Building Trust on Your Multi-Vendor Marketplace

,
Head of Marketing

Uber’s 3.9 million drivers provide around 15 million rides a day. That’s 3.9 million drivers representing Uber’s business — and 15 million more opportunities for transactions to go wrong.

Will every driver get a five-star review? Will every ride go without incident? Will every passenger be a warm ray of sunshine? Certainly not.

And yet, overall, passengers continue to trust drivers to get them to their destination, drivers still welcome strangers into their personal vehicles, and most of the time, everyone arrives at their final destination.

Despite the odds, Uber has built trust into its marketplace.

But how?

Here are five tactics you can use to build trust in your marketplace.


Tactic #1: Establish Marketplace Standards

Establishing standards for operations, conduct, and usage should be one of your first steps when developing a marketplace.

Standards define expectations between vendors, buyers, and you, the marketplace operator, and protect everyone involved. It’s helpful to think of them as a guideline for using the marketplace and a "how-to" for addressing foreseen problems.

Standards can be set in a few ways depending on your marketplace model.

A Service Level Agreement (SLA)

An SLA is a legally binding contract that establishes standards specifically for suppliers, e.g., vendors or sellers. An SLA establishes a desired level of service. The goal is to lay out how things work on your platform, what you expect from suppliers, what they can expect from you, and what happens when those expectations aren't met or are violated. SLAs can also protect a marketplace from vendors that break the terms of service and give you grounds to terminate the relationship.

Terms of Service

Like an SLA, terms of service outline a set of regulations all platform users (buyers and sellers included) must follow. It should outline the details of acceptable use and determine limits of liability.

Airbnb's terms of service establish rules and guidelines for renting, hosting, and using the platform. Included are policies on how to manage a listing, cancel a stay, anti-discrimination, and report violations.

Code of Conduct or Community Guidelines

For peer-to-peer and service-based marketplaces, you can build trust by establishing terms for respectful communications, appropriate behavior, safety, and use of personal property. Both buyers and vendors would be expected to abide by the code of conduct.

Poshmark's community guidelines outline how they expect the Poshmark community to interact, what the platform is for, what it's not for, and penalties.

 

Tactic #2: Marketplace User Reviews

Before Airbnb hit it big, the tech world said the concept would never work because no one would ever trust strangers to stay in their home. Public guest reviews solved this problem.

User reviews are the new word of mouth. Nothing establishes buyer trust faster than a five-star review … and nothing scolds bad behavior like a one-star.

Building user reviews into your marketplace is a three-fold process.

Showcase Vendor Reviews

Buyers are conditioned to use reviews as part of their buying process. Research by customer service platform, Dixa, polled 3000 consumers and found that 93% read online reviews before making a purchase.

Reviews have become so powerful that their absence is enough to make buyers abandon cart. Another study found that 92% of consumers will hesitate to make a purchase if they don't see a customer review at all. These stats show that reviews are almost as imperative to building trust as a vendor's ability to deliver the goods.

Request Buyer Reviews After a Purchase

Collecting bad reviews isn't what you want, but it's most likely what you'll get — even if poor experiences are rare. A whopping 95% will "shout from the rooftops" about a negative experience, but only 47% will spread the word about a positive experience. A vendor could be incredibly reliable, but if all buyers see is a diatribe on the one-time things went wrong, they likely won't trust the vendor. How can you even out the scales?

Collecting good reviews is a process of frequent touchpoints and gentle nudging. "Your package has been delivered. Leave a review!" "Your ride has ended. Tell us how we did!" "Leave a review and get 10% off!" It's your job as a marketplace operator to remind and even incentivize buyers to leave a review. If you don't, you won't just compromise buyers' trust but also vendors.

Suppose the vendor only has negative reviews despite a silent history of positive transactions. If you fail to provide mechanisms to support vendors in soliciting positive reviews, the vendor might feel their reputation is becoming tarnished and lose trust in you as a supportive operator.

Enable Vendors to Rate Buyers

When vendors have to interact personally with buyers, operators can foster vendor trust by implementing a buyer rating system. Airbnb and Uber both allow vendors to rate buyers. This keeps buyers in check while protecting vendors from buyers with a history of poor interactions.

 

Tactic #3: Marketplace Vetting and Verification

Marketplaces that facilitate interactions where property, proprietary information, or safety are at stake, will benefit from vendor vetting and identity verification.

Verifying identities can protect both buyers and vendors since users can be tracked down and held accountable if they fail to uphold the service standard or violate your guidelines.

Depending on the level of scrutiny you require, identity checks can be performed via:

  • Email address: If your goal is to ensure the user isn't a bot, email validation is a low-effort way to ensure a user is a real person. This method isn't foolproof — anyone can create a fake email address — but if you simply need to ensure the user is human, an email verification will suffice.
  • SMS: Consider SMS verification a step above email verification. While SMS validation can't 100% verify identity, it's enough to confirm the account belongs to the user making the purchase.
  • Address: Your particular use case might require you to confirm a physical address. Upon signing up, some marketplaces snail mail out a code. When received, the user inputs that code and gains access to the marketplace's full feature set.
  • Photo ID, like a passport or driver's license: It's not uncommon for marketplaces to request a photo ID, like a passport or driver's license, to confirm the person's profile and ID match. This verification used to require a human touch, but now some apps use AI to facilitate this process.
  • Background check: Background checks might seem like a level of scrutiny that goes beyond the capabilities of a marketplace platform. We’re seeing new apps being developed that make it possible to automate background checks without having to hire staff.

