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Chat as the command center of the marketplace experience

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Lately, chat has been on everyone’s mind—and fingertips.

In January this year, WhatsApp made waves when it announced an update to its privacy policy that would see user data being shared with Facebook. Given Facebook’s dubious history where privacy is concerned, it’s unsurprising that WhatsApp users were not happy. Suddenly, it seemed like everybody was discussing the relative merits of formerly niche chat apps like Telegram and Signal

Facebook knew what it was doing when it bought WhatsApp back in 2014. The company recognized that mobile internet access was the future and that chat was its language. It also knew that at the rate WhatsApp was growing, it posed a significant threat to its own chat tool. 

While it has been slow to capitalize on its $19.6 billion investment, Facebook is now starting to monetize WhatsApp Business as a kind of mobile CRM by offering small to medium-sized enterprises tools to communicate with their customers, organize conversations, and automate interactions. It’s not just small businesses either, with marketplaces like Wish and Booking.com turning to the emerging WhatsApp Business API to keep users in developing markets connected. 

But for many businesses, using a Facebook product to drive customer communications is not the answer, particularly in light of its less-than-stellar privacy track record. 

Owning the chat experience = owning the customer relationship

In Southeast Asia, where data privacy protection concerns are high, eCommerce marketplaces like Carousell and TMon (Ticket Monster) are opting to maintain full control of the chat experience—and the associated user data—by building chat right into their apps. 

Like Facebook and Salesforce, these marketplaces understand that owning chat means you own the command center of the customer experience. 

Unlike regular eCommerce sites, marketplaces absolutely need to facilitate direct communication between buyers and sellers to allow them to discuss particulars like pricing, the condition items are in (or terms of service, in the case of service-based marketplaces), and make delivery arrangements. 

Let’s look at some of the benefits of having a rich chat interface native in your marketplace app:

  • Built-in chat means your users don’t need to leave your platform to communicate with one another, making for a seamless, uninterrupted user experience.
  • In-app chat makes buyer-seller negotiations convenient and efficient, leading to higher transaction completion rates and happier users. 
  • In-app chat protects users’ privacy by letting them negotiate without having to disclose personal information such as their contact details and removes the risk of disintermediation.
  • More in-app communication means you’ll have more data that you can use to understand user preferences and improve the marketplace experience.
  • Facilitating in-app communication with notifications that keep the conversation flowing boosts engagement and increases the chance of users making multiple transactions. 
  • You can integrate chat seamlessly into your transaction workflow so that the transaction experience is as easy as sending a message in chat.
  • You can also integrate buyer and seller review system in the chat workflow which helps in improving ratings and in-turn driving more transactions on your marketplace app.

Owning the chat means users are less likely to go off-platform to complete their transaction using a third-party messaging app like WhatsApp or Messenger, which could result in potential loss of your platform fees.

More importantly, should users take their conversation off-platform, you lose control of the user experience, which means you can no longer protect users by applying moderation and safety tools like spam, nudity, or profanity filters to ensure that users feel secure using your app. 

It also means you can’t facilitate payments or protect users if something goes wrong, which can impact your trust rating over time. Even if a negative experience occurs off-platform, users will remember that it started on your marketplace and may be wary of using your platform again.

While it may be tempting to outsource communication to a third-party platform like WhatsApp because it’s easier than building your own chat feature, doing so means you give up control of the customer relationship and data to WhatsApp.

This puts you at the mercy of the platform that owns the chat, which can very easily decide to charge you extra fees for partial access to user data. Losing control of your feedback loop means you lose access to information that can improve your customers’ experience, and improve revenue generation. This can have a massive cost if you fail to act on an opportunity—or worse, if the platform you’re relying on takes advantage of the opportunity first.

Additionally, owning the chat experience means having greater visibility into—and control over—your users’ data. 

The good news is you don’t have to choose between building your own chat feature from scratch or outsourcing your customer conversation to the Facebook platform.  

Instead, we think it’s better to buy, then build for a richer branded chat experience. With Sendbird’s chat API and SDKs, you can build endlessly scalable chat, voice, and video calls into your marketplace app and start facilitating exceptional user experiences within weeks. 

For more information on how Sendbird can help you take control of your marketplace experience, read How in-app messaging can help marketplaces achieve liquidity.

Categories: Insights