We recently had a chat with our partners OnBuy, the world’s fastest-growing marketplace, where we discussed the challenges of launching a self-funded online marketplace, how the entire OnBuy team stepped up to ensure their sellers were fully supported during this very challenging last year, and what factors should brands keep in mind as they prepare for the post-pandemic retail landscape.
Tell us about the story so far and what makes OnBuy different from other online marketplaces?
OnBuy.com was launched in November 2016 by UK-based eCommerce entrepreneur Cas Paton, and he remains CEO today. During his career in eCommerce, having had countless conversations with online retailers, Cas identified some flaws in the classic marketplace business model that he created OnBuy to solve.
OnBuy is unique in comparison to other online marketplaces thanks to our fair, transparent approach. OnBuy is a true marketplace, not a retailer, so we don't compete with our sellers by selling our own stock. Instead, we offer them partnership and a level playing field - all while unlocking powerful tools and opportunities to ensure all of our sellers can thrive.
It's fair to say that OnBuy's uptake by the eCommerce market has been sensational - in just four years, we've become the fastest-growing marketplace in the world.
It proves that the eCommerce industry was crying out for a change - and that both sellers and customers have a deep appreciation for OnBuy's ethos of encouraging, supporting and driving sales for independent businesses of all shapes and sizes, all with the promise of never competing against them.
Launching a self-founded platform must have been an incredibly challenging task. How did you overcome the difficulties and manage to bring the first sellers onboard during the very early days?
Absolutely - you're faced with what Cas calls 'the marketplace conundrum'. When you first open your doors, you've got no sellers, which means no products for buyers, while sellers want to see that the marketplace will make sales.
We overcame this by reaching out to online retailers, and as we communicated our offering more and more - we'll never compete against our sellers, we have competitive selling fees, we have a unique partnership with PayPal that allows sellers immediate access to their funds and so on - they were keen to come aboard, and it snowballed from there.
Sellers realised the value of our offering and that our model would change the eCommerce industry for the better. Not only that, but they liked that they were joining forces with a business that had their growth at the heart of its strategy. It's helped OnBuy grow over 600% year-on-year for the last three years in a row, and poised us to continue revolutionising the eCommerce industry as we expand around the world.
The pandemic's societal and economic effects have touched everyone's lives and transformed how consumers shop and retailers sell. In addition, closures of physical stores, rising unemployment levels, and uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations have suppressed consumer confidence and spending. So how did OnBuy support their sellers during these challenging times?
This decade has got off to a strange start that nobody could have ever predicted - yet when faced with uncertainty, we've learned that both businesses and customers value an anchor-point of dependability, reliability and honesty to see them through.
For instance, there was a high level of chaos and fear when the UK's lockdown first began. Businesses have admirably risen to the occasion since then - yet certain online retailers began restricting the sale of non-essential goods when the pandemic first took hold.
These restrictions being placed on online sales created headaches for customers and a tremendous risk of hardship for sellers who were cut off from select revenue streams, albeit temporarily.
Our response was to reassure sellers that we were not restricting what they wanted to sell in any way; the entire OnBuy team stepped up to ensure our sellers were fully supported and customers could still access the products they needed. Alongside supporting our existing sellers, we waived our normal subscription fee for three months for any sellers that had experienced disruption and wanted to join OnBuy.
Similarly, Brexit negotiations created a level of confusion for many sellers. OnBuy has welcomed overseas businesses looking to sell into the UK from the very beginning, which gave us an understanding of how cross-border shipping might change, so we created guides and articles to steer sellers along the right path as Brexit talks unfolded in late 2020.
OnBuy's partnerships with leading experts like Shiptheory also let our sellers unlock incredible advantages in streamlining their post-Brexit logistics too, and we speak on behalf of our entire seller community when we say how appreciative we are of this continued support.
Do you believe that the custom changes caused by Brexit and the reopening of local brick-and-mortar stores will impact international online shoppers' appetite for UK products from this year onward?
It's definitely wise to stay on top of the state of play, and plenty of us are cautiously optimistic about how the world will function once things have opened up to their fullest extent in the coming months. However, there are a couple of points to consider here.
Firstly, eCommerce overall has seen a massive upswing in appeal to customers of all kinds - from those who'd always shopped online, to customers who used the pandemic to dive into shopping online for the first time and have since become accustomed to the convenience and immense product variety available.
Secondly, at the broader level, OnBuy is a business that is headquartered in the UK - yet is also a company rapidly expanding its online presence overseas. We don't hold stock of any of the inventory that we help businesses to sell - that's entirely up to our sellers.
That means sellers have a choice, if they're concerned about any of the changes brought on by Brexit, to warehouse their goods overseas if they prefer, or choose any of our forthcoming markets to sell into.
While we'll always celebrate our UK roots, we want our sellers to share our global vision, and we'll never lock any sellers out due to location.
As we are (hopefully) moving towards the end of the pandemic, 2021 will be a year of transition, and businesses can begin to look forward to shaping their futures. But the post-pandemic retail landscape is going to be different. So what are the factors that brands should keep in mind as they prepare for the next normal?
Retail has forever shifted by the innovations and lateral thinking that the pandemic has inspired, with overall eCommerce growth having accelerated enormously.
A key area here is trust - it's more vital now than ever that customers know they can trust the retailers they're buying from, and businesses know they can trust the platforms they're selling through.
An interesting strategy to consider is omnichannel selling. The last couple of years have helped to blur the lines between physical and online shopping, leading plenty of businesses to recognise that omnichannel selling brings together the best of both worlds. In the last year or two especially, OnBuy has provided a viable omnichannel lifeline for physical stores looking to sell through an online marketplace that supports their growth, and lets retailers grow as they choose to.
The next normal is about being where the customer is, whether that's out and about or in the palm of their hands. OnBuy is developing an app for iOS and Android that will be launched in 2021 - and our international expansion means that businesses can sell into as many countries as they want, all from one dashboard.
On a similar note, what does the future of OnBuy look like?
Immense! OnBuy is expanding into a range of countries worldwide by year-end 2023, and we began that expansion at the end of 2020.
What matters to us is that sellers have the opportunity to grow as rapidly as we do, or at their own pace - so they have a choice of staying local or expanding to a huge number of countries with our full support along the way.
Every step we take is made to give businesses big and small - from start-ups to multinationals - an equal chance to find success and opportunity in the eCommerce industry.
To help ensure we have the best possible platform behind us as we continue growing rapidly, we're opening a new Manchester office in 2021, leveraging the talent that's so rich in that city to enhance the operations of our headquarters in Dorset.
Our goal is to translate the incredible growth and transparency in online selling that we've encouraged in the UK and show the world how a viable new way of selling through marketplaces is now ready for the taking.
Now's just the beginning of that global growth, making it a great time to get involved and sell with OnBuy today!
Try our OnBuy integration for FREE
If you want to sell your products to more than 8 million customers on the world's fastest-growing marketplace and to streamline your e-commerce fulfilment all at the same time, Shiptheory's integration with OnBuy is the perfect solution!
With a uniquely fair, transparent approach, OnBuy is designed from the ground up to drive more sales for your business!
If you have any queries regarding our OnBuy integration, please do not hesitate to reach out to support. We are more than happy to give you a hand to get it up and running.
Otherwise, create a free Shiptheory account and start shipping smarter and faster today!