RI Business Forum

Why an Online Marketplace is Critical for Small Business Success

August 17, 2022

What do you think of when you hear the phrase small business? Maybe you think of the mom-and-pop bake shop in your downtown area that’s been there for years, or the new home decorating store that opened up last month. Whichever scenario you’re thinking of, most small businesses in downtown areas rely greatly on “foot-traffic” and make most of their revenue by in-store purchases. Due to the unforeseen circumstances that COVID-19 brought about, many small businesses were not able to survive with only the physical location of their store. According to 13NewsNow, 59% of local businesses reported not having used an e-commerce site before COVID-19. During the pandemic 33% of these businesses transitioned into online stores. Businesses reported that they were forced to “embrace e-commerce”.

Online Marketplaces help companies with less resources offer more to their customers such as:

  1. Exposure
  2. Brand awareness
  3. A factor of trust

Being a part of an online marketplace generates exposure and gives businesses that much needed platform to reach a bigger audience than before. Although the need for a digital presence may have started due to the recent pandemic, for most small businesses who hopped on this trend, it expanded their reach beyond their physical store. And as an added bonus, potential buyers find it much easier to complete a purchase online rather than travelling to the physical store's location. Businesses without an online marketplace miss out on a percentage of possible sales due to this geographical barrier.

Another benefit of participating in an online marketplace is generating more brand awareness for your business. Most marketplaces are set up with a keyword search function that will display relevant products and vendors based on the shoppers' needs. For example, a shopper types in “candles” as their keyword search. Because you own “Kara’s Candles & More” a home decorating store, your business (along with competitors) pops up as an option for that shopper to choose from. Previously, this shopper didn’t know your business existed, and now they’re searching your online store for candles and other goodies as well!

Lastly, marketplaces help establish trust between small businesses and consumers. Since online marketplaces are home to dozens or even hundreds of businesses, shoppers feel more comfortable purchasing from vendors online. The size and support of the online marketplace may be a more secure digital environment than you can provide with a single online store on your website. Additionally, from the business owner's side, participating in an online marketplace also delivers the invaluable bonus of managing the e-commerce side of your business, meaning less pressure and more time. A lot of the back-end technical stuff is handled by the marketplace operator - leaving you to focus on just selling your products.

As we near the end of the pandemic and our lives return to some normalcy, it is important to remember that many small businesses will continue to feel the repercussions of COVID-19 for many months to come. Establishing your presence in the online marketplace enables you to maintain, and most often increase sales, despite life-altering events like COVID-19. Think of it as a high-powered safety net, providing you and your small business with the vital resources to leap beyond the constraints of the physical marketplace, and soar into the global e-commerce world.