Once you've launched your marketplace, building a sense of community can help you sustain growth and establish stability. There are many ways to grow community, so experiment with proven strategies to find success.
The Benefits of Marketplace Community
While it may seem like a major investment of time to grow community, remember that it costs more to woo new customers than to keep old ones. If you want to save on long-term costs, you need ways to encourage repeat purchases, such as building a community vibe.
Establishing community also helps build trust, which can be key to the success of your marketplace. When users trust one another, they're likely to keep using your marketplace. If your users don't trust you or the marketplace, they're likelier to try the competition.
Lastly, community encourages marketplace growth when users recommend your marketplace to others. This increases your user base while lowering marketing costs.
How to Grow Community in Your Marketplace
While some marketplaces strive to grow community among purchasers and providers, many focus on the provider side only. Marketplaces including Etsy and Uber realize the greatest benefits per time spent by keeping their service providers engaged and happy. If Etsy suffered churn among sellers, buyers might become unhappy with the site, for example.
As a first step toward making providers feel like part of a community, define the your mission in a specific manner. Do not worry about appealing to everyone, but do realize that you will need to stay true to your motto or face issues later on.
Consider the case of handmade marketplace Etsy. Their motto of "buy handmade" did not appeal to businesses that mass-manufactured products. When Etsy shifted their business model to allow mass producers, several makers stopped selling on Etsy in protest. The shift to mass production increased profits for Etsy, but it did alienate a share of the user base.
When launching your marketplace, try to find established communities who belong in your target audience. Then reach out to invite these community members to join your marketplace. Adding an existing community to your early user base can transform the sense of community overnight.
If you cannot find a community to fold into your marketplace, provide ways for users to build community. One simple yet effective way to do this is to use forums to allow users to connect with one another. Amazon's indie author platform has a forum that allows new authors to exchange messages, learn, and promote one another's books.
The in's and out's
You can leverage existing platforms, like Facebook, to create a user community and facilitate discussion. Marketplace owners can easily get started with the secret group tool.
Since user forums can be quiet when your marketplace is new, plan to spend time sowing seeds in these forums. This can be a great learning opportunity for marketplace owners. By asking questions early on, you can learn more about your users and find new ways to better serve them! The more you get to know your users, the better you will be able to serve them and the tighter the community will feel.
While you wait for your marketplace to gain traction, build welcoming materials that help new users get started and make them feel included in the community. The easier you make it for these new users to get set up and start earning money, the more likely they will be to stick with your marketplace.
Give your community a boost by using referrals to draw in new users. Through its ambassador program, Lyft gives a modest referral bonus for new riders and a substantial bones for new drivers. This program allows the marketplace to grow organically by trusting members to recruit new members. While the cost of referral bonuses may be prohibitive for your new marketplace, some owners like outsourcing this aspect of growing the community.
It may make sense to throw in-person events to grow your marketplace and strengthen your community. In-person meetups allow potential service providers to check out your marketplace before joining while building trust and engagement among core users. Established marketplaces like AirBnB still host in-person events when entering a new market.
Once your community is thriving, continue to make sure your users are finding value while rewarding power users with perks, such as discounts, bonuses, or gifts.
It takes time and effort to grow marketplace community, but if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with a thriving marketplace and satisfied, loyal community of users.
How do you grow your marketplace community? Let me know in a comment below.