If your Uber driver drives erratically, you go to Uber with your complaint, not the Uber driver. Remember, the vendors on your marketplace represent your brand, so it is important to vet vendors thoroughly. Some ways you can vet your vendors are:

  • Certification verification: Some marketplaces may require vendors to submit additional proof of verfication. For example, a marketplace for personal trainers should ask for proof of a valid personal training certificate while a marketplace for therapists may need the therapists LPC license.
  • Live interviews: Choosing your vendors wisely is vital — especially at the beginning of building your marketplace. Meeting your vendors in person or over video call can reduce the risk of onboarding a fraudulent vendor and allow the vendor to better understand your marketplace brand.
  • KYC Checks: If your vendor is an individual, perform KYC (know your customer), AML (anti-money laundering), and anti-fraud checks. If your vendor is a business, perform KYV (know your vendor) or KYB (know your business) checks.

 

Tactic #4: Marketplace Protection

If your buyer doesn't like it, can they return it? If it breaks after one year, do you offer a full refund? Forms of protection, like insurance, purchase protection, warranties, and guarantees, foster trust because they eliminate any risk of financial loss.

Insurance

If your marketplace requires vendors to put assets on the line, insurance gives them the confidence their asset is covered in the event of damage. Uber, for example, maintains commercial auto insurance on behalf of its drivers to help protect them in case of an accident while ridesharing on the Uber app. 

Purchase Protection

Kind of like insurance, but for buyers. Purchase protection allows buyers to request a refund if they didn't receive their order, the product arrived damaged, or the product delivered was different than the item described on the listing. In some regions, Facebook Marketplace offers purchase protection. Poshmark also protects its buyers through Posh Protect. Buyers must confirm they've received the item as described. Only then are the funds released to the vendor.

Warranties

Providing purchasers with a time-sensitive product warranty shows buyers that you back the products on your marketplace — even if you don't manufacture the product yourself. Amazon offers warranties on its "Certified Refurbished" devices so that buyers can take the chance on the refurbished product but feel protected if the device is defective.

Returns and Guarantees

You know the phrase "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!" A good return policy goes the distance in creating trust for new buyers that might be wary about a purchase. Walmart gives buyers 90 days to return most items. There are a few cases where the box can't be opened, but Walmart's return policy is very forgiving for the most part.

 

Tactic #5: Marketplace Customer Service

Even when trust is lost, good customer service can restore it. A helping hand that's accessible, prompt, transparent, and human when troubleshooting for users goes miles in retaining marketplace business and supply.

According to research by the Qualtrics XM Institute, almost 90% of customers report trusting a company whose service they rate as "very good," and only 16% of those who give an "inferior" rating trust companies to the same degree.

So, what makes marketplace customer service "good"?

Support for Buyers and Sellers

For marketplaces, customer service means assisting both vendors and buyers with their inquiries. Both need to feel supported to keep the marketplace functioning seamlessly. Doordash has three support portals on its marketplace: one for customers, dashers (delivery), and merchants.

Immediacy

Hubspot research found that 90% of customers rate an "immediate" response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question.

Eliminating redundancy

No already frustrated user likes to tell the same story multiple times to multiple customer service associates. Hubspot's report found that "repeating yourself" was tied with "waiting on hold" as the most frustrating aspect of customer service.

Resolution

We don't need a stat to know that the happiest users have their concerns addressed, but here's one anyway. KPMG reports that 90% of consumers worldwide consider “issue resolution” their most crucial customer service concern. 

 

How a Marketplace Platform Should Facilitate Trust-building

Building a trustworthy marketplace is all about building trust into your marketplace platform. Your marketplace platform should support:  
 
Standards: Your marketplace platform should include features for vendor onboarding that automates the delivery, acknowledgment, or signature acquisition of SLAs, contracts, or terms of service for users. The platform should also automate the contract review process on the operator side.
 
Reviews: Your marketplace platform should facilitate buyer reviews via your website and provide vendors with the option to respond and address reviews in their vendor backend. Marketplace platforms should also trigger automated emails or push notifications to prompt buyers to review their purchases.
 
Identity verification: Your marketplace should integrate with apps built to verify identities, like Verifai and Stripe
 
Protection: Your marketplace should have built-in workflows for returns, both from an operational perspective (e.g., providing buyers with a shipping label) and an accounting perspective (e.g., returning funds to the buyer and reconciling funds with the vendor.)

Delivery Updates: Your marketplace platform should allow vendors to easily update the marketplace operate and buyers with delivery timelines and updates. Delivering items on time will build trust for your marketplace.
 
Customer service: Your marketplace platform should support plug-ins needed to connect to CRMs, chatbots, and support ticketing to provide users with the customer service to feel supported in their transactions.


A marketplace is only as good as it is trusted. By establishing marketplace standards, encouraging buyers and sellers to leave reviews, verifying the identity of users on your marketplace, offering purchase protection, and creating a strong customer service operation, you can build a trusted marketplace.

Learn More →

Related articles