Last year you started your own business as an e-commerce expert. What motivated you to take this path back then? Tell us something about your vision.
I have been working in fashion e-commerce for over 9 years. I was in different stations on the side of brands in the online shop construction, for a long time at Amazon in fashion purchasing (vendor management) and then at one of my Amazon suppliers. At the brand I realized how challenging it is to work with Amazon as a supplier. I realized pretty quickly that it's good to build multiple footholds in e-commerce as a brand. Means not only working in wholesale business with the big online stores like Amazon, Zalando, About you but also through their marketplaces. In fact, there are many more synergies in the interaction between wholesale and marketplace than many brands assume. At the same time, the variety of service partners and ways to sell through marketplaces is huge and opaque. It's a jungle of possibilities and no one can really explain to you operationally how the marketplace business works. At the time, we chose a full-service partner who offered us the support we needed in terms of both software connection and logistics.
It was during this time that I realized how challenging it is for brands to choose the best possible marketplace strategy for them and to really sell the items live and themselves across the different platforms. My vision in my consulting business is therefore to support brands in their strategy and to select the relevant partners for them. At the same time to build a network of partners who help each other to be successful in the marketplace business. I love the exchange and the mutual support. Within the brand, this is usually only possible to a very limited extent, because the brands themselves have built up very little marketplace knowledge.
Especially as an e-commerce beginner, you are faced with two sales strategies: Product sales through a wholesale platform or a marketplace. Which online sales strategy would you advise brands to use and why?
In my opinion, online wholesale (at Amazon Vendor) and the marketplace business (at Amazon Seller) can complement each other very well under different requirements. As a brand, it is a strategic decision where and how you want to sell your products. As a vendor, you are bound to Amazon's sometimes quite high conditions and have to comply with Amazon's terms. In addition, Amazon sells the product under its name and thus determines the selling price itself. Note - Amazon is an example here, this works the same for the other platforms that have marketplace & wholesale). So the brand has no freedom to decide which products to offer, at which price, on which online store. But the wholesale business is much less risky and more convenient for the brand. Amazon buys the goods in advance and takes care of all processes such as putting the products online and shipping them. The wholesale business is a learned B2B business for the brand.
In contrast, the marketplace business for the brands, usually means the new for them, B2C business. This means that the brand itself takes care of all processes until the product is online and also the shipping to the end customer. At the same time, the brand has sovereignty over all pricing decisions and which products it wants to sell where and how.
Team size and internal know-how - according to you, these are the 6 most important factors that should be considered when choosing the right marketplace model. Can you briefly explain these and why you consider them important?
The marketplace business is a completely new sales channel for the brands, especially for those who have not yet offered their goods B2C - i.e. directly to the end customer. I like to compare the development of the marketplace business with the development of a new stationary store. You first have to invest a lot of time and money to find the right object, equip the store with furniture and merchandise and hire staff to plan the set-up and sell the merchandise. In the marketplace business you also have to invest time and money until the first sales are generated. You need a software for the connection, a B2C logistics, good product content, master data and product images and many processes to be able to sell the product in the best possible way on different marketplaces. And for this setup and the processes, you need a team with the relevant marketplace knowledge that can implement this.
This year your new project, the Marketplace Uni, launched. As part of the Marketplace Manager training program, you impart internal marketplace knowledge to sales employees and managers in the fashion, lifestyle and sports industry. How did the idea of Marketplace Uni come about and what is your vision behind it?
The idea came to me when I often had customers who simply asked me the same questions. In my consulting I support the brands with the best strategy for them and maybe accompany them until the products are online. After that I usually withdraw from the projects. In the best case, an (often new) internal team then takes over. However, I don't find this approach very sustainable because I often take back the knowledge I brought in and the brand itself then doesn't know exactly how the marketplace business works. I founded Marktplatz Uni with the vision of teaching many brands marketplace knowledge in a sustainable way, so that they themselves can manage the business strategically and operationally. In addition, I would like to create a community in which all Marketplace Managers of the Marketplace Uni can exchange ideas on a long-term and mutual basis. So that as a Marketplace Manager you are no longer alone with your knowledge of your own brand, but can also exchange ideas with others.
The aim of Marketplace Uni is also to build a community that supports each other across brands and manufacturers. Within the community, sellers and companies can exchange information, search for solutions to problems and obtain expert opinions. How important do you find the exchange in this area and which channels and formats do you recommend to educate yourself as quickly as possible?
I find the exchange in the Marketplace Business enormously important. Simply for the reason that the majority is learned by doing. There is this business simply not even 5 years in most cases. So a lot of knowledge can still be built up and shared. In the strategic and operational knowledge you can not yet read or learn as much as you might be used to with other topics. That's why I think that especially in these times, the exchange and learning together is very valuable.
Valerie Dichtl has been responsible for fashion buying (Amazon) and selling via marketplaces and online wholesale for 9 years. With her experience from a brand perspective, online retail as well as consulting within the fashion industry, she supports brands in strategy development and implementation of an online sales strategy. Her focus is on helping brands sell their products independently from wholesalers on fashion online marketplaces and providing them with the necessary knowledge. Learn more about Valerie's work here. Alternatively connect directly with Valerie on LinkedIn.