How Online Marketplaces Build Community

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Image by Vase Petrovski

Humans are social creatures by nature. And if the explosion of social media has taught us anything, it’s that we’re willing to give up a lot to connect with others, including personal information.

Once upon a time, we gathered in town squares, and the marketplaces grew up around us because that’s where the people were.

As the global internet brings people closer together, it’s become easier for people to seek out and find others to connect with based on like-mindedness rather than geographic or familial proximity.

Yet the age-old concept of the marketplace as a community center still works, and is an opportunity for any business who wishes to build a community around a common idea or value.

And when it comes to building an online marketplace, the niche is where it’s at.

Businesses like Etsy have achieved success by focusing on the shared interest of people for vintage and hand-crafted goods. Other online marketplaces connect people to services and products in niches ranging from finding a place to sleep (Airbnb) and how to get there (Uber), to high-end clothing (Bonanza) and software (Envato MarketPlaces).

While there is ample opportunity for a marketplace in almost any niche, those that start gathering and analyzing information early will be at an advantage because they will learn what their customers want and will build ongoing relationships with them.

The amount of data created is difficult for all but the most advanced organizations to deal with, but niche marketplaces will get up to speed by focusing on the subset of data that is specific to their business, extracting the information that matters most and turning it into business intelligence.

3 Ways Online Marketplaces Can Use Data To Build Community

1) Content Marketing

Content marketing is an ideal means by which brands can tell stories that draw customer to their community’s values. And because of their tight focus, niche marketplaces will be able to draw a clear correlation between their content marketing efforts and sales

By understanding what gets customers to open an email, watch a video, or click a link, and connecting that data with what customers are buying and sharing, and what channels are driving transactions, businesses can map a customers path to purchase while building a better relationship with them.

2) Trending

Every audience is fickle. Trends change, tastes evolve, and what consumers tell us they want isn’t always what they actually buy or act on.

Data driven niche marketplaces will look across  customer information to understand, and even predict, how trends are moving so that they can create more value for their community and offer the right products and services at the right time.

For example, an eco-focused marketplace my be able to tell when a shift from compact CF lightbulbs to LED lightbulbs is starting and adjust accordingly.

3) Connecting With The Right Customers

By understanding customers in-depth, niche marketplaces will be able to build an accurate picture of who their ideal customer is. That customer avatar will then be used to more precisely target customer acquisition efforts and build communities of like-minded people.

For example, if our current ideal customer is in their 20’s but we find that most of our actual customers are in their 30’s, we’ll know that we need to adjust our strategy to either reach more twenty-somethings or shift our profile to focus on the thirty-somethings that are buying our products.

Which direction to go in is difficult to quantify until we cross-reference that realization with other data-points.

Business Niche Market Places

As consumers are increasingly active in our online marketplace they’ll provide a more and more data, making it easier to learn their interests and buying patterns. But beyond knowing what to sell to them, data helps us understand how to serve and create more value for our community.

Businesses that create online marketplaces will also use data to create more effective outreach and build bigger, yet tighter, communities around their brands.

2014 and 2015 will be big years for seeing online marketplaces grow into powerful community driven centers of commerce, because consumers will demand it.

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