The holiday shopping season might be over for consumers, but for retailers, the beginning of a new year marks the start of another frenzy: The post-holiday returns period. According to retail technology company Optoro, US consumers are estimated to return a whopping $100 billion in unwanted presents purchased during the holiday season.
While an onslaught of returns can be troublesome for retailers of all shapes and sizes, it can be particularly tricky for small shops and those selling niche products. By the time items make it back to the retailer, they’re often out of season and replaced by new products or simply no longer stocked in-store. And unfortunately, items that don’t make it back on the shelves (an estimated 5 billion pounds) end up in landfills.
Luckily for small retailers with perfectly good inventory that’s difficult to move in-store, online marketplaces provide an opportunity to give items a second life by getting them in front of a wider audience. For specialty retailers, niche third-party sites—like Reverb for musical instruments, Depop for clothing, or Sideline Swap for sports equipment—get inventory in front of a targeted audience of consumers that are looking for a deal on specific types of items.
If you’re a retailer interested in taking the plunge into online marketplaces or you’re looking to up your game on these sites, here are three tips to consider.
- Make a good first impression.
Just like your physical storefront or website, your shop within an online marketplace is a representation of who you are. Take time to describe why you’re an authority on what you sell and what’s unique about your store and inventory. Take pride in the photos you post and highlight the quirks and personality of your store wherever possible. Above all else, help potential customers answer the question: Why should I buy from this retailer, specifically?
- Write detailed descriptions.
Depending on what you’re selling in an online marketplace, you might be up against hundreds of other retailers selling similar items. That means that what you write within your listing descriptions matters. Help potential customers picture themselves with the item. If you’re selling a shirt, suggest accessories. If you’re selling a used guitar, talk about where it came from or what kind of music you would play with it. Anticipate questions customers might have and answer them upfront to help them make a decision.
- Treat online customers like in-store customers.
If a customer comes into your brick-and-mortar store and asks you a question, you wouldn’t take hours to respond. Customers within online marketplaces expect the same level of service. Consider downloading your online marketplace’s mobile app so that you can respond in close to real-time. Be as professional and courteous as you would be face-to-face. And just like you might in an in-store conversation, use online conversations as a means to persuade potential customers to buy.
Returned goods don’t have to sit unsold on your shelves or worse, get thrown out. By utilizing a few best practices, you can give these items a second chance and a good home through online marketplaces.
Dan Orkin, Director of Content and International Marketing, Reverb