Online marketplaces and how you can scale & facilitate meaningful engagements
With the rise of online marketplaces and increase in amount of data available about individuals and companies, connecting people with a need to people who can fill that need has become simpler. Also, the traditional divide between a ‘supplier’ and ‘consumer’ is beginning to blur, with platforms like Airbnb focusing on something more fundamental – enabling more people to give (peer to peer giving), bringing people together for a meaningful exchange, making the transaction convenient and letting a third party (admin) intervene only when it’s required.
There are three things that are central, in my view, for online marketplaces to address early and to stay open, to mature gradually:
Creating an integrated experience, with minimal features
Define very specific functions for every user, using the platform. Be it for users who consume or provide, or for platform operators who want to monitor overall engagement and gain insights. Admin interventions may vary from industry to industry, some platforms can function with a low administrative involvement, some may need high involvement.For example – professional photographers in India, still predominantly are operating offline, there is a high need for an admin to onboard photographers, help manage their profiles, give them periodic insights on how they could improve their brand presence and engagement.It’s important for online marketplaces, to enable providers, consumers and admins, with very specific functions in extremely simple ways, understand behaviours and mature eventually.
Choosing apt technologies for scale and using them optimally
It’s extremely important to understand what technologies can best suit the platform you’re building, specially if it needs to quickly scale up to serve different countries, cultures and languages. There are technologies, architectures and frameworks, that offer flexibility to switch currencies, languages, payment methods, security compliances etc.For example – Applications that are computation heavy or require processing of large chunks of data could be built on Python for performance. NodeJS could be chosen for apps like Uber that need persistent connections to the server, to serve at a large scale.Step one, is picking the right technology stack and two, is figuring how to make the most out of it. Even with the best of technologies, if not coded right, can lead to poor performance and inability to gracefully handle scale or incremental traffic.
Finding opportunities to proactively improve consumer experience
With the potential of AI (Artificial Intelligence), online marketplaces can closely observe consumer demand and behavior, share trends it is starting to see, enabling providers to engage better with consumers.For example – with machine learning, a peer to peer online ‘lending’ marketplace can proactively recommend exclusive interest rates, to only those consumers who have a consistent positive record of repayments. Another application of AI could be in ‘intent recognition’, where the platform understands the consumer’s search intent and proactively connects them to people who can fulfil that intent.One has to be innovative in terms of using the power of technology, mobility and internet to continuously draw actionable insights for people engaging on the platform and people operating it.