For online marketplaces, messaging has become a pivotal component for logistics, communication, retention, sales and customer support. While some companies have transitioned to integrating their platforms with 1-on-1 messaging and group chat, still many of the biggest online marketplace companies continue to lag behind. Companies either have an email-style messaging inbox for buyers and sellers, or do not have any forms of real-time contact besides email or phone.
With consumers increasingly expecting effortless engagement, Forrester Research concluded that, “Fifty-five percent of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question.” This should convince us that the ability to reach our customers in real-time - at the moment, they have a question, concern, or buying intent - is essential for marketplaces, e-commerce, and on-demand economies.
As buyer behavior continues to change, online marketplaces will need to innovate their communication to match consumer expectations and behaviors. Consumers want clear communication, they want to be notified about the status of their purchase, they want their questions answered easily, and they want an effortless support process that meets them where they already spend their time. Chat and messaging done well can offer each of these demands.
Now that we're convinced that messaging could be an essential part of marketplace growth and efficiency, let's answer some basic questions about marketplaces.
An online marketplace is a platform on web or mobile that aggregates shopping options from third-party vendors across many different sectors. A great example of an online marketplace would be Ebay, Amazon or even Airbnb.
Marketplaces can be categorized into two different types: Vertical and Horizontal.
A vertical marketplace sells products of a single type, but from many different sources. Some examples: Uber primarily sells car transportation, Airbnb sells housing accommodation, Shift sells used cars.
A horizontal marketplace sells many different product categories from many different sources. Ebay, for example, sells consumer products from nearly every category. Carousell, too, sells many consumer products from peer to peer.
Marketplaces can also be further broken down into different categories such as consumer to consumer (C2C), business to consumer (B2C), business to business (B2B) and others. We’ll touch on some examples of companies in these categories a little later in this article.
Messaging and chat has become an essential part of most consumers’ everyday life. According to Forrester Research, all age demographics have become more comfortable with real-time messaging and chat satisfaction is high across all generations. Most consumers prefer to communicate through messaging, with voice calling probably being one close competitor. This consumer shift towards messaging and more immediate forms of communication indicates that every industry, not just online marketplaces, needs to shift their communication strategies if they want to meet the needs of today’s consumer.
Consumer buying behavior is extremely fickle and not being able to provide real-time support, whether through live chat customer support or buyer to seller messaging, could make or break a transaction. Messaging is important to online marketplaces because it reaches the user at the right moment when the intention to buy is high.
Consumers value their time. In Forrester Research’s The Six Key Elements of Proactive Chat, “77% of US online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service, while 72% say that they are unlikely to return to a website that does not provide them with a good customer experience.”
Since consumers value their time and experience as customers, and since they so often abandon their purchases without immediate answers, customer experience and the speed at which you provide value is absolutely crucial
Messaging addresses both of these needs because:
Implementing chat and messaging also provides asynchronous communication, too. Real-time messaging can be instantaneous and asynchronous. It can captivate the user when they’re thinking about a purchase or, if that’s not possible, it also packages asynchronous messaging in a form already familiar to them and one consumers actually prefer. This gives live chat support and buyer to seller chat also gives the sense of around the clock communication.
For instance, when I use Airbnb’s app to book a place and have any questions about the listing, I will message the host. If the host receives a notification, returns to the app, and begins chatting with me, then my questions can be answered immediately. That’s a 5-star experience.
If I don’t get a response right away, I know from past messaging experiences that the host will respond when he or she has a moment because that’s how this channel works. I know the person or host on the other side will get back to me, and I don’t have to wait for the right time zone or for the company to open to send my inquiry. The second I have a questions, I send the message and if the reply is immediate, great! But if it is not immediate and I have a reply the next morning, also great!
Messaging is simple and informal, and, unlike email or phone, requires few steps to reach the right person.
Messaging is also important to online marketplaces is because the chat window can serve as a platform for touchpoints with the user. Whether that is sending promotions, special sales, or news about your company, chat and messaging doesn’t have to be a channel where the company waits for an inquiry. It can be a place where the company can actively reach out.
With so many interactions between buyer and seller, inquiries about products, or logistical notifications, marketplaces need a set of notifications customized to fit their exact situation and needs.
Webhooks allow developers to create custom notifications triggered by actions that users take in your application. Since they send information instantaneously from one application to another, you can trigger a notification - whether a push notification, message, SMS, or e-mail - in real-time based on user behavior.
The messaging interface, then, can become another platform for notifying and interacting with your app users
Carousell is a consumer to consumer (C2C) marketplace for buying and selling new and secondhand goods. The marketplace offers a wide variety of selections from clothes, furniture and electronics to bigger items such as cars and homes.
Carousell provides chat on both their mobile and web platforms allowing buyers to message sellers about a specific item and even make offers through the chat window.
SSG is one of the largest department store franchises in South Korea. They have an online marketplace where retailers from fashion to food can sell products on SSG’s mobile app.
SSG partnered with SendBird to launch a three-phased messaging plan to offer 1-to-1 messaging for buyer to seller chat and friend messaging, SSG customer support and finally chatbots.
GO-JEK is Indonesia’s largest ride hailing app. On top of their ride service, they also have a huge mobile marketplace for on-demand food, massage, grocery, cleaning, makeup, movie tickets and more.
GO-JEK works with SendBird to power rider to customer chat, so when a delivery of your choice is on its way, you can communicate with the driver directly through the app.
Shedd is a global online marketplace for buying and selling pre-adored fashion. The C2C marketplace offers buyer to seller chat for their mobile platform.
Eden is a marketplace for office services. It connects office managers to vendors of services like office cleaning, plumbing, moving, IT, and more. Using SendBird’s group chat, Eden connects customers and vendors and sends them custom notifications to ensure that communication between both parties is clear and complete.
In the early part of the decade, online marketplaces took off, creating marketplaces for just about any vertical that you could conceive. In the US at the beginning of 2018, for example, marketplace revenue reached $57 billion and, yet, only represented 7% of the $758 billion addressable market in United States. Many of these online marketplaces are slowly beginning to integrate their platforms with chat and messaging. For a handful of different marketplace verticals, however, they have not yet innovated their communication.
Online real estate marketplaces are one of the best examples of a vertical marketplace missing a clear opportunity to provide chat and messaging in their platforms. Many of these companies still only offer a contact form or phone number for the buyer to reach out. Of the small number of real estate marketplace companies that offer some form of chat, their experience is obsolete or heavily involves SMS.
If real estate marketplaces monetize by selling leads to agents, then it makes sense that these marketplaces capture leads with chat and messaging in real-time, broadening the top of their funnel or qualifying leads further to provide better quality to their agents.
Or, if like OpenDoor, the real-estate marketplace buys homes from consumers who want a more streamlined selling process, then chat and messaging can streamline your pipeline and, again, capture and qualify more leads.
By analyzing sanitized chat and messaging data, too, real-estate marketplaces can provide a better experience to their consumer market, providing more information on listings or anticipating their needs more accurately.
Whatever the business model, real-estate marketplaces can use chat and messaging to consult and personalize a sometimes complicated product or difficult sales-purchase cycle.
Since marketplace business models fundamentally connect buyers to sellers, or either to a third-party agent, chat and messaging can be the platform to bring these groups of people together. This could create clearer and more complete communication, more qualified leads and more of them. SendBird is already an expert in marketplace chat and works with global leading marketplaces and on-demand businesses.