Will successful model of retail marketplaces hold same shine for printing businesses?

Have you ever wondered why most of the prominent eCommerce businesses are hitching to 3rd party marketplace?

The logic is as simple as anything, because they are witnessing the success of such platforms. What marketplace offers is a platform that is a hub of billions of buyers and sellers leading to countless transactions. Every sale leads to a healthy commission ranging from 6% to as high as 20% of its overall value to the marketplace.

Despite being so lucrative a business, it involves less of their cash in procurements (stocks and inventories supply) and customer service. Seems fair..!!

Over the last few years there has been numbers of evolving eCommerce portals, from renowned retailers to world-class brands. But seeing the success of collaborative sales on marketplaces, they are now willing to invest more time and effort for selling on these global platforms so that the products which were earlier going to their eCommerce hub now meet better consumer reach and market exposure with their brand intact.

This Giga trend is in huge demand and ranging entire eCommerce panorama in turning COMPETITORS into business partners with more profitability, it’s just a dawn of “Marketplace in eCommerce”

Some Success Stories:

Ecommerce Marketplace has its roots from long back when eBay started this concept in 1995.

Source: https://www.ecommercepolska.pl/files/9414/3504/3614/How_to_survive_the_global_market_places_v150610.pdf

Marketplace model has dominance over the eCommerce across the world:

  • The two of Alibaba’s marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall alone accounts 90% share of Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) and 51% of Business-to-Business (B2B) eCommerce of China market.
  • Other then eBay, in US, Amazon have shown applauding accounting of 12% of the company’s overall revenue by marketplace model, which is estimated as 40% of gross profit and 80 % of annual growth, which was just 30% by its direct retail eCommerce.
  • Gmarket and Auction owned by eBay all together have 70% share of South Korean eCommerce.
  • In large countries like Latin America, the loud player in marketplace success story is
  • Rakuten in Japan has an overall share of 30% solely of all existing eCommerce.

These are few success stories of eCommerce marketplaces which are growing dramatically without any logistic or stock handling tantrums.

Now let’s take this well proven model of eCommerce marketplaces and see how it fairs well in printing domain.

Will trade printing or printing marketplace prove to be a new success mantra for sliding printing industry?

As we have already taken a spin on the success of marketplace model in retail eCommerce which is no doubt splendid, let’s highlight on print marketplace.

In my opinion, print media has lead the way of communication and is going to stay. Also market analysts have predicted that consumers will drive the majority of sales without needing a sales support. With advancement of technology and self-servicing printing websites, there lies equal opportunity for printing industry in terms of customer turnaround (direct consumers, business to business buyers), transaction volume, revenues and all economies of scale.

A decade ago, you will find few online printing websites with niche services, but today online market is full of websites offering self-service printing portals where customers can visit, upload or design their artwork and order prints instantly. Hence successful independent print eCommerce websites e.g. VistaPrint, Zazzle etc. have proven that consumers are ready to order prints online like the retail counterparts.

And now is the time, this industry takes the next plunge of adopting the proven model of marketplace and create a success story. And I think the ecosystem is already set with consumers ready to order printing services online, designers and graphics artist ready to publish and sell their creation on multiple platforms and with printers ready to process more jobs per hour because of increased machine efficiency and automation brought in by high-end web to print solutions and systems.

My idea of a printing marketplace would be for building a network of customers, print re-sellers, graphic designers, print-vendors and print service providers on single platform. With this network you can provide the best in class print quality, fast deliveries and the most affordable rates in the market.

Factors that will determine success in Web to Print marketplace:

  • Scale: Print providers will gravitate towards huge buyer’s base and vice-versa, with lesser marketing dollars to be burnt.
  • Trust: Services like buyer’s protection, guaranteed print quality and seller rating etc. can create healthy competition amongst print service providers and consumers will have more trust ordering it form marketplaces evading the print provider’s monopoly.
  • Product Portfolio: Support for all types of printing products i.e. stock products e.g. ready greeting cards, t-shirts and signs etc., personalized merchandize, 3D printing products, variable data printing services, wide format prints, bulk printing etc. By creating a network of print vendors, marketplace can acquire jobs with a mix of printing needs, drop-ship each print job to right PSP and deliver it in one go thus eliminating the need for customer to go to different eCommece portal and order each item individually.
  • Logistics: Having a centralised administration and self managed logistics operations will be a huge advantage, and will allow predictability with better control over commissions for resellers and designers.
  • Technology:  A robust technology can help in providing great customer experience with easy website navigation, quick filtering and ability to order own personalized goods and printing products. The cycle form product filtering to ordering should be as simple and easy as ordering a commodity. And with centralized and streamlined order tracking process – from design reviews till delivery – you can ensure complete customer satisfaction.
  • Clarity of Vision:  More visibility and freedom to designers and resellers to add value to marketplace store.
  • Partnership: Balancing the needs of printers, resellers, brokers, designers, vendors and end customers.

In my view, setting up print marketplaces would be the next calling to support dwindling printing businesses and mantra to co-exist and grow together should envelop the future of printing businesses.


In short we can only justify print commerce marketplace model as “Anyone can print anything from anywhere in many ways to many ones”.

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