Marketplace Fulfillment: How to Manage Order/Service Fulfillment

Once the match between buyer and seller has been made, the terms have been agreed upon, and the payment has been sent, the next step is for the seller to fulfill their promise. It’s common that this part of the marketplace fulfillment process happens offline, whether that means shipping the physical good, performing the service, or allowing for the asset rental to take place. Your marketplace should help with the fulfillment and tracking to make sure everyone is on the same page and to ensure buyers are receiving what they paid for.  

What fulfillment services should you incorporate?

While it’s common for the fulfillment to happen offline, it’s helpful for you to understand when the good or service actually reaches the buyer, since that can affect other features such as tracking, notifications, or payouts. Based on this, you can include additional features to help the sellers fulfill their transaction and notify buyers or request feedback. Common options include:

Shipping physical products

If your sellers are shipping physical products, there are different ways to assist and inform. This can be done completely offline, where you just ask the seller to add in tracking information to the platform once they have shipped the item, or you can integrate with a shipping service such as Shippo to streamline the process for sellers by incorporating all the transaction information and creating labels for them.

Accessing digital products

If your marketplace deals with digital goods such as tickets or stock photos, you’ll want to incorporate a way to download the product in an official way after the purchase. With some things, having a watermarked preview can work, with the unmarked version getting unlocked after purchase. With others, you could email the official digital good to the buyer after purchase.

Performing physical services

If the services are physical such as cleaning a house or driving to a destination, your main focus is just on ensuring both parties have the information for the service so they know where to go and when to expect it. You could consider adding live messaging in the app so the users can coordinate in case the location or person is hard to find. Another way could be to send entry instructions such as a door code in the case of an Airbnb rental.

Performing virtual services

If sellers are providing a virtual service such as a telehealth appointment or custom design services, you may want to include a video chat service in the application if it needs to be live. Early on, you could just let buyers and sellers set up their own video chat or calls, but you should monitor if people start taking the transactions offline.

What updates and notifications do users need? 

While the role of the app in fulfilling the good or service delivery can vary a lot based on what’s being bought, a key part of every marketplace is ensuring transparency to both sides in order to preserve trust and confidence. Users can get anxious if they aren’t sure where their order is or if the service will be performed. Below are some examples of communications you may want to incorporate on your platform.

Confirmation emails

Once the transaction is confirmed, it’s helpful to send a confirmation email or text to both sides to summarize the transaction. This should include information on what exactly was purchased, how much was paid, and something about next steps such as when they will be receiving tracking information or instructions on where to meet. You may choose to put all of this info into the email body or just link them to the information in the application.

Status updates

Proactive status updates and a clear status page within the app help to keep buyers informed and make them less likely to contact you or the seller with questions. If there are milestones such as food preparation and delivery pickup, you can show this in a multistep view and send a notification at each update.

Transaction schedule and history

Most apps will have a dashboard or account page for both buyers and sellers showing their list of purchases or sales. This is helpful both for viewing order history and for seeing current or upcoming orders or reservations. With each item, it’s best to show the status prominently and then allow the user to click in for more information or to take action.

How is fulfillment completion confirmed?

Fully completing a transaction is an important milestone for any platform. This happens when the product has been received or the service has been fulfilled. The more clearly you can mark the end of the process to all parties, the lower the risk of some sort of issue that could result in poor reviews or lost revenue. Below are a few options for how platforms handle this.

Assumed completion

A relatively common practice is to assume the transaction goes off without a hitch unless someone submits a complaint. This is clearly easiest for the platform, but carries the most risk since you’re not formally noting when something is closed or confirming that it has, in fact, been completed. You may see a complaint well after a connection has been made, which you’ll have to deal with. Make sure you have clear T&Cs to protect you here, and do this in places where you expect a low rate of incompletion such as when the sellers are professionals or the transactions are simple.

Automated confirmation

Sometimes the app itself can confirm when the process is done. For example, Uber uses GPS to know when you’ve arrived at your destination. This can also work with product marketplaces where shipping happens through the app, or digital goods marketplaces when a file is uploaded.

Manual confirmation from users

The lowest risk option is to have the buyer or the seller confirm the completion of the transaction. For example, a seller can indicate when they have shipped the item or completed the task. The buyer could also confirm when they have successfully received the item or verify the task is done. This option is great because you can be certain the transaction was completed with no issues, however, you will be asking users to do extra steps which may not have a perfect completion rate. If you go this route, try to minimize the work by both sides and introduce expiration timelines for complaints.

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