How to Attract Sellers on Your Virtual Multi Vendor Marketplace

A practical guideline on how to convince sellers to sell on your internet multi vendor platform and get more vendors

Every online marketplace starts out empty. The main differentiator of those that attract thousands of visitors daily, is the ability to get the multi vendor e-commerce

marketplace magnet for customers—quality sellers.

The e-commerce leaders adopt various approaches to acquire sellers and turn their multi seller shopping malls into globally famous thriving wholesale multi vendor platforms.

Etsy leveraged a large craftsmen community that already existed; thus the ecommerce platform had highly-targeted vendors on the very day of launching.

Amazon turned an e-store into a multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace. The Internet shoping mall platform first established a large customer base as an online book reseller, to convince independent sellers to join its new web marketplace model later on.

Airbnb invited existing suppliers from Craigslist, and developed sellers-newcomers from scratch as well.

Thus, there are many ways to attract sellers to your virtual multi vendor marketplace and convince them to stay there for long.

1. Define Your Ideal Seller Portrait to Find Real Ones Successfully

To form an offer that will convince your targeted vendors to try out a new virtual shopping mall platform, build a detailed picture of their personalities, professional characteristics, and expectations.

Define your targeted vendors' segment

As mentioned in our How to open an online marketplace article, before you approach sellers with your offer, you need to narrow a segment that fits your multi vendor e-commerce marketplace idea.
By concept:
  • Business To Consumer vendors (B2C): Amazon, eBay.
  • Consumer To Consumer sellers (C2C): Airbnb, Etsy.
  • Business To Business (B2B), then a marketplace is a medium for businesses to find suppliers among other organizations: Alibaba, Sears.
By a seller professional level:
Professional sellers (traders, suppliers): Alibaba.
By a virtual marketplace type:
  • Service-oriented marketplace: Upwork, MyClean.
  • Physical goods marketplace: Etsy, eBay.
  • Digital products mall: Gumroad.
Having the narrow segment helps to define where to find vendors who match your concept the most, understand their needs and prepare an offer that will work for them.

Finding and attracting sellers that match your multi seller shopping mall concept—best practices

Potential sellers that would be newcomers in e-commerce can be found in offline and online business directories and aggregators, hobby clubs, networking groups, trade associations, online forums, offline stores, and workshops.

Country Culture, a well-known Australian Internet multi vendor platform for local designers and producers from all over the country, is searching for sellers offline.

Ange Lavender, the web marketplace founder, claims that the main sources to find vendors are local villages with designers and producers that are crafting quality goods in hidden workspaces.

The team even placed the marketplace mascot—a dog Rusty's photo on the website, to reflect the way they search sellers. Most of the time, it's only locals who know how to find those designers.
virtual multi vendor marketplace
Established sellers already work on Internet marketplaces and are presented with their products on other relevant virtual shopping mall platforms, social media, and communities.

While being a startup, Airbnb launched an email-campaign, though isn't official but a hidden one, to invite Craigslist's rental suppliers to try out their ecommerce platform.

The emails were set up on behalf of a random young lady, who was encouraging Craigslist's sellers to check out Airbnb:
internet multi vendor platform
Existing communities represent a highly-targeted group of potential sellers that match your virtual shopping mall platform concept but don't sell online yet.

Before the multi seller shopping mall idea popped up, Etsy's future founders were collaborating with getcrafty.com, a 10,000 members message board. Getcrafty was a community of artisans and craftsmen, who were looking for a good place to sell handmade things online.

The Etsy founders decided to establish a virtual multi vendor marketplace to satisfy that need, and while building it, they discovered another community of around 100,000 craftsmen.

With this, the Internet multi vendor platform had thousands of sellers to register and try the platform out at the very day of launching. They easily gained more than 100,000 highly-targeted sellers.

Digging into sellers' expectations and needs to form a perfect offer

There are the few common advantages that attract sellers to try a multi vendor e-commerce marketplace in general:

  • an opportunity to embrace new markets and gain a wide customer audience;
  • ability to use a web marketplace advanced features and infrastructure;
  • a new sales channel and additional promotion;
  • a chance to try out online sales and start their business—for newcomers.

However, it's useful to establish an understanding of the unique needs and characteristics of your targeted seller group, to form a unique offer that will convince them to join your wholesale multi vendor platform.

Thus, it's better to implement research that is embracing exactly your audience.
Set up a data-driven picture about sellers
For example, the Etsy's multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace survey reveals important details about its sellers:

  • 91 percent of the sellers are female;
  • 20 percent work at the platform full-time, and 65 percent part-time;
  • 40 percent of sellers needed no funding to start working on Etsy.

