Marketplaces. Traditionally the arena of commercial dealings. Nowadays, besides simply being the area where merchants expose their merchandise, marketplaces are a separate entity, enhancing the basic scenario for both participants.
Thus we have a trifecta: Supply, demand and the operator.
While the base scenario of the operator - either as an open space or a website - matches big supply with usually big demand, modern marketplace operators are in the unique position to offer much more. In an era where smooth, frictionless processes rule the operator can enhance every part of the experience.
While obviously, the checkout is a first easy guess on operator added value, the post-checkout experience is an often forgotten but very crucial part of the buyers’ experience. Traditional e-commerce somehow ends after the cart checkout, usually by handing the user over to a courier service.
But with the user paying the merchant for shipping costs, who is the actual client of the courier service?
The courier gets paid by the merchant but has to provide a good experience to the end-user. This contradiction has created a big problem in Greece, where Courier services drop prices in order to enlist shops, while buyer experience suffers. Would it not make sense for the buyer to be a customer of a courier service as well? I would enter my details and preferences once with my courier of choice, have a direct relationship to my courier, maybe use a subscription if I buy online a lot, and simply instruct the merchant on which courier he should use and which user account should be billed (confirmation on the buyer side with a nice push notification would act as a package in transit signal also).
Wouldn’t this also solve some of the other problems in the e-commerce sector? Return shipping should be charged and managed by me (once again an area for innovation), cash on delivery as well as consumer lending could be handled by my courier (charge/lend me only when you pick-up).
Another very misunderstood part of modern e-commerce and thus an area where an operator can add value is customer communication. It is known from behavioral sciences that anticipation and not being in control are two very strong stress factors. Thus the role of customer communication is to remove this stress by making the user feel in charge and aware of every step of the transaction. Obviously one has to handle communications with the necessary care in order to avoid burning the channel one has built up with the user, while also enlisting modern communication channels.
With marketplaces on the rise, fraud is an unavoidable fact. By gathering transactions from a plethora of users, the operator has a much better dataset in order to detect anomalies. Did you know that most of the high volume shops in Greece have to double-check their courier charges every end of the month in order to detect errors? Once again this weird merchant-user-courier setup is creating problems that are hard to solve the way they operate right now. Also with courier charges being unreliable, merchants often resolve in overcharging certain shipments in order to cut losses. Both are symptoms of a problematic setup which an operator can and should solve.
While marketplaces are the incarnation of an inevitable consolidation of certain industries, I think they can offer a much more important role to all involved parties. It goes without saying that with great power comes great responsibility. While certainly biased, I am very confident in the abilities and empathy of the people working on our marketplace :)