to grow. Broad assortments and attention to the fundamentals — from price to selection — set the tone for success. I advise vigilance when it comes to them. Sellers must monitor the quality and authenticity of their products. Product reviews and information will continue to drive confidence, along with an uncluttered, search-friendly and efficient experience. Monitoring consumer behavior will ensure marketplaces are on track for success in 2023 and beyond.
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