How to successfully onboard marketplace sellers in 5 steps

What exactly is marketplace seller onboarding?

Let’s take the example of a business (a seller) opening a shop on an online marketplace. This first stage is called seller onboarding or integration, and its successful conclusion is crucial in a marketplace’s success.

Sellers are key players for a marketplace: to draw a parallel with physical trade, sellers don’t get a lot of customers if they don’t inspire confidence. And the same goes with their product display: if there are not enough products on display, or if the display doesn’t look good, no customer will enter their shop. On the other hand, a seller that inspires confidence and whose shop offers a broad range of products will attract numerous customers. It works exactly in the same way for an online marketplace.

If you operate a marketplace, it is your duty to give seller integration the utmost attention, offering businesses simple and comprehensive onboarding to incentivise them to sell on YOUR platform.

The various steps of seller onboarding

As in any other commercial partnership, it all starts with the signing of a contract between the seller and the marketplace. Following the important phase of contract signing, which details general terms and conditions, three main stages emerge.

1. Seller account creation

This is the part where the seller creates their account. To do that, they must provide all the information required for KYC (Know Your Customer) or KYB (Know Your Business), depending on whether you run a B2C (consumer) or a B2B (business) marketplace.

This information is important, in that it allows the marketplace to verify the identity of the seller. The goal is to only present buyers with trustworthy sellers, whose legal and financial integrity has been verified. The marketplace operator has an obligation to collect this information and all relevant supporting documents, as they may need to present them in case of a control or dispute.

Documents required can differ depending on the sector, but generally, they include the company registration and the ID of the executive director, as well as that of all beneficial owners (individuals directly or indirectly controlling the company and who own more than 25% of its shares and/or voting rights).

2. Product cataloguing

This is the part where the seller creates their account. To do that, they must provide all the information required for KYC (Know Your Customer) or KYB (Know Your Business), depending on whether you run a B2C (consumer) or a B2B (business) marketplace.

This information is important, in that it allows the marketplace to verify the identity of the seller. The goal is to only present buyers with trustworthy sellers, whose legal and financial integrity has been verified. The marketplace operator has an obligation to collect this information and all relevant supporting documents, as they may need to present them in case of a control or dispute.

Documents required can differ depending on the sector, but generally, they include the company registration and the ID of the executive director, as well as that of all beneficial owners (individuals directly or indirectly controlling the company and who own more than 25% of its shares and/or voting rights).

Once the seller account has been created and all KYC/KYB information has been provided and authenticated, it is time to allow the seller to add a product or service catalogue to their shop.

In real terms, how is that done? The seller must add all product references in your marketplace’s back office (either directly, or via a flow integrator) to make them visible in their shop.

First, they add so-called ‘cold data’, which doesn’t require frequent updates: the product description and the various options available for it in the seller’s shop for your marketplace.

Let’s take a B2C example. In order to sell a pair of jeans, the seller must first add the specific model and its description to the marketplace. Then, assuming the item can be purchased in different sizes and colours, each of these options must be added in the back office, along with their EAN (European Article Numbering, also called International Article Number or IAN).

This allows for the creation of posts by your sellers. To increase the number of sales made on your platform — and therefore your profits, you can support your sellers in writing these posts.

The referencing of the different offerings available on your marketplace works just like the referencing of websites on Google: an optimised website with a lot of varied content that’s regularly updated is more visible than others. It is the same for your sellers’ products. This is why you should incentivise them to put a lot of care into writing good product descriptions and choosing the right photos to display: it will all make your marketplace more appealing!

3. Activating references

Activating references (or products) on the marketplace is done by adding so-called ‘hot data’ (which must be updated as frequently as possible). Along with the product description, this hot data, which mainly includes price and available stock, represent offers.

Once your sellers’ IT systems have been connected to your marketplace back office through an API, product updates become automatic.

Finally, we highly recommend telling your sellers to make a test purchase to make sure their online shop works properly: ask them to make an order from their own shop to check that all processes go smoothly.

Training to offer your sellers at the time of onboarding

In order to make your sellers as autonomous as possible on your marketplace, it is important to train them to use your back office.

4. Order workflow management

Order workflow management training is often done through guides written by marketplace operators to help sellers and make them as autonomous as possible to handle this process. These guides lay out the different actions that must be executed within the order process.

 

5. Dispute management

Another important point on which to train marketplace sellers is trilateral customer relationship management, in case of a dispute or even a question coming from clients (buyers).

When contacted by their clients, sellers must set up a process to manage the question and/or dispute. If there are too many exchanges without a resolution, or if the two parties cannot reach an agreement, the marketplace operator steps in and offers mediation.

Financial management

The last step in seller onboarding is the implementation of monthly or bimonthly account reconciliations. Simply put, this is about paying the seller for the sales made on the marketplace, and collecting the marketplace commission. Here, third-party invoicing or factoring solutions adapted for the B2B world are available to make the seller’s life easier.

The little extra

Today, some marketplaces offer their sellers sponsored posts, following SEA (search engine advertising) or paid referencing models such as Google Ads. This allows them to boost sales by giving certain sellers the option to stand out on the marketplace, while securing extra revenue. This value proposition is the cherry on the cake for marketplace seller onboarding!

Author: emeline@marjory.co