Thirty years ago, a “marketplace” referred to a brick-and-mortar collection of merchant stalls hawking their wares. And while that’s still the primary definition in most dictionaries, the colloquial use of the term has changed with the times. Now, when you hear someone talk about a marketplace, they’re almost always referring to digital platforms where third-party vendors meet and deal.
The most obvious examples are retail digital marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, which made their fortune matching third-party e-commerce stores and private sellers with interested consumers. But those companies are just the tip of the iceberg for open digital marketplaces.
This article explores service-based marketplaces, which differ from standard (read: e-commerce) marketplaces in that they facilitate unconventional consumer-professional relationships. Below, read about how three industries – the trade, real estate, and healthcare industries – are leveraging digital marketplaces.
The Trade Industry
The trade industry used to have a marketing problem. Without the same customer-facing brick-and-mortar bases that retail businesses enjoyed; it was challenging for tradespeople to advertise their services. Mostly, they relied on Yellow Pages advertisements and van decals to promote their services. On the other side of the coin, consumers found it challenging to find the right professional without ready access to rates and credentials. Digital marketplaces solved those problems for both parties.
Notable Marketplace: Angi
Formerly Angie’s List, Angi is the largest and best-known example of a trade’s digital marketplace. On the platform, consumers access rates, licenses, and other credentials before engaging a tradesperson for services. In return, tradespeople get a straightforward digital storefront on which to advertise.
The real estate industry had the same problems as the trade industry – probably even worse, especially for consumers. Before the digital era, consumers had little access to choice or transparency when finding real estate agents. Agents routinely hid their commission rates, transaction histories, and reviews, making it nearly impossible for consumers to vet their representatives properly. Now, digital marketplaces (well, just one digital marketplace, really) are giving power to consumers.
Notable Marketplace: Nobul
Nobul is the first real estate digital marketplace. On Nobul, consumers can enter their criteria to find the ideal real estate agent, accessing hard-to-find info on transaction histories, verified reviews, etc. “A lot of people claiming to be disruptors and innovators in the industry are doing the exact things that have been done for decades,” says CEO Regan McGee. “I’ve never seen anybody doing close to what we’re doing to create a consumer-centric experience (in real estate).”
In the last two decades, the healthcare industry did some serious soul-searching on everything from “medical paternalism” to “tech-enabled accessibility.” And it emerged, perhaps surprisingly, as one of the most forward-thinking industries. Practitioners, medical ethicists, and other experts understood that the industry needed a client-centric approach that highlighted patients’ diverse needs. And it found its solution in digital marketplaces.
Notable Marketplace: PatientMD
There are several locally based healthcare marketplaces dotting North America, so it’s tough to single out just one. But let’s go with Chicago’s PatientMD, a physician-led marketplace that lets patients shop for their preferred healthcare services according to ratings, prices, deals, etc.
According to the World Economic Forum, digital marketplaces are the future of business, democratizing traditionally oligopolistic industries (read: few sellers, more monopolies) and transferring power to consumers. The three industries listed above – and the spearheading companies leveraging open marketplaces – illustrate this point nicely.
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