E-Commerce Platforms with Hidden Agenda

On one fine morning, you get a phone call from XYZ company telling you why you should sell your wares with their up and coming e-commerce platform. And they tell you all the astronomical traffic they have (which you will take a lifetime to build) and the merchants that are already selling with them. And most importantly, they tell you, your competitor just signed up with them too.

And without much hesitation, you tell them,”OK, how do I get started?”

In the beginning, as with all fairy tales, it was all sunny and rosy. A few weeks after you list your products on XYZ’s platform, you watch your daily sales spikes. And you begin uploading all the inventories you’ve got and populate the store you have with Company XYZ. You then begin to invest more and more time and advertising money with them. You thought, “How can this go wrong? Why didn’t anyone told me about this before?” And you start giving all the love to this new platform that promises to escalate you to new level of riches and fame.

And after about 6 months of exponential sales growth, you realized something is amiss. A search on your superstar products suddenly returns more results than it did previously. Which should be a good thing, this would mean that your SEO efforts are paying off. The only problem is that these similar product listings do not link to your store, but rather to another merchant. And you call up your friends who are also selling with XYZ. And they revealed the same thing.

And then more of your top sellers begin to appear, only this time the cash does not go to you.

And you’re furious! You picked up your phone and called up the account executive who assisted you with opening a store with them. Now you remembered that why he had that sly grin when he was talking to you. It suddenly become clear to you that they never said anything about not using the data they gathered from merchants for their own benefits. You were never in their big picture of expansion.

They gave you the platform free of charge, but someone’s gotta pay for programmers and the hosting fees. Company XYZ is not a charity, it was pretty clear from Day One. In fact, they never acted like one- they are super aggressive in signing up new merchants and spends millions a month just in advertising.

And now they know what Malaysian online consumers want, and they can provide it with a lower price tag and more varieties, with free delivery, 365 days money back guarantee and possibly even a note that says, “This is an original, unlike the ones you see on…”

Ouch! And you go back to your drawing board, blow off the dust from your own online store, and realized that your months of neglects is showing. There’s no new product updates, no new articles on your blog and the figures in your analytics are dropping month-on-month. Well, at least the bounce rate was up, eh wait, that’s not a very good thing, is it?

Okie, maybe you think I made it all up just to spite one of the big players in the e-commerce platforms. Maybe I heard one of them called me names behind my back. Or they took me off from their list of keynote speakers.

None of the above is true. It did happened to 2 online merchants I know personally. I almost enrolled in their guinea pig programs but thanks to the ‘misfortunes’ of my 2 friends, I escaped from these ill intentions.

I am not saying that all big e-commerce platforms behave as such. Not everyone has a hidden agenda. There’s always good people around with decent business models. One way to find out is to ask other merchants’ experience with these platforms. Hence, it’s always important to get away from your computer and warehouse to socialize with real humans who can provide some real world experience. There’s a lot to be learnt from offline sources.

People are always willing to share with you if you don’t have any hidden agendas.