If you have reached this far in the series, CONGRATULATIONS! You are just one step away from making your dream a reality! The Big Moment is here!
Well, let me burst the bubble for you. Launches are overhyped. You didn’t see that coming, did you? I always believed that launching your own business was a big thing and it was imperative that we made it look like a huge affair. But industry experts have analyzed launches over the years and have come to a conclusion that a big launch does not guarantee more success.
So How Do You Go About It?
The Soft Launch
Online Marketplaces deal in two sets of customers- buyers and sellers. It is important that you have both sets of customers in your marketplace to make it a success. The soft launch is a strategic initiative where you open up your marketplace for both sets of customers minus the huge marketing spend. It makes a lot of sense to first build up your supply and demand and then focus on numbers. This will also help you gradually validate your marketplace at every growth step.
We already discussed how to attract customers in the last article. In the initial stages, concentrate more on quality than quantity. Make sure that the buyers find what they come looking for. When a buyer finds stuff easily, you will build repeat customers. The more the transactions, the more suppliers you can attract. The better the experience of the customers, the more secondary customers through word of mouth publicity.
Try Building a Community and Not User Base
Building Seller Network
Like the buyers, your sellers also must be handpicked during the soft launch. Build a community of sellers who provide the most relevant products in your marketplace. Also, cover other aspects such as logistics and return and refund policies with the sellers.
To build a good seller network, you could:
1) Start with a couple of sellers and wait for them to act as evangelists.
2) Try finding sellers from other websites and try providing a better value proposition to them.
3) Try looking at Classifieds and listings; a lot of offline sellers would be willing to move online and you might actually end up acquiring some quality providers onto your marketplace.
The Hard Launch
By this phase, you should have already built the initial set of customers. This step is about maintaining a good supply-demand ratio and a big bang opening shouldn’t be as devastating as it would have been earlier (or maybe none at all, if you do it right). While you go for the big launch, there are various marketing and PR tactics that you could use.
PR Event: PR has always been the gem when you want to gather as much attention as possible. In comparison with an ATL activity like Print or Broadcast ads, PR is more cost-effective and creates a better impact on your audience. PR, unlike paid ads, is a double-edged sword in mass media. If you try to do a lot, it might just backfire. Hence it is important to carefully strategize your PR content and work on contingency plans in case something goes wrong.
Promotions: Promotions are a great technique in getting customer attention. You could work out something along the lines of Amazon’s Billion Dollar Sale. Promotions have two issues as discussed already in the previous article
There is a rush in customers, so logistics and website load capacity should be taken care of before launching one.
Their period of the promotions should be apt; not short enough that you don’t attract substantial users and not so long that people get used to promotion prices on your marketplace.
The trick in doing any sort of mass media activity is finding a novel way to do it. People do not remember promotions or press releases for a long time, but something out-of-the-box has higher recall even after a long time.
Wrapping It Up
Launching an online marketplace is a tricky business. So as much as excited it may seem, one needs to calculate and space out the launch stages as per business requirements. Years of sustainable business is better than one memorable launch day.
It is also impossible to understand that the transition between the soft and hard launch might take significant time. Rome wasn’t built in one day. It’s taken years of perseverance and continuous efforts for marketplaces like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and others to finally take off and they are still learning.