January 27, 2021

Why Having Multiple 3P Sellers Kills an Ecommerce Advertising Strategy

By Tony Morales / Advertising, Brand Protection

Advertising is the ticket to making more ecommerce sales, but what many brands don’t realize is that the effectiveness of their advertising can be hampered by the number of sellers they have distributing their product online.

Having more sellers might seem like an easy way to raise awareness of your brand across a myriad of different markets. This may have some truth in brick-and-mortar settings, but online the truth is that the more sellers you have, the more harm it does to your advertising strategy. Multiple 3P sellers aren’t your secret weapon for making sales, at least not for long. They’re one of the biggest obstacles stopping your brand from growing long-term.

Why multiple 3P sellers are bad for ad strategy

Having multiple 3P sellers might make sense from an advertising perspective when you initially think about it—the more sellers you have distributing your product, the more far-reaching your brand and therefore, the higher your revenue, right? Not quite. It’s far less idyllic than that. The reality is that multiple 3P sellers can corrode your brand’s longevity right under your nose, harming your pricing and, more to the point, wrecking your advertising in the process.

Having multiple 3P sellers harms your ad strategy in five primary areas:

  1. Conversion rate
  2. Buy Box ownership
  3. Cohesiveness
  4. Ad bids
  5. Pricing

1. Multiple 3P sellers harm your conversion rate

Your product listings are, in many ways, the face of your brand. How they look directly impacts your conversion rate, and since converting traffic to sales is your goal as a business, it’s really important that your listings look sharp. To keep them looking sharp, you have to stop ceding control to so many 3P sellers.

Multiple 3P sellers don’t have the same incentives you do to make listings for your product look clean and consistent. While you’re concerned about how consumers perceive your brand, many 3P sellers are far more concerned with how they can compete on price to get ahead. This means they may get sloppy and lazy, posting low quality images of your product or providing too few images in the stack to give customers a good idea of what your product is and how to use it. They might post poorly written copy, not provide enough information, or fail to effectively utilize the space on the page to engage customers.

All of these things work against you by making your customers lose confidence and trust in your product, the buying experience and, by extension, your brand. That’s a key thing to remember. How your product is portrayed by one seller reflects on your brand as a whole, and if you have too many sellers doing a shoddy job of their listings, you’re going to tank both your conversion rate and the way consumers view your brand.

2. Multiple sellers affect your Buy Box ownership

The Buy Box on Amazon is prime real estate. It can jet propel your sales and conversion rates and get your brand invaluable exposure. Winning it also unlocks Amazon’s coveted sponsored ads. That means you want to win the Buy Box as often and consistently as possible.

While winning and maintaining the Buy Box isn’t hard to do with one 3P seller and a strong presence on Amazon, having multiple sellers can put a lot of jarring stops and starts into your ad strategy and give you less control, even leading to Buy Box suppression as you lose out on pricing control.

Amazon gives a higher percentage share of the Buy Box to the strongest seller on a listing. That seller might get 80% of the day, for example, while a lower-ranking seller gets the remaining 20%. Without 100% of the Buy Box, you can’t have 100% ownership of the day, which means you can’t decide when your sponsored ads run. They might run at a time that isn’t very conducive for sales as a result.

Another downside of having too many 3P sellers is that you essentially have to round robin winning the Buy Box. It can take a lot of time and work to coordinate everything.

3. More than one 3P seller makes your strategy less cohesive

For an ad strategy to be most effective, it needs to be aligned across targeted keywords, competitors, and content and look the same across all channels. It takes a lot of work to organize it all, and (as you can imagine) this is significantly easier to accomplish with fewer sellers.

The wider your distribution, the more work you have to do for a successful ad campaign, like communicating with all sellers on promotions, calendaring sales, supplying marketing materials, and more. In this scenario, you can’t always count on a wide network of sellers to execute your sales effectively. What typically ends up happening is your ad strategy is inconsistent and incohesive among your sellers, therefore not as strong as it could be.

4. Multiple 3P sellers may increase the cost of your ad bid

Aside from wrecking your conversion rates and requiring a lot of coordination, a wide distribution of sellers can also cost you more in ad spend. Without strong communication between your sellers, it’s very likely they’ll end up competing on the same keywords and drive up the cost of the bid for them on Amazon, resulting in a lower ROI and intrabrand competition. The last thing you want to do is watch ten different sellers waste your advertising dollars to compete with each other and win few sales for you in the process.

5. More than one 3P seller causes price erosion

Selling on ecommerce marketplaces is like juggling: the more balls you have in the air, the harder it is to manage them. When you don’t have control, one or more of them will go rogue and then soon all of them will come toppling down on top of you. In ecommerce, price erosion is when the balls fall.

Price erosion is what happens when a seller drops the price on a product below MAP to get ahead and win the Buy Box, forcing other sellers to lower their prices on that product to compete. These sellers will keep moving on price to beat each other out, and pretty soon, your product will have been stripped of both its value and its margins. This not only harms your brand online, but it damages your relationship with your brick-and-mortar distributors by corroding their margins. Left unchecked, this price erosion will keep happening and it can lead to a profitability death spiral where your products fail to make a profit. Pretty bleak, isn’t it?

The worst bit is that when price erosion is happening, advertising can make it worse. Any attempt you make to advertise a product that isn’t already in the Buy Box will inevitably drive traffic to the listing with the lowest price. Inadvertently, you’ll end up accelerating your own price erosion and the profitability death spiral.

How Pattern can help

One way you can solve your advertising problem is by narrowing your 3P partners down to exactly one: Pattern.

Pattern is like the Swiss army knife of your ecommerce business, because we offer you every tool you need to clean up your channels, enter new marketplaces, and grow your profits long-term. When it comes to multiple 3P sellers, we pinpoint and help you eliminate the bad players eroding your prices, sharpen your listings, help you win the Buy Box, and do the grunt work to make your advertising strategy cohesive across all channels.

We use data science to revitalize your brand presence from top to bottom and help you win big on ecommerce. We can also take your brand into new frontiers like Walmart Marketplace or even further to international marketplaces to help your brand make a global footprint. We aren’t just one of your sellers. We’re a partner that loves your product as much as you do and puts your success first.

To get started or learn more about how a partnership with Pattern can help your business, contact us with the form below.

More Resources
The Experts' Guide to Amazon Advertising Strategy
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Accelerate Your International Presence—China
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