Just a few years ago, topics such as verticalisation or direct sales occupied manufacturers, brands and retailers. Vendors are facing the question of how to deal with the “platform economy” trend more and more. At the E-Channels-Day (ECD), which took place on 23rd May in the Wappenhalle, renowned industry insiders such as About You, Galeria Kaufhof, Klingel, SportScheck, and Zalando discussed the advantages and disadvantages, and outlined possible success strategies.
And indeed, it’s not easy to find the right way. Role models such as Amazon or Alibaba seem unmatchable, too few best practices point in the right direction of successfully adaptable business models. Currently, two basic models stand out– as a retailer you can turn into a marketplace yourself and integrate external product ranges á la Amazon, Zalando and Otto. Or you can use marketplaces as an additional sales platform for your own product range and risk dependencies and exchangeability.
Jochen Krisch, industry analyst and blogger at excitingcommerce.de, also couldn’t provide a simple recipe for success at the ECD. However – and this is where he was very specific – in his opinion only the genuinely big players with an annual turnover of at least one billion euros have the potential to be really successful as a marketplace. But that’s not all: “Retailers must be able to think “services” even away from trading with goods,” revealed Krisch. “As well as access to customers, they can especially open up new sources of income with logistics, marketing or IT services.” But he explicitly advised against launching “marketplaces in the open countryside”. If you want to be successful, you have to give the customer a reason for going to your website. That’s why he thinks established online shops have the best starting chances for a platform career. Only the companies who offer the customer a genuine and unique user value – such as Amazon with its perfect fulfilment or Zalando in the area of convenience – has a chance in the fight for customers and additional trading partners. He sees especially big potential in the areas of “inspiration” and “mobile”, as there are no clear leaders in the market yet.
Even if there was no clear recipe for success for the topic of “platform economy” at the end of the event, the discussion came to one conclusion: The development of marketplace strategies is only just beginning and, with the opening and change of commerce, entirely new business models are being created which can’t even be predicted at the moment. Just one thing is for sure: The dynamics of e-commerce won’t slow down any time soon. And Krisch’s closing message for his audience was: “Amazon will grow further and get bigger and bigger. But the bigger it gets, the more space there will be for innovative ideas and models which a big player will no longer be able to implement easily.”