Digital open marketplaces share at least a passing resemblance to the brick-and-mortar marketplaces of old. Like those old bazaars and centres for commercial activity, digital marketplaces demonstrate their value by offering consumer choice – and lots of it. A netizen clicking through the pages of a digital marketplace, like a shopper at a physical marketplace, can size up several options, choosing based on price, quality and other personal criteria.
However, unlike those brick-and-mortar marketplaces, digital open marketplaces are fully accessible and transnational. A consumer can easily and immediately size up their options. Naturally, this widespread movement toward accessible, transparent, choice-driven and fast consumerism is changing how we buy.
In this article, let’s pull case studies from three industries to show how digital marketplaces are changing transactions.
Real estate probably isn’t the first industry that comes to mind when you think of a marketplace. And that’s because, for a long time, the industry was resistant to transparency and accountability. Real estate agents went on the hunt for consumers – not the other way around. It was an arrangement that primarily benefited agents, leaving consumers in the proverbial dark.
Then came Nobul, the industry’s first open digital marketplace. Nobul is determinedly pro-consumer, shifting the power to real estate buyers and sellers in their efforts to find suitable representation. The company allows buyers/sellers to access scores of once-opaque information like agent transaction histories, verified reviews, fee structures, etc.
This approach has changed transactions in the real estate industry, which is becoming more open and meritocratic with each passing year. Nobul CEO Regan McGee knows that his company is onto something: “It’s a kind of consumer choice that has never existed before. We’re just giving people what they want,” he once shared in an interview with Storeys. Nobul recently topped Deloitte’s Fast 50 list of the fastest-growing tech companies.
The trade industry witnessed significant shake ups in the digital marketplace age. Trade companies (think plumbers, painters, electricians, etc.) were almost solely reliant on physical advertising like Yellow Pages, bus stops and vehicle branding to promote their services. This reliance slowed down the transactional process and made it challenging for consumers to choose based on quality and services offered.
Now, transactions are fast, convenient and – critically – consumer-centric, thanks to companies like Angi (formerly Angie’s List), Taskrabbit, FixFlo and several others. Consumers can engage a tradesperson securely, evaluating their options according to verified reviews and service lists.
Hospitality is an obvious example of an industry rocked by open digital marketplaces. In contrast with real estate, which was only recently disrupted, the hospitality industry is well acquainted with disruption.
Juggernaut companies like Airbnb fundamentally shook the industry by applying a sharing economy model to their open marketplace. Initially, the model shifted transactions toward a kind of user-to-user community (people would share their home, and, in turn, stay at others’ homes when they travelled). But, as we know, the model quickly evolved into its own cottage industry, with “Airbnb landlords” buying several properties for the sole purpose of vacation rental.
Elsewhere, travel aggregators like Expedia, Trivago, Agoda and Kayak (etc., etc.) bundled traditional hotels and travel packages so consumers could easily compare prices. As with the industries above, this approach has made hospitality transactions more consumer-centric and accessible, cutting out the “middleman” (travel agents, in this case).
There’s a thesis here somewhere. As industries increasingly rely on digital marketplaces, the consumer is coming out on top. In real estate, companies like Nobul are fighting against decades of opacity. In trade services, businesses like Taskrabbit add convenience and choice to the process. And in hospitality, marketplaces like Expedia enable customers to compare pricing.
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