Everywhere I look in our thriving sector there are marketplaces launching, existing players expanding and a new wave of people buying and selling online for their businesses.
For these business buyers and sellers, a new era of convenience has arrived – one where the difficulties of the past have been thrown eagerly aside. No more lengthy sales cycles, complex buying processes or traditional business development.
Just unrivalled choice, ease and borderless trade; the pillars of successful marketplaces. There is, however, a fourth element that’s quickly becoming a genuine differentiator, particularly as competition intensifies.
It’s trust, the very fabric of our society, and as marketplaces mature, I feel the relationship we all have with trust needs resetting. As a marketplace, the ultimate goal should be to understand what trust is, the systems that govern it, and trust’s influence over customers.
Trust’s in Short Supply
But first, is trust eroding faster than marketplaces can retain it?
Many are concerned that relationships matter less in this industry and standards are being sacrificed in the name of profit. While in some cases this claim has an air of truth, blame doesn’t solely lie with any one marketplace or the desire to chase consecutive quarters of growth.
It’s simply how the internet and marketplaces have evolved. We all know there has to be a trade-off for ever-increasing convenience and validating the interactions we have on behalf of our businesses is unfortunately what’s been put to one side.
Even the most cautious person rarely digs deeper than surface level information when online. Busyness intensifies this issue, in some cases indifference is the root cause or occasionally a lack of personal culpability when buying something online for work is the concern: i.e., it’s the company’s money, not mine.
This approach is all well and good until the buyer falls victim to fraud or finds themself hauled into an urgent meeting because the 50-ton crane purchased online hasn’t arrived due to a seller’s sudden insolvency. Effective due diligence doesn’t just go away because you’re using a marketplace.
Accountability lies with everyone in this fragile ecosystem.
Buying and selling something online should be unemotional, binary; a case of “I trust this because it’s truthful, therefore I will spend my money.”
Reality is different, and I feel if marketplaces are to thrive in the future, it’s ultimately the marketplace’s responsibility to deliver this certainty while catering to the emotional needs of how people buy. You could argue this is unfair, but buyers and sellers can only do so much.
Blue Ticking the Box
What’s a marketplace to do then?
Third party reviews websites provide some social proof. Feedback systems work to an extent, but they tell buyers very little about the actual companies behind a username. Even if a marketplace invests heavily in user verification systems, that information is often kept behind closed doors, quickly outdated or incapable of scaling as a marketplace grows.
Twitter has its ‘blue tick’, why isn’t there an equivalent for a marketplace?
After all, when a buyer has doubts, they hesitate. A visual cue may be all they need. Sellers aren’t immune either. They want to trust the buyers coming to them are safe to trade with. This is a two-way street, and the marketplace should be the signpost at the crossroads.
In B2B scenarios, marketplaces facilitate millions of pounds worth of trade a day. Buying for a business may be easy as impulsively buying a pair of shoes nowadays, however the consequences if something goes awry are far severer.
If the purchase doesn’t arrive because the listing was fraudulent it can cause a project or supply chain to grind to a halt. That buyer most likely won’t ever return either, costing the marketplace a customer and the future revenue associated with them.
The most important part of this equation is the information cultivating this trust, the data unpinning any visual cue. It’s why Twitter itself is redesigning its credibility mark – it has acknowledged that a simple tick is no longer enough in an era of misinformation. People want to know why.
Customers want context and marketplace buyers in particular need accurate data to inform their decision-making before they press the buy button. This cannot, however, be provided in a way that overloads them with so much complexity that they end up immobilised mid-purchase.
Solving this conundrum is a priority for marketplaces. Technology is helping overcome the challenge, however this must be aligned with customers’ expectations. When carefully planned out and implemented in a way that meets the needs of buyers and sellers, marketplaces will be in a far stronger position to police their communities, protect reputation and convince customers that trust matters to them.
We have already reached a point where you can buy anything you want for the price you want in the way you want. The last competitive differentiator that remains is whether or not your marketplace can be trusted.
Liam Chennells, Chief Executive Officer, Detected