By Fraser Deans
The world of ecommerce has been transformed from simple online storefronts that allow you to purchase and receive goods direct to your door from your favourite retailers to comprehensive digital marketplaces which turn individuals into suppliers offering niche and wonderful services. The likes of eBay and Amazon still dominate online ‘retail’ marketplaces but smaller, more nimble marketplaces are popping up to take care of any niche and they are no longer just retail. Digital marketplaces allow us to receive our favourite Thai food at 3am, find that perfect hotel from thousands or locate a caregiver for a relative.
Despite the range of marketplaces that now bless our computers and mobiles the model remains largely the same: connecting buyers and sellers/providers. Both sides are crucial to the marketplace model. Whereas traditional business only really need to market and support their customers, marketplaces have marketing and operational concerns for both sides of their business: buyers AND providers.
Therefore growing a digital marketplace often feels like a catch-22 situation. Do you grow the buyer side first to attract sellers or do you grow our provider side as without the providers buyers will not sign up? The difficulty comes when trying to grow and support both at the same time in a scalable way.
Growing the provider side is often a very hands on approach too. Let’s take the companies leading the recent boom in on-demand cleaning services across Europe and USA: Hassle, Homejoy, Helpling. They require providers to be vetted (using services such as Onfido) as well as trained to ensure their services are up to the brands’ standards and educated on the technology that enables the services. No easy feat when you’re scaling your providers at 10% month-on-month whilst simultaneously trying to attract and build their customer base. They are bound to encounter some growing pains.
In order for these companies to scale fast (particularly in competitive verticals) their development teams must work hard to continually improve their services and develop competitive advantages. This leads to rapidly changing workflows often resulting in ashort term reduction in customer satisfaction whilst users try to reorient themselves inside these new flows. Services which empower marketplace customer support agents to handle everything related to support are essential. Pro-active approaches to customer support, e.g. including effective customer and provider education, should be taken to reduce support queries later in the customer lifecycle. As part of that, new providers should be handheld onto your services so they complete all the necessary steps and hit the ground running.
Interactive guides are a great tool for marketplaces to allow fast scale. They can be used to train the providers through proactive customer education, just-in-time customer support (in-app) and reactive customer services.
Interactive guides for providers and buyers…