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September 15, 2009

Is Sears set to launch their own third-party marketplace?

It's been less than a month since Wal-mart launched their own third-party marketplace to much fan-fare.  Today, I was tipped off by a reader that noticed the text: "Are you a merchant? Sell your item on Sears." while shopping on sears.com.


The text+link is down now, but it is in google cache and points to www.searsmarketplace.com which is live as of this writing.  We were able to ascertain quite a bit about the forthcoming system from the help files and other documentation.

In this post we'll look at both the buyer-experience and the seller-experience.  First, I wanted to put this in perspective.  According to Internet Retailer's top 500 retailer list, Wal-mart is ranked number 14 with $1.7b in GMV.  Sears Holding corp (sears/kmart/landsend/etc.) comes in quite a big higher at number 7 with $2.7b in GMV - a good 60% greater than wal-mart.  So while Sears doesn't have the offline cachet that wal-mart does, in the on-line world, sears holding is considerably larger than wal-mart.  That was a long way of saying that this is actually a bigger deal than the Wal-mart announcement.

Buyer-experience
I poked around on the buyer-facing site and didn't find any live third-party merchants, but you can clearly see how this will work as it appears Kmart (part of the Sears Holding family of ecommerce sites) uses the 3P platform to 'sell' on sears.com.

Strawberry_shortcake
In this screenshot, I've added three red circles.  The first on the left shows that for most search result pages there is a list of the stores selling for that term.  Then for the first two products you can tell that the name of the merchant (sears and kmart in this example) are now denoted vs. everything being sold just by Sears (first party).  Thus, this site appears to be pretty well developed and interesting because it not only will allow Sears to on-ramp third parties, but they can now on-ramp their multiple first-parties.

Seller-experience
Unlike Wal-mart, the Sears Marketplace (SMP) appears to be an open marketplace where anyone can sign up.  There are two different ways a merchant can work with SMP:
  • CPC - Cost Per Click - I wasn't able to see examples of this program, but my assumption is this is like Amazon's ProductAds program.
  • FBM - Fulfillment by Merchant - Like Amazon's merchants@ program, FBM allows the merchant to upload products and then basically receive orders to fulfill.  

Also unlike Walmart, Sears has published their rate card: (click to enlarge)

Commission_card

On the surface this looks pretty rich compared to Amazon in some categories, but generally at parity/cheaper in most (CE for example).

Dashboard

Above is a screen shot of the merchant dashboard.  It's very simple, but gets the job done with three tabs:
  • Products - Under this tab the merchant can upload their inventory, update quantities/price and download the catalog.
  • Orders - In this tab, the merchant is able to download a flat file with all of the orders to ship for a given time period. 
  • Account Settings - Where the merchant changes billing, payment settings and what-not. 

While there aren't many bells and whistles, the system provides the basics that any merchant large or small would need to get started.

Conclusion: Another entrant in the Marketplace Wars 

As we predicted in the Walmart marketplace post, there are going to be a LOT more marketplace options for buyers and sellers hitting the streets in the next 2-12 months.  We'll keep you posted on any new developments.


SeekingAlpha Disclosure - I am long Amazon and Google.  I am CEO of ChannelAdvisor where eBay is a minor investor.




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