Three Important Considerations for New Online Marketplaces

picture of a miniature shopping cart sitting on a laptop representing the online marketplace

When a company’s founding and executive team is up against ecommerce giants, they need differentiators to create a new online marketplace platform. They need to build trust with both sellers and buyers and offer consistent and enjoyable experiences that cannot be found elsewhere. Here are three things to consider when launching a new-to-market online marketplace that meets the needs of both sellers and buyers:

Lean Into a Niche

Giant ecommerce marketplaces can claim they specialize in dozens of hundreds of product and industry niches, but they don’t possess the insider knowledge to really function as a niche provider. This creates opportunity for smaller firms to launch online marketplaces focused on interesting and profitable niches. Consider Airbnb or Etsy, two niche providers that now dominate their respective spaces.

Establishing a credible and sustainable niche marketplace starts with the founders, who need to reduce their focus on sales numbers and instead do some storytelling. They need to share their personal journey within this niche by talking about their experiences, whether they’re failures or triumphs. They can tie in how products enabled those experiences, but the story is the most important part.

Develop your niche by working with people in that space. If you’re focused on cooking supplies, then get some well-respected food truck chefs to share their stories through video content or interviews. If your marketplace features outdoors gear, then you can profile some mountain climbers or partner with “2,000 milers” who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Regardless of your niche, you need to use storytelling and personal experiences to establish credibility and authenticity.

Community Complements Sales

Understand the customers’ dreams and goals to boost the odds of a successful marketplace launch. Armed with this understanding, you can then align the ways make those dreams more enjoyable, sustainable, efficient, collaborative, and authentic. Gain access to the right customers by creating and engaging with communities.

Aligning with a community of potential customers successfully requires an online marketplace to not always treat the group as just revenue generators. They can add value to the community through content, quality products that fill pressing needs, and becoming a trusted resource. The marketplace needs to build a brand persona that resonates with the community, including both the customers and sellers. There are multiple avenues for community building:

  • Partner with nonprofit organizations, many of which have their own established communities which can serve as brand advocates and provide the marketplace with a steady stream of referrals and endorsements.
  • Locate influencers within your desired niche and space. Develop relationships with them that go beyond just paying them for product features. Ask for their feedback about your messaging or product features. Get them involved with your team in a consultative and collaborative way.
  • Dive into tradeshows which are seeing a post-COVID resurgence. Consumer-facing tradeshows can provide your brand with access to influential customers and partnership opportunities.
  • Look at the ways your products impact the world, and then make changes so they’re more sustainable, effective, or reliable. These types of efforts resonate within your target communities.

Stay on Mission and Ask the Tough Questions

For example, Everest is a community marketplace that brings together retailers, distributors, manufacturers, and consumers in a multi-merchant space. The company provides a platform for purchasing the very best outdoors gear, and also uses content and a membership program to encourage people to get outdoors so they can lead happier and healthier lives. This part of the company’s core mission resonates in all its efforts. New online marketplaces should follow suit by developing their own missions and should reflect their mission in all their content, actions, and partnerships.

Maintaining a respected and trusted mission requires asking the tough questions to determine if you’re providing sellers and customers with optimal service. Does a site change make the experience better for either party, or is it an unnecessary obstacle? Are there ways you can help your sellers succeed that you aren’t pursuing? Does your product lineup meet the actual stated needs of the target communities?

By answering these questions, you can make the proper adjustments to the marketplace that enable you to perform consistently and build trust. Manage the customer expectations by offering consistent technology, easy-to-use platforms, and reliable customer service that responds quickly and efficiently. As you provide consistency to the customers and sellers, you build trust in your operation. Consistency does not mean innovation stagnates, it just requires you to understand and then exceed customer expectations. Innovate to enable consistency through automation, improved customer service, better ordering processes, and other areas.

Launching a new online marketplace is a leap of faith. To outperform the biggest ecommerce players requires a strategic approach of storytelling, consistency, and an engaging mission statement that’s infused into every part of the operation.


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