The marketplace sellers' business types and demographic information is surveyed as well.

The Etsy sellers demographic chart
multi vendor e-commerce marketplace
With such information at hand, it is possible to build a detailed seller portrait, to tweak a proposal, and outline the best approach for future negotiations with sellers.

Such a survey can be implemented through polls or questionnaires, or the data you need can be accessed through the existing surveys that are embracing your targeted sellers.

When you have a picture on your targeted sellers' characteristics and needs, it's time to set up an offer, and build an acquisition strategy.
True Experience #1
Kim Smith, Content Marketer with GoodFirms, a B2B Research and Review Platform
Digging into the classic Egg-Chicken problem of E-Commerce, where the question is Supply first or Demand first? It is quite evidentiary that the secret lies within the balance. To lure the customers with the presence of attractive products and to lure the sellers with a presence of sizable, engaging customers.

So yes, Customers: In the initial phase of the E-Commerce, you can lure in sellers on your platform by marketing yourself that you can bring in targeted customers for them. But on a longer run, it is the size of your customer base which would attract sellers to come on your platform and sell.

Simpler Logistics: What any seller would be happy to deal with is an incoming order, handing over the product and getting paid. Simple. This ideology plays an important part in marketing your platform to sellers. Making a platform where sellers have ease and smoothness in the technology sector would make your platform stand apart. For an example putting a smooth transaction service or a better shipping service.

Seller-Customer Relations: Being the link, what a seller would want is to fill the gap between the seller and customer. To become the voice of the customer for the seller to keep up the trend of the market. Plus to become a Customer-Support for the seller to keep the reputation for the seller.

Back-End Help: For an E-Commerce point of view, a seller is not much different from a buyer. Giving a back-end helping hand to a seller to in terms of inventory management, cash flow management, and much more helps gain trust and value from sellers.

2. Negotiations and Acquisition

Before you approach potential sellers with your offer, consider your competitors' conditions to prepare the better ones and to convince vendors to join your virtual shopping mall platform.

Research competitors to outperform them with your offer

If there are multi seller shopping malls with the concept that is similar to yours out there, research their offer to find additional elements to strengthen yours.

For example, the reasons why Etsy is popular among its sellers are:

  • vendors use the web marketplace, not having to create their own websites;
  • ability to set up a shop and start working quickly: a basic template and payment system are ready to be used as the part of the virtual marketplace ecosystem;
  • for newcomers—they can try running their business without the financial risk;
Thus, the main values that Etsy provides are minimal financial resources and technical skills that sellers need to set up a shop.

At the same time, Etsy has its contra:

  • fees are getting higher;
  • copycats: the original design of a seller can be copied by another vendor;
  • bad customization: listings are relatively unimaginative.
Based on that, consider your virtual multi vendor marketplace concept and value-added services, and form an offer that will outperform the existing multi seller shopping malls services.

For example, Flipkart has an Infringement Verification process that helps intellectual property owners report listings that infringe their rights:
wholesale multi vendor platform
By combining such an option with a better listings' customization feature and lower fees you could outperform even a well-known multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace like Etsy and convince it's sellers to join your wholesale multi vendor platform.

The example shows that, if after competitors research you'd defined certain points where competitors' weakness, your online marketplace strengths and sellers need overlap, you should emphasize them to sellers at first.

The concrete steps to acquise sellers

Take a personal approach
Airbnb's founders were travelling across the country to meet their first suppliers in person.

The virtual marketplace specific—sharing living space with strangers from all over the world—implied that it would be the best to personally communicate with the first suppliers, to convince them that the multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace can provide security and trust.

Spreading a positive example—demonstrate your sellers' success

If it's impossible to communicate with vendors in person, establish a go-to blog, a seller forum, or a community to show potential sellers the success of the existing ones, to convince them to join through seeing all the benefits existing vendors have while working on your marketplace.

Flipkart is showing its sellers success stories referring to local Indian tradition of the family business:
multi seller shopping mall
This case also demonstrates that it is important to adapt your strategy to a targeted seller's personal characteristics.

In Indian society, family business is very common; thus the virtual shopping mall platform is not only showcasing the existing seller's success, but it is doing it in a way that fits the targeted vendors' values.
Solve potential vendors' challenges
For a B2B-seller, going global usually requires a large budget and significant infrastructure changes. Emphasize the advantages of working through an online marketplace to convince B2B-sellers:

  • minimum costs;
  • ability to use existing infrastructure and ecosystem to tap into new markets;
  • the first sales come much sooner than in case if a B2B-seller is expanding business in a traditional way, and building its own local infrastructure.

