By Lacey Riddick, Marketplace Support Specialist
September 12, 2022
Online marketplaces face the unique task of getting two strangers to transact with each other. The scale and degree of this interaction vary based on your marketplace, but at the core of any marketplace is a connection that leads to a transaction between a customer and merchant. The overarching determinant of marketplace success, marketplace liquidity, is the frequency at which your marketplace can accomplish transactions from these connections. Providing buyers and sellers on your platform with a safe and efficient channel to interact on is the first step towards generating transactions and maximizing your marketplace’s liquidity.
The ability to communicate with the person you intend to make a financial transaction with is central to a user’s decision-making process, especially when the merchant has the most accurate information on whatever product or service is being exchanged. No matter how cutting-edge Airbnb’s support team is, the homeowner will always be the most effective person to answer specific questions about the house and stay. This sentiment holds true for Etsy creators, Wag dog walkers, and Turo car renters. Having a functional and reliable peer-to-peer chat tool is foundational to running a marketplace platform and streamlining sales.
Merchants can address a customer’s reservations in real time and speed up the process of placing an order without having to disclose any personal information (phone, email address, etc.) via an embedded chat tool. Also, depending on the marketplace, buyers and sellers can negotiate deals like lower prices, free shipping, and local pickup via direct messaging.
In-app chat provides transparency for marketplace operators to proactively monitor for unapproved behavior. Trigger words can be put in place to minimize disintermediation. For example, keywords like 'phone', 'email', 'PayPal', 'Venmo', or 'cash'. Also, monitoring for other bad actors like harassment or bullying.
Customer support representatives can also view direct messages between the buyer and seller to more efficiently handle order-related issues. This can help provide context and a full timeline on the situation and better inform the customer service agent on how to resolve the issue. Also, having a written account of these interactions can help product managers locate repeating pain points that may go unnoticed otherwise.
When making a deal with a stranger, direct messaging allows the customer and merchant to manage any doubts directly. This process humanizes the buyer and seller. Once a rapport is in place and a positive interaction has occurred, the buyer will likely feel more comfortable both with the seller and the platform itself in the future.
As a marketplace operator, the decision to build or buy a chat tool for your platform involves several key factors. Especially in the early days, developing a chat tool in-house can be a time sink for your engineer(s). When there were no better alternatives, this was just part of creating a new platform. However, as SaaS tools become more accessible, integrating a third party chat tool with APIs and pre-built UIs lets your engineers focus on what makes your platform unique to your users.
Some of the popular chat services to consider are:
All of these P2P messaging platforms also offer some sort of moderation service to catch keywords and to view all messages that go through the platform as an admin. However, one thing to consider is monitoring these conversations at scale. One of the challenges of operating a marketplace at scale is that it becomes impossible to proactively combat disintermediation or harassment within these conversations. This is why an additional layer, like Marketbase, can help auto-flag these types of messages which help operators continue to proactively monitor conversations at scale.
An online marketplace requires an efficient channel for its users to communicate directly and safely. When deciding between integrating a third-party chat tool or creating your own, consider your time, financial situation, technical abilities, and what will provide the best value to your users. Either direction, we encourage you to also check out the Marketbase conversation monitoring platform designed by and for marketplace operators. Marketbase is how marketplace teams monitor for abuse, identify bad actors, and organize all of this information into one sophisticated dashboard while saving months of engineering effort.
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