From physical advertisements in papers to Craigslist and eventually to pristine managed marketplaces like Airbnb.com - the field of P2P selling of goods and services has come a long way. As the industry continues to evolve, certain trends are emerging, making life increasingly harder for virtual market owners. According to Anand Iyer from medium.com, we are experiencing a significant shift towards vertically focused online managed marketplaces.
What this means for marketplace owners is that the level of competition is going to increase as more locally-oriented managed marketplaces come into existence. Narrowing down the end user and being able to target people more efficiently means these companies are going to be taking a massive chunk out of clientele from big players like Yelp. Fields like real estate are already experiencing this, with competition becoming stiffer every day.
A surefire way of staying relevant and increasing conversion for your marketplace is keeping your listings as optimised as possible. Here are 3 ways to achieve it:
#1. Maximizing consistency
Depending on the industry you’re in, the level of control you have on your vendors is bound to differ, but there will still be a baseline of requirements which they must adhere to. That being said, it’s important to be thorough when setting up these guidelines and revisit them at least once every three months.
You have to be firm with your sellers or service providers and go into detail not just about listing specifics, but also about your company’s goals and overall outlook. From a customer’s perspective, browsing a website and seeing two listings that look entirely different from each other in terms of layout makes the marketplace seem messy and unprofessional.
One way of ensuring consistency is introducing comprehensive checklists for every new seller. Things like listing titles, service descriptions, and technical details should be unified and adhere to a high standard. You should also include mandatory spellcheck in the process. Ideally, every single listing should also be double-checked and confirmed by a dedicated person on your team who has a deep understanding of your core values.
The more competitive your field of business is, the more critical consistency becomes. A customer will opt for a professional-looking business more often, giving you a substantial advantage over the competition.
#2. Simplifying your sales funnel
We all like to think of ourselves as patient people, but try to remember the last time you saw a line at the bank or post office and decided that it wasn’t worth the time to wait. Well, online sales processes are even worse in that regard, with over 75% of potential purchases in E-Commerce resulting in abandoned carts.
These staggering numbers mean that making the purchasing process as simple as possible is vital for increasing your conversion numbers. Steps that you can take include:
- Taking the customer’s perspective. Forget all of the things that you know about your business and services. Put yourself in the shoes of the casual client and visit your homepage. Is your value proposition clearly understandable? How easy is it to make a booking or purchase? Is there anything that feels even a little annoying or unnecessary? Answering these questions is a good starting point for your optimisation.
- Being clear about your pricing. There’s nothing more frustrating than deciding to purchase something online only to realise that there’s small fee added on at the checkout stage. Make sure to be upfront with your pricing and remove any additional charges or at the very least - make the customer aware of them early on. Failing to do so results in high bounce rates and customer dissatisfaction.
- Appearing trustworthy. While not directly related to conversion speed, it is essential to make sure your brand image is bulletproof in the eyes of the consumer. I won’t go into detail, but here’s a fantastic article on the topic from the kings of E-Commerce themselves - Shopify.
- Delving into the numbers. Use analytics software to track every stage of your sales funnel. Figure out which part loses you the most potential customers and introduce changes to solve it. And don’t just do it once and forget about it, you have to track your results after making changes and understand what works and what doesn’t. There’s always room for improvement.
#3. Optimising your images
When choosing an item from a full page of products on Amazon, what is the first thing that catches your eye? No matter how frugal you are, you won’t immediately turn your attention to the price tags. The product images will be the first thing to catch your eye.
The way we are drawn to images over text is ingrained in our biology and is just impossible to “unlearn.” As a result, we prefer things that look good over things that look bad and will be naturally more interested in beautiful, professional pictures.
Airbnb’s business success is one of the most profound examples of the importance that high-quality images can have on customer interest and conversion. Most of the popular & successful listings feature great photos. However, it was not always like that.
The business started out well but hit a slump in the summer of 2009 when the founders noticed that despite the high demand for their services and enough supply to meet it - their listings were not converting. They had a hunch that bad photos might be the cause of their problems and decided to rent out a professional camera and take better pictures of properties in New York themselves.
And their hunch paid off - after updating the listing photos for the NY homes, the conversion rate for the properties doubled and even tripled. Only a year later, Airbnb introduced their own photography services for all new listings. This was by far the most significant spike in their growth, which not only resulted in better conversions but substantial investments as well. It allowed the company to scale quickly and apply their business model worldwide.
You can read the full Airbnb success story here, but if there’s anything to take away from their example is this: professional photos have a direct & positive effect on conversion and are a definite advantage in the customer journey.
The same logic applies to managed marketplaces. Using professional photographers to take great images of your items or locations brings more business to you, but also brings more business to your sellers. This satisfies both your end-consumer and your vendors, allowing you to expand and look for new business opportunities.