A Q&A with marketplace thought leader Adam Broadway on choosing the right notification system and trust mechanisms for your marketplace platform
As we wrote about in an earlier post, building security mechanisms and timely notifications into a sharing economy, peer-to-peer or marketplace platform is vital to its success. To help entrepreneurs get a better handle on these issues, I talked with Adam Broadway, marketplace thought leader and founder of Marketplaceplatform.com. The following Q&A should help peer-to-peer platform entrepreneurs decide which kinds of notification systems, trust and security mechanisms to incorporate into their platforms, depending on their industry, end users or business model.
Robin: What communication channels (personal email, in-app messaging, text messages, phone calls, push notifications…) would you recommend incorporating into a (sharing economy) marketplace platform to put users in touch?
Future-proof the communications channels by including an API layer, so that 3rd parties can also form part of the overall communication strategy.”
Adam: All of the above, including video calls and 3rd party API integration points like CALLR, Slack, and Olark, as well as UserVoice and customer service apps. Ease of communication between the guest/host, buyer/seller, ‘lister’/enquirer is critical, including escalation rules to handle the exceptional cases when follow-up on the part of the platform doesn’t happen.
For some, instant messaging might be fastest, and able to provide enough of a ‘personal connection’ to answer simple questions. For others, click-to-call with anonymized phone number masking may be needed, as the caller requires a more in-depth conversation than an email or text exchange can efficiently provide. Calls made via CPaaS providers can also be recorded for ‘training and quality’ purposes, so the marketplace owner is able to review conversations as a means of enhancing the marketplace user experience and FAQ areas of the site.
The platform used to power the marketplace must also provide a flexible workflow engine, so that additional alerts relating to, ‘You have a new inquiry/message’ can be sent as an email, mobile text/sms or as an in-app alert. These workflow rules should also handle reminders, such that if the communication follow-up has not occurred in a timely manner, escalation through other communication channels can occur to make sure the reminder gets through to the end user.
Future-proof the communications channels by including an API layer, so that 3rd party services such as Olark, Slack, UserVoice, CRM and Service Desk applications can also form part of the overall communication strategy.
Platforms should find out from the user base what communication channels they’re most likely to use. Their answers should serve as a guide.”
A: The choice should be based on the needs of the end customer, not on what is easiest for the marketplace owner or developer building the solution.
Platforms should find out from the user base what communication channels they’re most likely to use. Their answers should serve as a guide. For example, if the marketplace is focused on elderly care, a click-to-call feature is likely a good option. On the other hand, for subject matter expert marketplaces, where the discussion will probably be quite complex, a video conference call integration would be a better choice. For general product-focused marketplaces, instant message / email / chat is probably sufficient.
The marketplace owner will also need to understand their customers’ needs based on a Return on Value analysis of the cost of implementing a specific communication framework, so that the conversion to success metrics (a purchase, a new user signup, increased subscription fees, lessening the customer support costs, etc.) can be factored into the decision to enable one type of communication method vs. another.
Importantly, if the marketplace owner’s concerns are focused on “not letting the community/user-base communicate directly because they might take the transaction off the marketplace,” i.e. ‘platform leakage,’ then they have the wrong concern in mind. The focus should be on ‘what value are we providing to our marketplace community that would ensure they DO keep communication and transactions on the marketplace.’
R: What advice would you give sharing economy (marketplace) entrepreneurs for providing real-time notifications between buyers and sellers?
Don’t spend time trying to account for and mitigate against the small percentage of users who will take the deal ‘outside the marketplace.’ These kinds of users will always find a workaround. Your time is better spent on finding ways to add value that will entice them to not want to leave the marketplace at all.”
A: Again, their focus must be on the needs of the buyers/sellers, guests/hosts, ‘lister’/enquirer. Ask yourself, ‘how can I make communication between my platform users as easy as possible?’
Also, don’t reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of great services for all kinds of communication between marketplace participants, like Amazon’s Chime, Olark or UserVoice – you don’t need to build the technology from scratch; leveraging existing platforms that have already integrated these kinds of services is a more efficient choice.
Finally, don’t spend time trying to account for and mitigate against the small percentage of users who will take the deal ‘outside the marketplace,’ i.e. they want to exchange fees directly to cut out any commission the marketplace owner might charge.
These kinds of users will always find a workaround. Your time is better spent on finding ways to add value and service that will entice them to not want to leave the marketplace at all, which might mean tweaking your business model.
R: Do you have an opinion on the anonymity vs. transparency debate? i.e. should buyers/sellers be kept totally anonymous, or should their “real” identities be transparent?
For marketplaces that are ‘Communities of Interest,’ more explicit trust mechanisms and transparency may be required, including phone verification, linking social media accounts, or flagging accounts based on their possible phishing or fraud scams.”
A: Identify theft and fraud are on the increase, so ensuring the safety of all participants in the marketplace is important. How you do this will depend on the type of marketplace in question.
For example, in marketplaces focused on a ‘Community of Practice’ (e.g. everyone within the marketplace is a career professional), implicit trust already exists, precisely because all platform users are members of the same club, association, professional affiliation or similar. Basically, a level of trust already exists, because to be part of this marketplace, it’s known that all users have been vetted and have the ‘bona fides’ or qualifications to participate.
However, for marketplaces that are ‘Communities of Interest,’ (where participants are more casual and ad hoc in their interactions with the marketplace), then more explicit trust mechanisms and transparency may be required, including phone verification, linking social media accounts, or flagging accounts based on their possible phishing or fraud scams.
Certain technologies can help in various ways, either by identifying known patterns in the user workflows to allow the marketplace administrators to ‘manage by exception’ where possible fraud might be occurring, or to flag instances where a person does not look like who they say they are. Good product options include ThreatMatrix or Entrust.
Marketplace owners can also include a ‘middle ground business rule’ built into the marketplace, such that after a user verifies their account over a period of time, links social accounts, and/or has met the criteria defined by the marketplace community on what is an acceptable level of ‘proof of trust,’ then more access to personal information is granted.
Lastly, one of the most powerful methods of social trust is done through Peer Group Analysis, where the interconnected relationships between community members is verified by 4 to 5 other trusted and inter-connected members of the community. This peer-group approach is very powerful and applies to off-line trust and credibility. Software like Peer Analytics exists to derive these peer-group trust ‘scores’ so that users’ credibility can be quantified and qualified in a more automated way.
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R: What advice would you give sharing economy (marketplace) entrepreneurs for creating trust and security among their platform’s users?
The more conversations though IM, chat, email, text, phone, or video you provide, the more engagement you will have, which will lead to more growth and more conversion towards your end business goals.”
A: Communication is the key to success in any relationship, whether online or in the real-world.
Provide more choice in the way your marketplace community members can communicate and don’t worry about them ‘taking the deal off the platform.’ The more conversations though IM, chat, email, text, phone, or video you provide, the more engagement you will have, which will lead to more growth and more conversion towards your end business goals.
Building on top of existing, respected platforms, rather than from a ground-up approach, will also mitigate security holes in your platform, as you leverage the learnings and best practice of others.