Licensors, brand owners, and retailers are starting to view online marketplaces as viable partners for a variety of collaborative ventures. In these digital “malls,” vendors small and large operate independent boutiques side by side, creating a one-stop destination for the buyers and attracting higher traffic for the sellers.
The configurations of marketers’ relationships with these online shopping hubs vary widely:
- TV presenter, reality star, interior designer, and lifestyle influencer Jillian Harris paired with Etsy Canada for JH x Etsy collections for both the summer and holiday seasons last year. Harris curated each assortment from products sold by nine independent Etsy makers, with items ranging from glass straws to charcuterie boards to dresses. The collections were available until the pieces—mostly handmade and very limited in quantity—were gone.
- Disney and Zilingo, a marketplace available to shoppers in five Asian markets, partnered for a series of lifestyle collections tied to Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars characters. More than 500 products were set to be developed as part of the relationship, with the first collection, Marvel x Zilingo, including items such as t-shirts and sweats. Assortments tied to properties including Aladdin, Frozen 2, Star Wars, and Mickey & Friends were also part of the initiative.
- Lego got into the marketplace game not through collaboration but through acquisition. It purchased Bricklink, a 20-year-old marketplace for Lego brick collectors, indie shops, and aficionados, mainly adults, to buy and sell secondhand pieces. The purchase, which was announced in December, was controversial among the fans frequenting the site, who wanted it to maintain its independence. The company said it made the investment to strengthen ties with its fans and to foster creativity, not to influence pricing or otherwise use a heavy hand. The site has more than a million members and over 10,000 stores.
- Digital lifestyle publisher Popsugar launched its own marketplace, called Glow, for independent vendors of fitness goods and classes, mostly consisting of online fitness influencers, with 50 vendors and 1,000-plus items featured to start. Popsugar offers its own fitness content and products on the hub as well, and takes a 25% cut of everything sold.
- Licensing agency The Brand Liaison took on IP acquisition duties for Watch Skins, a new marketplace for blockchain-enabled digital watch faces. Consumers can buy and sell digital watch faces, including licensed varieties tied to fashion and other properties, as collectibles.
- What Goes Around Comes Around, a reseller of used luxury goods, worked with eBay on a series of capsule collections of vintage designer bags. The “Peace, Luxe, and Rock and Roll” collection in summer 2019 featured 1,300 items from designers including Gucci, Chanel, Dior, and Fendi. eBay customers could bid on the items just as for any eBay auction posted by an indie seller.
As these examples show, there is no single method of working with a marketplace, since each is different from the other in terms of what is sold and how it works. But, no matter the nature of the individual deals, marketplaces represent a relatively untapped opportunity for licensors and other brand marketers, and are likely to become more frequent collaborators over time.
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