• December 13, 2021
  • By Yoav Kutner, cofounder and CEO, Oro Inc.

CRM Is Key to E-Commerce Marketplace Success

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When you’re running an e-commerce marketplace, it’s tempting to assume that your vendors and their customers can take care of themselves. After all, the whole point of marketplaces is that they’re a many-to-many venue where large numbers of sellers and buyers can mingle together, and where the invisible hand of the market almost effortlessly creates value for both sides. Amid all the energy and bustle, it might seem like there’s little need to cultivate individual relationships.

Well, not so fast. In fact, relationship building and relationship maintenance are every bit as important for marketplace operators and vendors as they are for traditional retail and e-commerce sellers. Running a marketplace might mean you have to handle more relationships and thus make customer relationship management crucial to your success.

Because your network of relationships is more complex, spanning a tangled web of partners, vendors, customers, and leads, it’s all the more important to build systems that enable you to maintain a holistic view of these relationships. 

Let’s highlight a few points that support the importance of incorporating CRM into your marketplace operations strategy.   

Support Your Sellers

Without vendors selling products, your marketplace is just a fancy website. That means that creating compelling experiences that keep your vendors efficient and profitable is crucial to avoid losing business to competing platforms. 

This starts at the beginning of your relationship: Every marketplace needs to be able to  quickly and effectively identify new vendors, offer them a smooth verification experience, and support them through the onboarding experience by providing assistance with contracts and proposals. Once vendors are set up, operators need to continue to support them with on-point business communications, actionable insights gleaned from seller feedback and analytics, powerful sales enablement tools, and a commitment to stellar customer service.

And it doesn’t stop there: Marketplace operators also need to help vendors manage their own customer relationships, with powerful CRM tools that support vendors as they build out their presence on your platform and give them the flexibility to manage their own customer relationships. With some orders likely to be split across different vendors, effective CRM needs to be managed by the marketplace operator to ensure customer data associated with orders and payments are relayed to the right vendors so they can level up their customer engagement campaigns and materials. 

Wow Your Customers

A marketplace needs to be a powerful, effective, and user-friendly place for customers to actually buy the products they need—not least because, according to Accenture, 80 percent of B2B buyers are willing to walk away from suppliers that fail to meet their expectations. That means your vendors need to build strong relationships with their customers—and you need to give them the tools to make that happen. 

That starts with keeping track of customer contacts so that you and your vendors can deliver marketing material, promotions, and products effectively. But managing relationships also means keeping track of customer needs and preferences in order to efficiently manage and optimize the customer journey—from acquisition, to onboarding, to purchasing—with plenty of engagement and intelligent use of feedback along the way. Especially in the B2B space, enabling buyers to build their own unique purchasing workflows to deliver a richer and easier procurement experience is a must-have capability for marketplace operators.

An effective marketplace CRM also gives vendors enhanced customer visibility, with insight into performance and customer activity. To ensure that your vendors are closing sales, marketplaces need CRM capabilities that work in real time to monitor customer activity data and maximize conversions with timely engagement tools. Get this right, and your vendors will continue selling with you, making your marketplace stronger and more resilient.

Turbo-Charge Your Team

Of course, as a marketplace operator, if you’re trying to keep both your vendors and their customers happy, you’ll also need to keep your own team working at the peak of their game. As your marketplace scales, your sales, marketing, and customer service teams will need to work smarter, not harder, to manage opportunities effectively. 

Putting the right CRM infrastructure in place is a key step toward prioritizing the right opportunities at the right time, and leveraging data on past opportunities to keep current campaigns on track. With the right software solutions, you can also automate routine tasks to ensure your employees stay productive, minimize avoidable slip-ups, and deliver the service and customized attention to detail that your customers and vendors expect. Above all, you can create compelling experiences for both customers and vendors alike, ensuring that all stakeholders keep coming back to your marketplace.

Relationship management isn’t just for frontline sales reps, either. Monitoring outcomes and driving strategic growth is a powerful and often neglected aspect of relationship management, and a critical part of maintaining a healthy and transparent marketplace environment where vendors can continuously improve their services to align with buyers’ needs. Managers and executives can benefit from having clear insights into how everyone—from individual team members to whole business units—is performing, and where they could be doing better. With the right CRM-derived analytics in place, it’s also possible to make smarter decisions across your whole organization, spotting and adapting quickly to new trends and shifting market conditions.

Find the Right Toolkit

While many sellers think of customer management as a critical capability for single-seller commerce, the reality is that the complexities of running a B2C or B2B marketplace make managing customer and vendor relationships effectively even more important for marketplace operators. 

Delivering value for vendors and customers while also equipping your own team for success requires the right toolkit, including a CRM solution that’s designed to meet the unique needs of marketplace operators. Get this right, and you’ll have more visibility into vendor performance, buyer activity, and the overall health of your marketplace. Get it wrong, and you’ll find yourself outpaced by the competition.

So if you’re looking to launch a marketplace, to expand your existing marketplace, or simply to make your operations more resilient in the increasingly competitive B2B and B2C marketplace space, try getting serious about relationships. With the right CRM toolkit, and a commitment to strengthening and enriching relationships across your operation, you’ll find you’re able to take your marketplace to the next level.

Yoav Kutner is cofounder and CEO of Oro Inc., which has created OroCommerce, a leading open-source e-commerce platform built for distributors, wholesalers, brands, and manufacturers. Kutner previously cofounded and served as the CTO of Magento.

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