Also, you could convince a company to join your multi seller shopping mall by solving existing vendor issues.

For example, a seller's deadstock can be listed on your multi vendor e-commerce marketplace at a low price.
This will help to demonstrate a marketplace good work and build trust in advance.

eBay has a Deadstock sub-category to help vendors sell items of that kind faster:
multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace
Offer special conditions
To motivate sellers to join a new Internet multi vendor platform, you can put a zero price for the post-launching period, like Etsy:
virtual shopping mall platform
Besides, this example shows another important argument to convince sellers.

The virtual multi vendor marketplace demonstrated new sellers how exactly it is going to attract customers and boost traffic–by promoting the ecommerce platform through the niche events:
Instead of a zero price, an established multi seller shopping mall which wants to attract more sellers can set up lower fees for unique inventory, which is popular among web marketplace customers.
Demonstrate your tool-set ecosystem and infrastructure advantages
A flawless ecosystem differentiates the experience on your multiple vendor ecommerce

marketplace in compare to other e-commerce platforms, and can convince sellers to stay on your site.

Offer free-trial runs for sellers to try out your wholesale multi vendor platform features before they join, to compare them to the ones they currently use.

LinkedIn offers a one-month free trial to demonstrate its ecosystem advantages to potential users:
virtual shopping mall system
It allows sellers to try the best features in practice, and is turning your tool-set ecosystem into the most powerful argument to convince vendors to join your multi vendor e-commerce marketplace.
Show added-value services
Highlight all the additional services that differentiate your Internet multi vendor platform from competitors and make your offer attractive to sellers.

Uber offers gas discounts, vehicle maintenance and other rewards to its qualified drivers:
internet marketplace program
Thus, choose the steps that fit your targeted sellers' characteristics and build an effective approach on basis of their unique needs.
True Experience #2
Steve Pritchard, Business Consultant for Ben Sherman
Offer support and solutions to logistic issues. While marketing and promotion is a vital part of attracting sellers to an online marketplace, this is only the beginning. If the process then involves dispatching large crates of products to the sellers, you may need to provide the sellers with solutions for the likes of storage and packaging.

Find shipping partners that will be able to offer delivery logistics to make the process as stress-free as possible for both companies. If you can offer sellers with low-cost, well thought-out and easy logistics, they will be very grateful and it will set you aside from your competitors.. Sellers need an easy experience as much as their customers, so make sure you can provide them with this.

3. Grow Sellers Network Through Collaboration and Development

A perfectly-organized workflow and constant development for vendors—the main two elements that enable a stable flow of new suppliers for your multi seller shopping mall without dedicated efforts and costs.

The good conditions of work itself, together with word of mouth, helps to gain a flawless reputation that is a pledge of growth for any multiple vendor ecommerce marketplace:

  • flawless service and support

eBay offers a toll-free helpline number for Indian sellers who get stuck at any point of the workflow.

  • advanced platform' tools

Easy inventory and order management, payment options and the entire smooth transaction can be a tipping point for sellers to join your virtual shopping mall platform.

Amazon has set up a small business accelerator in India to teach sellers how to manage inventory, payments and use business analytics.

  • educational and developing programs
An Indian virtual marketplace Snapdeal provides its sellers with the offline classroom program.

  • business results demonstration—show sellers substantial profit from the very first day
Flipkart demonstrates its existing sellers' success to encourage new ones to join the virtual multi vendor marketplace, while highlighting the exact features and tools that helped online vendors to thrive:
run multi vendor mall
True Experience #3
Jon Hayes from Authority Hacker, the company that helps online businesses to earn more money
One of the most important things to consider when attracting new sellers to your marketplace is how it's perceived from an outside.

It may be tempting to approve low-quality sellers into your marketplace to increase numbers and boost income but the moment you start to do this, your marketplace will begin to lose integrity and this will be instantly apparent from an onlookers perspective.

While it may be difficult to cultivate a high-quality marketplace in the beginning, once your marketplace begins to gain a reputation for being a high quality and trustable platform, you'll have high-quality sellers flocking to see what all the fuss is about and keen to make a good lasting impression with you.

Successful sellers' acquisition and retention are based on the ability to define and emphasize the unique advantages that vendors will be having while working on your Internet multi vendor platform.

Another point of success is being able to keep up a flawless web marketplace daily work—from a tool-set ecosystem to the whole sellers' experience within a virtual shopping mall platform, to gain a solid reputation which is a self-running engine for acquiring quality vendors.
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