19 October 2022

E-commerce, platforms and entrepreneurship in 2023: how will A-brands and specialists relate to the leaders Amazon and Bol?

Looking back and looking ahead

The lockdown forced us to think a little longer about where we were and where we were moving. On a personal note, but certainly also business related. Now, at the start of a new year, we like to look ahead. After a year in which e-commerce exploded, the question arises how e-commerce is going to change. In this article we briefly discuss the most important trends and we look at the challenges we see for (platform) entrepreneurs.


Ahead of its time (five years)

In case you had not yet seen that our streets were overcrowded with delivery vans and parcel deliverers, various studies have now also shown that 2021 was an absolute record year for e-commerce. One conclusion may have jumped out: according to research by McKinsey & Co, the pandemic has accelerated 'digital transformation' by 5 years. That has also affected who buys online. For example, research by Sana Commerce shows that 58 percent of B2B buyers are more likely to choose e-commerce for their purchases since the outbreak of the pandemic. This means that the market can now also be accessed by a larger group of business customers.


As strong as the weakest (supply) link

However, in 2021, due to the lockdowns around the world, we also had to deal for the first time with something we hadn't anticipated at all: the depletion of inventories and the supply chain issues. Delivery times increased and profit margins became smaller and smaller under pressure from the increased prices.

In short, the pandemic has shown the enormous power of e-commerce, but also unerringly showed where the weak spots are. What does this mean for the market and how will it develop?


Loss and profit are close to each other

There have been major consequences for small entrepreneurs and web shops; especially for physical retailers. On the one hand, the pandemic has left brick-and-mortar retailers with lost sales and debt, and on the other, e-commerce has provided these retailers with opportunities to survive and perhaps even grow. Other entrepreneurs have strategically seized the pandemic to position themselves exclusively on platforms. Additionally, these platforms have strengthened their market shares as a result of the lockdown. For example, data from bol.com shows that there has been a significant growth in the number of third-party sellers active on the platform since the outbreak of the pandemic.


Direct to consumer

Does this mean that platforms have won the battle for the online buyer once and for all? It is clear that they are more firmly in the saddle than ever before, but there are also challenges. Forbes, for example, indicates that the trend is that large brands will increasingly sell directly to the customer and thus leave platforms in the long run. This of course offers opportunities for smaller, independent entrepreneurs who do want to sell via these platforms.


Even Amazon sometimes has to sell 'no'

In addition, the large platforms themselves have suffered from a faltering supply chain. In an extensive article on Tweakers.nl, Tomas Hochstenbach analyzes Amazon's entry into the Dutch e-commerce market, from the perspective of Tweakers' Pricewatch. The conclusions are certainly not clear-cut. Within the foreseeable future, after its entry in March 2020, Amazon has gained market share in various product categories within the electronics industry (traditionally, the knowledge market of Tweakers), but has lost ground, among other categories, due to shortages in the supply of chips and processors, for example. It is striking that Bol.com has even expanded its lead over Amazon in many product categories during the year.


A battle erupts

In fact, we can say that the battle between the platforms in the Netherlands has only just began and it is expected that in 2023 it will also be an evenly ascending battle. Even if Amazon still has to capture a lot of market share from Bol, that offers opportunities for platform entrepreneurs. After all, only the expectation that more will be sold on Amazon can attract more third-party sellers, making it more attractive in the long run to buy on Amazon, which in turn attracts more third-party sellers. A classic self-fulfilling prophecy.


Omnichannel is the norm

A trend that seems to be continuing in any case is that sales will happen on omnichannel either way. That doesn't just mean that physical retailers want to be online and distinguished, but also that existing web shops will offer specific product selections on marketplaces to appeal to a wider target group. In an interview with Bol.com, entrepreneur Steven van Belleghem indicates that most SME entrepreneurs benefit from selling on platforms, albeit with a specific product range.


Selling on a platform is a profession

The fact that more and more entrepreneurs are opting for an omnichannel approach is an extension of the digital transition. Entrepreneurs who only choose to sell via platforms are often still regarded as temporary in nature. However, it is an illusion that selling via a platform is free of charge. Doing business on platforms simply takes time and energy. Van Belleghem also indicates that especially platform entrepreneurs should invest in the development of their own sales channel in unique, authentic storytelling about their brand and identity. For example, by using creative expressions on social media.


You ask, we run

In any case, platforms will offer partners more and more bite-sized information. For example, Bol.com has been offering benchmarking KPIs for some time to help entrepreneurs on their way. An example is the search trends and conversion of products offered. In an interview with Frank Maessen, data specialist at bol.com, it is emphasized that more and more intermediaries and agencies offer help to entrepreneurs to sell successfully in their own web shops and on platforms. Maessen calls this a good development, because he believes that merging data from different channels can lead to better conclusions and better decisions.


White spots and grey spots

Products that are often searched for within platforms, but that are not yet offered, are called 'white spots' in the industry. ‘Grey spots’ are examples of products that are offered, but can still be improved, for example by offering the same product with a faster delivery time. Successfully exploiting these 'blind spots' is therefore an opportunity for both the external seller and the platform itself. Bol has already announced some time ago that so-called white spots that are successfully played out by partners should not be taken over and offered on the platform, as has been done by Amazon in the past. In fact, actively informing the seller database about these white spots and gray spots is increasingly becoming one of Bol's most important tasks. This means that in the coming year, platform entrepreneurs will also have to look more and more for creative ways to find these spots to sell successfully.


Looking together

e-pickr® has the software in house to look for these 'white spots' together with entrepreneurs. With our team we have developed a formula for providing insight into successful market opportunities, which goes beyond what the different platforms or existing software can offer. In fact, our specialists have put the necessary time and energy into the tools to be absolutely convinced that they know the essence of successful selling on platforms. The only question now is how we can help you best. We understand that you see the coming year as a challenging and exciting time and reading this article may have only left you with even more questions. We, therefore, invite you to simply call or email us. We are happy to talk to you about the solutions we offer, but perhaps even better about the opportunities we see for entrepreneurs in 2022.

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