Building a marketplace brand is no easy feat.

Marketplace executives may be tempted to consider whether they or their sellers “own” the relationship with the customer. In truth, neither the company nor the seller does. The customer determines the terms of engagement. Both the company and the sellers serve the customer, albeit in different capacities. The company’s brand and the seller’s brand must coexist in this environment.

Many early-stage marketplaces focus on driving buyers to their website or app. While this is a critical step in validating product-market fit, building a brand is as important for the longer-term viability of the marketplace. Without a strong brand, the marketplace has no chance of remaining top-of-mind and will be relegated to a perpetual cycle of spending heavily to acquire customers.

Take these steps to begin to strengthen the brand and break the cycle.

Implement a Seller Vetting Process

One role the company plays is that of a scout. Potential buyers often come to a marketplace because they will be presented with several options to choose from. Like sports scouts, marketplace leaders have to go to the game, see how the player plays and how they interact with others. Essentially, they watch how the seller performs outside the marketplace before they are invited to join the team. If the seller meets expectations, they’re in.

This vetting process is important because the individual activity of each seller reflects on the company’s brand. It is important for the marketplace to define and screen for seller criteria that align with the brand they wish to embody.

Expand the Supplier Base

In addition to having vetted sellers, marketplaces must curate a sufficient number of suppliers. A wide supplier base not only gives buyers more options but also reduces the company’s reliance on individual suppliers.

A more substantial supplier base can reduce the need for the buyer to look elsewhere. It can also mitigate damage to the company brand if a rogue supplier does not meet customer care expectations. Essentially, having more suppliers reduces the impact of any single supplier’s untoward actions on the platform.

Mitigate Communication Barriers

It is practical for marketplaces to want to limit communication between buyers and sellers before any transaction has taken place. Doing so keeps opportunities for disintermediation in check. However, it also can breed distrust. Blatantly blocking communication between buyer and seller will be brand damaging.

Marketplaces should mitigate communication barriers so that their brand can be seen as one that is trustworthy. So, share critical information between buyer and seller in a timely fashion. If it is prudent to do so, transmit contact information after the purchase transaction. The product should enable communication to commence immediately after payment is made. Marketplace leaders can also prioritize product features that enable communication through a secure (perhaps monitored) channel.

Satisfy Buyers to Retain Sellers

Remember that building a strong brand with suppliers is as important as building a brand with buyers. For some platforms, it is more important.

Suppliers will remain active on the platform if a steady flow of buyers is available to them. Encourage loyalty in the buyer community. Invest in data systems that allow for dynamic learning of buyer behavior. Use this knowledge to make personal recommendations that add value to the buyer’s experience.

Introduce options in products, devices, and payments that allow buyers to interact on their terms. A concierge-level of service for frequent buyers can further strengthen loyalty. In fact, preferred tools should be made available to both volume buyers and volume sellers.

Key takeaways for marketplace leaders:

  • The brand voice of the marketplace becomes more significant as the supplier base grows. The larger supplier base reduces the ascendancy of any individual supplier brand.
  • The supplier’s delivery of service is a reflection of the marketplace brand. Therefore, the marketplace must select sellers who align with its brand values.
  • Communication between buyer and seller before the purchase can be perceived as an opportunity to remove the marketplace from the transaction. However, it is a critical part of building trust within the community and one that the marketplace must astutely navigate to build a viable brand.
Katherine Hunter-Blyden
Katherine Hunter-BlydenPartner, Interim & Fractional CMO, CRO