A peer-to-peer marketplace looks very different from a traditional ecommerce business. If you want to build a peer-to-peer marketplace, use these 8 best practices to plan and structure your marketplace for success.
1. Narrow your focus
If you think of successful peer-to-peer marketplaces, from Etsy to Airbnb, they are all focused. This is key to success, since trying to offer too many services at once will stretch you thin and make it difficult to attract enough suppliers.
A narrow focus also helps you build a community, create trust, and gain momentum. Hone your idea to a single service, single geographic region, or single vertical. By keeping a very tight focus, as Craigslist does, you can expand your service area to cover the country or the world without getting overwhelmed.
2. Build up your supply
Suppliers are the backbone of peer-to-peer marketplaces. Quality suppliers must be in place before you can open the marketplace for transactions.
Spend time finding suppliers who really get what you're trying to do, and are passionate about the same thing. Passion and dedication will mean high customer satisfaction when your marketplace does launch. Hand-pick only the suppliers who will add the most value and align with your vision for the marketplace.
3. Create a user community
Once you have your suppliers ready to go, you'll need others who will consume the service. The good news is, your suppliers can also act as consumers in a peer-to-peer marketplace. As your next step, cross pollinate your market with buyers who need the service you provide.
In these critical early stages, focus on communication, evaluation, and careful growth. It's better to hone your model now so everything works well than to grow too quickly and avoid working out the kinks in your marketplace.
4. Produce compelling content
High-quality, compelling content will boost your discoverability in search results and help new users find you. Spend time crafting your marketplace narrative for your website. Add a blog where you can regularly share new content and educate consumers and suppliers on how to use your marketplace.
Not only will a blog keep your user community connected and happy, it will do wonders for your search engine marketing. Tap into your user community by allowing suppliers to create "micro blogs" showcasing their uniqueness, then share the best of these micro blogs through roundup blog posts.
It's worth emphasizing, your blog needs regular high-quality content. It isn't enough to do one post a month, or whenever you feel like it. Hire writers to populate your blog if you lack the time, but do not skip this important step.
5. Creatively expand your user base
To thrive, you'll need to attract new users -- a cost-prohibitive measure. Creatively attract users through referrals, social media, and offline events. By putting your marketplace out there at conferences and events in your vertical, you will increase awareness and entice new users.
If money is tight, think creatively about ways to get your name out there. Maybe you can't afford to sponsor the major conference in your industry. Could you afford to send 10 employees or task workers, outfitted in your tee-shirts and prepared with your elevator pitch?
As soon as you launch your marketplace, have your social channels ready to go and regularly communicate with this. This boosts your search engine results and helps you get found by users actively seeking the service you offer.
6. Cultivate trust and reputation loops
Peer-to-peer marketplaces work when users can review one another, cultivating trust and fostering community. At a minimum, encourage reviews of users, products, or services. Whether people are buying a product or service, they want to feel comfortable about the transaction. Also make it easy for users to communicate through your platform, ask questions, and find any information they need to transact.
Time and money investing in communication keeps the exchange happening on your site and reduces the odds either party will take things to private email.
7. Make it easy to transact
All popular peer-to-peer marketplaces have this in common: They're easy to transact on, especially for mobile users. If it were difficult to request a ride on Uber or Lyft, people would call a cab. As you gain traction, always make sure users find it easy to transact. Invest in customer service to keep things running smoothly.
If your marketplace gets a reputation for poor usability as you start gaining traction, it could derail all your hard work.
8. Add value beyond the simple transaction
Once people have used your service to find what they need, why should they keep using it? To answer this question for your users, you must provide value beyond the simple transaction. Airbnb provides insurance to cover guest damage to property, which is a great way to add value for hosts. While that's costly, there are inexpensive ways to add value. By cultivating community or offering better customer service, you can keep users happy and ensure your platform has value.
By following these steps, you can avoid missteps and build upon a model that's proven to work for peer-to-peer spaces. Near.me's technology incorporates each of these 8 best practices into a flexible, elegant software solution for peer-to-peer marketplaces. See for yourself with a free demo.