After the transaction

One the transaction has been fulfilled, there are a few additional things to consider such as reviews or handling disputes. Typically, you can wait on these until after you’ve gained some traction, but it’s useful to think through the implications as you’re building your initial product. Below are some things to think about. 

Do users review one another? 

User reviews can be a key part of creating trust in a marketplace. Usually these are sent either immediately after the transaction if it’s instantly fulfilled, a few days later after the user has received it or used it, or next time the user logs into the app. The request can be emailed to the buyer or prompted within the app or both. There are several versions of this approach, depending on what you want to get and what users need to put in. Here’s an example of UI that can be used to collect ratings/reviews and here’s one that can be used to display them.

No reviews

This can either be a way to keep costs low and reduce complexity, or a strategic decision in certain cases. Reviews are not typically needed if seller credentials are clearly established elsewhere, or when the service or product is commoditized or professionalized. You also may just wait on adding reviews until your transaction volume is higher.

Star rating + written review

This is the classic review style used on large marketplaces such as Amazon, Yelp, Uber, and Airbnb. By making the rating numeric, you can easily display an average rating and sort or filter based on this number. The key risk is that averages can be easily swayed by outliers and reviews can be manipulated. It could also put newer sellers at a disadvantage if they come in with fewer reviews. If you take this approach, it’s worth collecting data for a while before sharing averages publicly so buyers don’t actually lose confidence in your platform (or the sellers) because you haven’t built up enough experience. For example, Airbnb only shows a star rating for listings with a certain number of reviews, otherwise they just show the text.

Custom multi-point review

If there are specific dimensions that are particularly important for your marketplace, it can be worth asking for each separately. This comes at a greater burden to users, who have to spend more time filling in the info. But it can help buyers understand more nuance on a review to see whether they care more about the things it scored well on or poorly on. It’s common to have this be a second step after the user fills in an overall star rating, so that at least you capture the main rating and then hopefully you get some more details for those interested. This is sometimes done with gig marketplaces, where gig workers are measured.

How do you handle returns, disputes, or other post-transaction problems?

It is important to think carefully through the situations where deals can go wrong on your marketplace. You can try to mitigate the risk as best you can, but there will inevitably be some sort of problem that comes up, whether that’s sellers not fulfilling their orders, things getting lost in transit, or miscommunications. There are a few tactics to consider:

Handle refunds or disputes offline

It is often the case that the app doesn’t need any features to handle disputes. A simple form or email address to lodge an issue, handled either by you as the app administrator or by a ticketing vendor like Front or HelpScout, can be sufficient. If you need to issue a refund, you can do that directly through the payment processor. Early on, you may want to manually update the status of a deal as “returned” or “refunded”. This allows you to closely track how often and why issues are coming up, and to verify them before issuing refunds.

Allow cancellations within a time window

Setting a time window where users can cancel their transaction is common with rental or event marketplaces. Depending on the type of service being offered, you may allow something like 24 hours after purchase or 48 hours before the rental date. This can be helpful for buyers if their plans could change, but could be a poor seller experience if they lost out on other revenue, so make sure you are balancing the needs of both sides.

Returns for a refund

If a buyer doesn’t like the product or it is damaged, you could offer a way to return items. If you’ve integrated with a shipping provider, you could use the same service for returns. You could charge shipping fees or pass them to the seller. Typically you’ll set a time limit on this (30 days is pretty standard). This is mainly just used for product marketplaces.

Dispute resolution process

For services or events where the time has already passed and the seller has fulfilled their service, issuing a refund can be more challenging. It’s simpler if the seller didn’t follow through and the buyer can prove it, but gets tricky if the complaints are more subjective, such as if someone didn’t like their haircut. Here the platform can add some protocols that both sides agree to in the terms and then follow. Buyers can lodge formal complaints with all the details and then you as an admin can decide how to resolve them.

Insurance

For asset marketplaces in particular, you may want to consider offering insurance for the assets being rented. If a home or car is damaged by the buyer who rented time with it, you don’t want to be on the hook for all the damages yourself. Usually you can negotiate with insurance providers to offer a set amount of insurance to all users on your platform based on volume.

Removing users

You may want to have a process in place for when you remove someone from the platform if they aren’t performing or acting in bad faith. You may want to have a clear set of steps here such as adding a probationary period after one offense.

Do users get incentives for activity?

Aside from ratings and reviews, you may want users to benefit from using the platform and completing purchases. This can help with stickiness and keeping people on your platform. There are two forms of this:

Levels or badges

Users who hit certain milestones such as a high number of transactions or high average rating may be tagged with levels (e.g., level 2) or badges (e.g., gold seller) to differentiate them from others. Levels may be filterable/sortable for buyers to bring the best vendors to the top, and should be promoted to sellers so that they know what to aim for.

Loyalty points

Buyers (and sellers) may earn experience or loyalty points for completed transactions, which can lead to discounts/credits for the future. This is a good way to encourage people to stay on your platform vs. others, which in turn attracts others.


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