How To Recruit Sellers
A core function of an online retailer is the ability to curate a compelling catalogue of products.
Customers want to experience two joys: the joy of first discovering a new product or brand, and the following joy of having it presented to them at the right place, for the right price, at the right time.
In a world where low-value products are flooding marketplaces with no quality thresholds, retailers who instead build a unique curation of high-quality goods are those who differentiate. In the words of esteemed curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, “the 21st-century curator works in a supremely globalised reality”.
The retailers who can succeed in both dimensions of curation and presentation are the ones who most deeply understands their customers. They are the ones who build the trust necessary to build loyal repeat purchasers. And given that presenting a product or brand is contingent on having them listed as part of your catalogue, the importance of listing the right 3rd-party brands for your business is paramount.
There are four main components of a onboarding the correct brands for your business:
The Search, The Pitch, The Ego, and The Expectations.
As a curator, you are always searching. Every interaction with a customer or the scroll of an Instagram feed is an opportunity to learn more about what customers want and what brands are producing it for them.
We recommend a customer-centric approach to sourcing. Asking questions around what would catch your customer’s eye or help them in daily life goes a long way to building meaningful curation.
Being empathetic towards your customers preferences and long-term goals also allows creativity to enter the search process. There are plenty of possibilities to explore once the focus shifts to the objectives and values of your end customer. Some of the partnerships we’ve seen include:
- A high-fashion women’s footwear retailer offering bath bombs and hand soaps
- A retailer featuring women-owned brands offering trench coats alongside postcards and puzzles
- A zero-waste D2C clothing brand form cross-brand partnerships with zero-waste footwear companies
- A nationwide electronics distributor expanding into swimsuits and facemasks
The old model of sourcing was to walk a tradeshow floor and then email the stack of business cards you flew home with in a briefcase. Now, the brands your customers want to engage with are searchable through hashtags and forums.
Once worthwhile sellers have been identified, it’s time to reach out.
It’s often best to contact sellers in the same channel which you discovered them. They’re likely to be promoting that channel and actively monitoring it. We’ve seen every channel work for recruitment, from email to LinkedIn to phone calls to Instagram DM.
High-quality sellers are inundated with requests to list in new channels. Here’s what you need to describe in order to stand out:
What do you and your team seek to accomplish? Curate the best wellness and beauty products across North America? Promote black-owned businesses? A one-stop shop for sportscar enthusiasts?
Stating your mission is an opportunity to share your values. As ecommerce trends continually towards values-based purchases, sellers will want to know your focus aligns with theirs.
Why do your customers continually choose your business rather than your competitors? Having a clear answer for why your customers choose you will then embed confidence that the seller will benefit from your customer’s trust.
Vision (if launching)
If launching a new channel, you will need to articulate the niche you are going to occupy in the retail landscape, such as the niche you are going to dominate and the values of the customers you will be specifically targeting.
It’s also important to share any initial successes you’ve had ramping up towards launch such as onboarding great brands, receiving early press coverage, or having experienced team.
The greatest obstacle to onboarding a new seller is managing their own ego.
Once a seller reaches a certain threshold of legitimacy, they will be engulfed in new channel opportunities. Articulating your position in the market may not be enough to win them over.
You will need to speak directly to how they stand to benefit from partnering with you. The questions most likely to arise are:
- Why our company?
- How do we fit into your catalogue?
- And the most important: What are you going to do for our brand?
There is a flattery inherent to onboarding certain sellers onto your channel. The most successful methods we’ve seen that quantify the last question are to clearly outline your company’s existing reach, conversion rates, advertising spend, and any promotions you’ll be featuring them in across your marketing channels.
Clearly both articulate why their specific brand positioning is perfect for your catalogue, and the efforts you’ll undertake to ensure they are successful upon listing, and you will be able to onboard the sellers that are best for your business.
The final step in recruiting a seller is confirming the details of the partnership.
Often, sellers have had poor experiences selling through other channels. They want to ensure that their experience selling through yours is much better. Thankfully, expectations are easy to set and manage if the proper integration infrastructure is in place. For example:
- Sellers concerned about time spent uploading inventory CSV files are delighted to find that they can integrate their ecommerce platform directly.
- Other who previously waited weeks to receive payouts are pleased when they can receive next-day payouts.
- Service-level agreements can also be agreed to so that sellers are incentivized to fulfill orders in a timely manner, which sets clear expectations and gives the seller a target to aim at.
Setting these clear expectations (for both yourself and your sellers) demonstrates that you have considered the possible points of frustration for your sellers and have invested in the solutions necessary to solve them ahead of time.