In two-sided marketplaces, the problems faced by the owners are much more than a traditional e-commerce store. A marketplace is a platform that connects buyers and sellers. Given that both sellers and customers have to be on-boarded to be successful. This situation describes a typical “chicken and egg” problem as both sides are dependant on each other.
Ideally, the solution is to seek both at the same time. But, with companies having limited funding and resources at hand this is not the right strategy to follow.
To start with, try onboarding sellers onto the platform. With enough brands on your platform listing product/service offerings, begin customer acquisition. The first few customers are very important for reviews and referrals.
Tips for acquiring sellers and customers onto your platform are listed below.
Tap into existing platforms:
There are some platforms already in place operating in the same business that you are in. So one way to get targeted sellers and buyers is to tap into those platforms buyers and sellers are likely to be active. These platforms have discussion forums where sellers get to promote their products and users clarifying any product related queries. Airbnb and Etsy acquired their first customers this way.
Use the same approach offline, take part in trade fairs related to your business, exchange your cards, put up a stall with your company’s branded material and get leads for your marketplace.
The first thing I do when asked for leads is to open up a directory and extract the data for the particular segment. This is often overlooked but trust me, companies and individuals still list their products/services in directories. Take ‘Craigslist’; if you’re looking out to start a platform to help people looking out for childcare services and hospitals providing them, you can get the list of services providers with the geographic location in it.
Now that you have prepared a list of your targeted sellers to start communicating, good advice would be to categorize them into groups based on their business type, scale and region etc. and then begin your email and message campaigns.
Email and SMS campaigns:
Once your list is categorized start composing content for each segment. Make your email personal, state your value proposition clearly that the receiver should know “What’s in it in for him”. Choose the most suitable subject line for the mail as every inbox contains thousands of unopened email.
If you already have an existing website and application, provide the links for the same. You could also share articles on the industry news and tips for business success.
In the case of text messages, you can use online tools for bulk messaging.
Build Excitement! The only way to ensure a successful launch is to create hype and build excitement. Start engaging with your target audience by actively contributing to blogs and niche forums. The founders of Etsy had made use of online platforms to understand the crafting community and build their online presence launching their marketplace. Such moves can also give insights on the preferences of your potential marketplace users.
Launch timing is critical.
Timing is everything!
Airbnb launched its rental service application in Denver at the time when there was a local hotel shortage which was accommodating 80,000 convention goers. E.g. the best way to start your ice cream brand is during the summer season. Try to launch your brand in times of excess demand and limited supply. This will help the brand create a foothold in the market.
Your first few customers are important.
The first customers are the ones who are going to preach about your brand to the world. It is essential that at the early stages of the business, customer satisfaction should be focussed. Uber served their first few customers managing their own fleet.
Follow the above tips to drive traffic to your online marketplace. Once, customer sign up on a daily basis starts hitting good numbers then the focus should move towards retention. Returning customers are most critical and drive more profits. Checkout our other blogs on “How to retain customers in a marketplace”.
Try Yelo, to build an online marketplace with integrated promotional tools and features.