Marketplace apps need native communications

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated to provide mobile marketplace success stories from our customers 

Marketplace apps have changed the way we find goods and services. Need an Ikea table assembled? Use Handy. Need a place to stay for your friend’s wedding? Book with Airbnb. Need to find a babysitter for Friday night? Try Urbansitter.

Marketplace apps are fundamentally about connecting people — those who have goods and services, and those who want them. They’re also about building trust and human connection. Not long ago the idea of staying in a perfect stranger’s home, or entrusting someone you’ve never met to watch your children, would have been unthinkable. Marketplace apps have made these options commonplace.

As Bessemer points out in its excellent post, the Web 1.0 model of Craiglist is giving way to focused mobile marketplaces that allow for a richer interaction between participants. Communication in marketplace apps creates trust: the more contextual and clear the communication in the app, the more trust is established. Trust makes for an overall better user experience, which in turn leads to happier users and more usage.

Which is to say, native communication — in-app and content rich — is the key to creating excellent experiences in marketplace apps.

A better user experience for both buyer and service provider

As a baseline, most marketplace apps give buyers and service providers the ability to correspond and ask and answer questions in a simple chat format, both in advance of booking and during/after.

This is often basic text chat, limiting users’ ability to ask and answer even simple questions effectively.

These communications can be made dramatically more effective with the introduction of content directly in the dialogue. Maps, photos, video, audio recordings, or anything else the app creator deems additive to her users’ experience. Native communication makes the user experience in marketplace apps better, richer, and more contextual.

There are three primary phases of interaction in marketplace apps. The first phase is before booking, where buyers are vetting and ultimately choosing an option. The second phase is during the actual service. The final phase, which is after the service is completed, completes the feedback loop.

Leading up to booking: Native communications allow users to communicate more clearly and in greater detail, building trust and buyer confidence. More trust and confidence = more completed transactions.

See how much more effective the exchange becomes with video and maps?

During service: Communication becomes even more important during the actual service. Whether it’s a vacation rental, home repair, dog walking or babysitting service, clear, direct and real-time communication between the customer and service provider can mean the difference between an entirely disappointing experience and an extraordinarily positive one.

Replying helps build even more confidence and trust in the relationship between renter and property owner. Imagine the renter’s experience had the property owner not replied immediately. The renter would have become increasingly frustrated, unable to enter the rental property. Despite a great Phase 1 experience, their overall opinion of the app would be negative.

After the service is completed: Post-service communication closes the feedback loop. This is a fundamental part of marketplace ecosystems, as it’s through reviews and ratings that service providers build trust with future buyers.

In all phases, additions like delivery and read receipts make the communication even clearer. Introducing a sense of presence in the conversation and helping users understand whether and when their messages have been delivered and processed.

A better experience for app creators

For marketplace app creators, native communications offers an array of benefits. First, native/in-app communications offers visibility into the actions taken inside of the app. Total messages sent, types of messages, percentage of messages receiving a reply. This business-critical data belongs to the app creator, and is therefore easily exportable.

It’s through this visibility that app creators can gain insight. By uncovering patterns in communications, app creators are able to glean intelligence and iterate on user experience. These in addition to complete control over look and feel of the messaging experience for their users.

5 Brands Proving the Value of Native Communications in Mobile Marketplaces

Native communications in mobile marketplace apps isn’t just a theory. Brands are already making the shift toward the universal messaging experience.

Take a look at how these 5 mobile marketplaces are delivering more value to users with in-app rich messaging:

One thing is common to each of these examples: the idea that mobile marketplace value doesn’t lie in products or services—it lies in the trusted relationships between users. Native communications is the best way to foster these relationships.

Native communications is the key to excellent experiences in marketplace apps

At Layer we believe half of every app’s potential is enabling its users to connect with one another and communicate in the context of their shared interest. Never is this more true or more apparent than when looking at the marketplace app category.

Layer is a complete building block for creating rich, native communications experiences of all kinds. All functionality mentioned here is possible with Layer today.

We can’t wait to see what you imagine and build.