3 Key Elements of Successful Marketplaces

By: Charles Costa | May 10, 2018 | Marketplaces

Whether you’re just getting started with marketplaces or already have a vibrant property, there are plenty of approaches you can take to up the ante with your marketplace. Failing to do so puts your property at risk of extinction. With that in mind, here are 3 key elements that are at the foundation of most successful marketplaces.

1. Deliver a new experience as opposed to the status quo

Successful marketplaces are more than properties which aggregate content from buyers and sellers. The operators also focus on delivering exceptional experiences to their end users. In many cases, those experiences wouldn’t be possible without a marketplace to facilitate the transactions.

Take Uber and Airbnb for example, they are perfect examples of marketplaces which broke the status quo by making people feel safe to ride in a stranger’s car, or sleep in a stranger’s home. To make this practical, Uber and Airbnb had to take a very hands-on approach to facilitating transactions—via methods such as background checks, feedback systems, and other relevant options.

All that being said, your marketplace doesn’t need to be nearly as disruptive to social norms as Airbnb or Uber. Marketplaces such as Restorando eliminate the need for consumers to dial restaurants one by one, and instead allow them to make reservations in a few clicks.

Going along the theme of removing the friction associated with transactions, you can take a hands-off approach and still deliver an exceptional experience. Carousell for example is a marketplace where users can create product listings in seconds by snapping a photo and uploading it via the mobile app. This is opposed to the old school way of taking photos, loading them to a computer, and then uploading them to a website.

By developing unique experiences that provide a “wow” factor, in many cases you can get users hooked, so you can focus on growing revenue rather than competing on price.

2. Enhance convenience or usability

If you’re already running a platform, you’ve probably leveraged a technique or two to get your marketplace flywheel moving. That being said, having high levels of liquidity within your marketplace only makes it good enough. You’ll be making money, but in order to truly stand out, your platform needs to add enough value so that you can out win the competition.

For example, Uber’s ease of use and simplicity for example has increased the number of times passengers use a ride-hailing service. What may have been a weekly transaction in the past, might now occur on a daily basis. Similarly another company of note is Upwork. This marketplace opened the floodgates for people to outsource a variety of tasks which normally would be performed in-house.

As you’re developing your marketplace, ask yourself, “How can I enhance convenience or usability?” By leveraging innovative thinking, you can take take a modest niche and turn it into a vibrant community for your marketplace.

3. Focus on the most passionate users

While developing a large and vibrant community is an essential part of running a successful marketplace, as you grow, it’s still important to remain true to your early adopters and power users. By engaging with them and catering to their needs, you’ll increase the odds of them referring people to your platform organically.

eBay for example has what was formerly known as their PowerSeller program. This is where top sellers would receive recognition, premium service, and other unique offers as a reward for meeting specified revenue quotas.
Another example of a marketplace focusing on their core users is AbeBooks (before their acquisition by Amazon). They catered to their seller community through exclusive forums, seller meetups, and an advisory board for sellers, by sellers.


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Author: Charles Costa

Charles Costa is a content marketing specialist who specializes in helping companies grow, one word at a time. Prior to Kahuna, Charles worked with brands such as Airbnb, Iron Mountain, and IBM on their content marketing efforts.

Charles' work has been featured in the Huffington Post, and he also was a contributor to the developer publication, Sitepoint.

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