Andreessen Horowitz (known as "a16z"), a prominent venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, California recently released a post with an extensive recommended reading list for marketplace entrepreneurs. The many references touched upon various opportunities this evolving commerce model offers. Below we have elaborated on the most prominent ones, from our experiences as a managed marketplace business in the marketing industry.
Why are we talking about Managed Marketplaces in the first place?
The world of consumerism has evolved extremely over the past 3 decades. Consumption of goods and services has shifted greatly to digital marketplaces and has become more acceptable than ever before. We can order nearly anything online: food, apparel, electronics, appliances, furniture, and even cars.
However, these are very exciting times for service entrepreneurs as well. According to Andreessen Horowitz, in the US, while services make up 69% of national consumer spending, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that just 7% of services were primarily digital. However, with Marketplace startups, it is estimated that around 125 million Americans who work in the services-providing industries will join the digital transformation of the economy in the near future leaving peer-to-peer far behind.
This digitalization has been trickling down from tech to other intangible services over the past decade. Nowadays, you can pay for someone else's time and talent to complete tasks you need to get done: dog walkers, laundry services, consulting services of any kind, etc.
These new service marketplaces have given way to the emerging “passion economy” (a.k.a talent economy). This potentially allows pretty much anyone to monetize their unique skills and turn their passions and ideas into a livelihood. It is also a great equalizer in a fragmented and globalized economy, where service providers can be “judged” on the actual quality of their work and their skills, and less on gender, race, religion, age or physical proximity. The opportunities for growth and success to all involved: customers, businesses and entrepreneurs seem limitless.
Focusing on Managed Marketplaces for Services
The Managed Marketplace model we are referring to is in fact just the most recent development of the Marketplace business model. As of the past 5 years, Managed Marketplaces have gone beyond facilitating the customer-service provider relationship to actively moderating its quality.
By adding quality of service management and ongoing monitoring abilities to the supply and demand relationship, Managed marketplaces are able to build customer trust. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and subsequent business growth for the marketplace and its customers.
Rather than just enabling customers to discover and build trust with the end provider, these marketplaces take on the work of actually creating trust. — Andreessen Horowitz
With Managed Marketplaces minimizing customer uncertainty, previously off-line services and more complex business transactions (like B2B’s) where the risks are higher (size of the transaction and potential impact) can be “converted” to online solutions as well. Online Managed Marketplaces are potentially the next great leap forward for the global job market. This growing business model can create new job opportunities, restructure the employer-employee relationship, enable professionals to work from remote locations over the world, and support a healthier work-life balance.
Service providers (from freelancers to big companies) within managed marketplaces can conveniently generate new business and grow faster, while supported by a marketplace that conveys trust and provides the required operational capabilities and experience their customers would expect.
Consumers benefit from a better customer experience all around within a managed marketplace. The service is faster and more cost-effective. Finding the right service provider is more accurate, top service providers are more accessible, and the level of service is guaranteed by the marketplace itself.
Mayple, for example, as a Managed Marketplace for B2B services, matches and manages the relationship between SMB’s and digital marketing service providers. We cater to businesses in need of professional marketing services and provide the business results they couldn’t otherwise obtain. While, in turn, enabling marketing service providers to grow using our facilitating platform to recruit and manage their business clients. We are able to guarantee high-quality service and build trust by vetting the marketing service providers we allow into the marketplace, and use our own AI algorithms to make the right match between business and marketing service provider. We remain an objective third party of the business interaction throughout its duration providing both the platform and the guidance so both sides of the deal benefit.
Managed Marketplaces for services and B2B’s- opportunities for success
1. Develop the right matching process
With B2B the risks for marketplace customers are much higher, (compared to B2C Marketplaces). With a B2C service like Uber, marketplace customers could care less who their driver is, as long as they can get them from point A to point B safely and swiftly. However, risking a bad match between a business and a service provider could end up costing the hiring company dearly. Many B2B interactions are long term and finding the right match can be critical to a business’s growth. That is why managed marketplaces should devote a lot of strategic thought to this initial marketplace functionality.
2. Guaranteed quality of work within the Marketplace platform
Marketplaces should create an internal certification process to build another layer of trust in the mind of their customer audience. For Managed Marketplaces, where suppliers must be licensed or certified (engineers, accountants, teachers, lawyers), the initial burden of proof is slightly lifted with an external guarantee to instore trust. However, the opportunity for a marketplace to excel lies with its ability to vouch for its service providers' performance throughout the business engagement and beyond the initial qualification sorting.
3. Take advantage of SaaS solutions in your industry niche
If our predictions are true, in the upcoming years we’ll see a convergence of SaaS management platforms to a select 3-5 that will be in use per industry. For instance, all design service providers will end up using one of 3 dominant software to create graphics, website mock-up, print layouts etc.
And we envision this happening across other service industries as well (healthcare, content writers, HR organizations, accounting services). It’s a good trend in our opinion and will make it easier for marketplaces to connect and integrate these tools in order to view the activity on them as part of the quality assurance offering of the managed marketplace. In fact, this is already true in the digital marketing industry, where marketers commonly use the same advertising platforms: Facebook, Google Ads, Linkedin, Taboola, Outbrain and Bing, just to name a few.
4. Make continuous quality of service a core value
B2B Marketplace for Services, need to be able to guarantee their clients that their matched service providers have the relevant expertise they need and that their quality of work will not diminish over time.
With B2B marketplaces where the business relationship is long-term rather than a one-time transaction, there is added monetary value in retaining a customer, and keeping them satisfied. By stressing continuous improvement as everyone's priority objective, everyone flourishes.
5. Keep business customers active in your marketplace
As B2B Marketplace customers grow, so will their business needs and with it the services they’ll require. The key opportunity here, for marketplaces, is to be able to provide their customers with a way to switch up or change service providers within the marketplace platform along with their changing needs. Enabling marketplace customers to switching service providers within the marketplace platform increases the customer’s LTV (Life-time-value).
6. Build a marketplace community to build your B2B brand
Adopt some good practices from social networks, and look beyond just being a great business solution. Offer your B2B marketplace users an active community, where they can access professional knowledge to improve, make use of exclusive (and otherwise costly) software tools to support their work. And make sure it is easy and enticing for them to generate new and recurring business referrals on your
Managed Marketplaces for services essentially take on the real-world business process of hiring to managing and have digitized it, changing the global job market in the process. Once B2B’s and service providers find ways to become trustworthy enough to minimize the sense of risk for their customers, this will become common practice, and there will be no turning back, nor will there be a need to.