(By Suchitra Kolluru)
One of the greatest manifestations of data across industries is seen emanating from and applied to digital marketplaces. Marketplaces are platforms that aggregate demand and enable fulfilment by establishing a slew of providers that have proven capability of meeting this demand. When this marketplace is online; the marketplace potential of aggregating demand and fulfilling the same, rises exponentially.
A successful e-marketplace is then tasked with the onus of providing a rich experience of access, navigation, search, variety (of products/ services), convenience, payment options, fulfilment promise, quality of product, ease of delivery, speed of execution and a great overall experience. This does not look like a journey that is easy to traverse; so how does the future belong to marketplaces?
Technology is a catalyst that has put marketplaces at a sweet spot, in this world of unending choices and a minute attention span. If yesterday belonged to the brand; today belongs to the marketplace. A human being is having to take a decision almost every 7 minutes; whether she has to buy a brand, book an experience, sign a contract or drive a partnership. This is making life very fast paced, complex, volatile and above all risky. For best outcomes, these decisions will need to be brought to a common platform as far as possible.
When the customer, and not the brand is at the center, the value proposition rests not on one need fulfilment, (which is the brand’s differentiator) but the power of owning the customer mindshare for the longest and converting that into a significant wallet share though a unified interface. This underlying trend is what is giving rise to emerging ecosystems- a one stop shop for all her needs.
The road is not without its pitfalls; the two biggest challenges that every marketplace with scale will eventually face is that of trust and discoverability. As the buyers rise and the demand for choices grows exponentially; scaling the marketplace will be imperative. With dwindling familiarity and even a slight breach of trust will come fiery propagation through reviews and social media exposure.
The other slippery ground will be that of discoverability or search efficacy. Customers explore across channels before they finally make a purchase; they will verify and cross verify on recommendations, price, experience etc. before the choice and payment is made. This trend is called being Omni channel. The marketplace will have to win the customer in an Omni channel battle. Being seamless on a mobile platform and providing a personalized experience will be the other clinchers for the marketplace to walk away the winner!!
Market places during the current scenario:
The customer angle: Social distancing will be the new normal for a long time to come. Customers are likely to prioritize basis urgency and reduce the number of trips. The first trips that will be replaced by online, will be the ones that have least emotional appeal. For some it could be groceries, for others, vegetables, for yet others, customary retail therapy will move online. In a study conducted by Capgemini, research suggests that the habit of shopping online will stick and only 46% of Indians will shop at physical retail stores compared to 59%, prior to current times.
The seller angle: Once we come out of current situation, more people will demand home delivery than ever before and will expect safe, hygienic and hassle free processes. While the quintessential neighborhood grocer will do it for you, beyond groceries, sellers will need scale and logistical infrastructure in place; these are best addressed by integrating with marketplaces. Standards of quality, packaging, returns and wait time can be maintained only with scale and aggregation.
The enhancing value proposition: What started with convenience and quickly moved to convenience coupled with variety, quality, consumer friendly terms, and finally an overall end to end experience will only increase given the current situation. Payment mechanisms, loyalty programs will see new dimensions as the marketplace aggregators see more competition. Specialized marketplaces like the ones that propagate environmental friendly sourcing, packaging and deliveries or marketplaces that better integrate upstream and downstream such as niche sourcing or provide design and installations will emanate.
If this be the case for consumer based marketplaces; how does it look for B2B marketplaces and finally for marketplaces that cater to government or federal based procurement?
In cases of government procurement; also known as public procurement; one important factor that kicks in is regulation and the related policy making. The market place will need to function on the more simplistic tenets of capitalism- scale, value and market capture. It will have to talk about transparency, fairness and inclusiveness. The marketplace for public procurement will have to balance seemingly contradictory objectives of trust and inclusiveness; quality and price; convenience and distributed control. The public marketplace will therefore have to be the more able and a fair enabler.
Quality experience will be demanded; scalability of options, ease of navigation, purchase and payment will be assumed as basic. Technology is the unmistakable magic wand here. This is where data becomes super important. Data driven insights make transparency and at the same time insightful actions possible at levels incomprehensible.
Regulation and Governance should rest with the government arm while delivery should be handed over to agile business partners that will be tracked on efficacy of the ultimate customer experience. The marketplace should be an outcome of the combined strengths of the public- private partnership.
Cheers to the endless opportunity that is the India customer landscape!!
(The author is the Country Leader – GeM Engagement, Dell Technologies)