Execution involves many risks, better execution is where one wins. Airbnb is not a unicorn because of its idea. Very few believed in it. But what it is today is because of a perfect execution.

Unicorn Opportunities is about people who believe in executing exceptionally well. And few of us had a great evening at the panel discussion on “Disruptive Innovative Strategies for Marketplaces in e-Commerce”. It involved the best practices involved validating a marketplace idea, go to the market (getting the supply and demand on board) strategies and scaling the venture.

And here is a glimpse of learnings from the wisdom of our panelists. The blog is going to test your patience as it is lengthy. We were lucky to have a curious audience who had so many questions that made the event get over one hour after it’s scheduled time.

We present you some of the pointers discussed at Unicorn Opportunities that could help in executing your ideas are as follows:

  1. Acquire initial customers offline
“It’s very important to initially meet people and do things that don’t scale.” — Abhiraj Bhal, CEO and Cofounder at UrbanClap.

Don’t be too quick. To build a two-sided marketplace you first need to establish both buyer and sellers community. Meet them personally, at least the first set of suppliers should be brought on board personally. This helps in executing the steps well.

What we are now trying to take online has already been done offline. 90% of the services are hired offline so we must understand the problems offline for successfully taking them online.

“We personally met and bought our first 500 suppliers on board” — Abhiraj Bhal

Just stay focused on the core i.e meeting and getting more buyers and sellers on board. Once that network effect kicks, it becomes viral.

Initially, you don’t have inventory because you don’t have customers and you don’t have customers because you don’t have inventory. So initially just go with the flow and find a hack for the problem. Each one finds only by doing and not thinking over the problem or hack.

2. Focus of the team must be to make customers happy

Worrying about scaling up on the day 1 is bad. Focus on making your customers happy” — Niraj Singh, Founder at Outbox Venture and Cofounder, Spinny.

Customer support system has to be very fast. The best customer support systems empower its team to take quick decisions. e.g. Uber’s customer support team makes decision.

Good teams focus on unit economics from day one. Working on the ground is very important. It makes you a leader.

3. Trust

“Wow factor takes your market to 100x as word of mouth through your demand and supply side is the best and the most viral marketing.” — Bharat Sethi, CEO and Cofounder at Poster Gully.

One has to think a marketplace as a social business. It depends on relationships on either side and the corresponding network effect. It grows when there’s an ever-evolving trust between the buyers and the suppliers. And for trust, it’s imperative to interact. The more people interact, the faster your business grows.

As a startup leader, your job is to make sure your customers trust you to meet and regularly exceed their expectation.

Maybe, having a chat feature can help people interact and build trust.

Ask yourself: “Do my services enhance the experience offered to the users?”

Offer many wow moments ( wish list, chat box, etc).

Don’t neglect suppliers for the sake of buyers, and vice versa. In a marketplace, the two are important — and their combined satisfaction is what makes your business go viral.

People should feel safe while using your website.One bad press in the initial days can screw the brand name you are trying hard to build.

4. Focus on your most passionate users

You need to create wow experience for your early adopters/niche users before you can begin to broaden your audience. By engaging your passionate users, you increase the chances that they will tell their friends about the experience and your marketplace can become viral.

5. Pricing

“Keep value as a price point” — Parth Saxena, Cofounder & CEO, TommyJams.

Understand what value you are adding and then pick up the price point according to that.

Try and get more supply to your marketplace so that you can lower the price for your customers. The focus must be on giving an easy experience to suppliers.

We must see why it would be valuable to them? Marketing & pricing should not be about why a product is good. It needs to be about the benefiting both sides — buyer/seller.

Make user experience as simple as possible. Make a positive impression on the minds of your audience.

Your app, can make the customer walk through very simple, instructive screens that tell the story and drops them off at a place where it’s easy to get started.

6. Keep replenishing your demand and supply sides

You need to hire people to continually find and feature your best content and eliminate the bad content. Customers can get easily bored by seeing the same products/ services but replenishing your inventory helps you repackage your product. It’s important for repeat customers to keep buying from your market.

Ensure that people keep coming back. Your product has to be ‘sticky’.

Your marketplace should be dominated by a large number of suppliers. Does your market has large no. of suppliers? If yes, then great.

7. Burn cash as low as you can

Building a trusted marketplace takes time. Spend wisely. Money cannot buy speed when it comes to marketplaces. Keep a regular check at your burn rate. Try and spend less on the team and office early on.

Your runway is going to be too long before you take off. Marketplaces take a long time to take off the ground. Evaluate the idea first, if it seems worth it, do it. Stick to it as it might take a long time to test your idea.

“Today on an average each artist earns 50,000- 2,00,000 per month through our platform. But the figures weren’t the same when we started” — Bharat Sethi, CEO and Cofounder, Poster Gully.

8. Focus on one market at a time

Marketplace businesses need to build traction in smaller markets before expanding their reach into bigger markets. Focus on one area first and work on it.

“First we started with Bengaluru, with getting all the Benguluru musicians on board. And today we are present in four continents in 3 years of time.” — Parth Saxena, CEO and Cofounder, TommyJams

When the core offering — the root of your business looks like a plant trying to grow in a too-small pot, it’s time to scale up.

9. Use technology to add value

Leverage on technology as much as possible. Suppliers and customers need to feel that they are served better with you than any alternative in the market.

You can put a chat feature for your buyers and sellers. Centralise the customer support, payments, terms, etc.

Well-designed technology can go a long way towards reducing work for participants and increasing the cost of switching from one platform to another.

10. Frictionless supplier sign-up process

It should be easier to sign up without needing to put some specific information and hard requirements.

It should be easy for anyone to list himself.

11. Take feedback

Make changes according to the feedback you get. After you apply changes, again ask them to review. Make them feel special and a part of your product.

Don’t underestimate the power of even a few testimonials and positive quotes — especially if you can feature people who would be identified as influencers by key communities.

Testimonials aren’t only influential for buyer-side user acquisition. But they are also good to show sellers and service providers that other people just like them and they are getting a ton of value from your platform.

You can set up forums or community spaces where sellers or service providers can connect directly to share challenges and best practices.

Keep a track of all of your top sellers and influencers so you can build stronger personal relationships based on feedback.

Get both the sides to rate their experience.

Both side, ratings help people trust that they will get what they are expecting.

Upcoming events at HelloMeets

Beginners guide to Chatbots | 25th September | 3 pm to 7 pm

Wordpress for Beginners | 25th September | 10 am to 4 pm

Bloggers meetup | 1st October | 11 am to 2 pm

Zero Budget Marketing for startups |2nd October | 11 am to 3pm

Blog credits — Himanshi Gautam and Sahiba Sethi