From Allegro to oodlique, Zalando to Game, European online marketplaces are booming. European online marketplaces receive 804.4m visits per month, a figure which shows no sign of waning. These online communities are connecting, engaging and extending relationships with customers, employees and partners across all sectors and helping customers get more value from their products and services. Included in the top 50 European marketplaces is the UK which sees 90m visits per month to its 10 biggest online marketplaces.
Some of the world’s largest online marketplaces have some interesting success stories to tell. eBay was founded in Pierre Omidyar’s San Jose living room back in September 1995 and from the start was meant to be a marketplace for the sale of goods and services for individuals. Today eBay has become an online person-to-person trading community and has both streamlined and globalized person-to-person trading, which traditionally used to be conducted at car boot sales, collectibles shows and flea markets.
Mumsnet was created by Justine Roberts back in 2000 after a disastrous family holiday. Originally conceived as a website where parents could simply swap family holiday and other advice, it has since grown into an online phenomenon, championing high profile campaigns which challenge both businesses and government over attitudes to children and parenting. Mumsnet is now the UK’s busiest social network for parents, generating almost 7m visits and 50m page views every month.
Etsy was set up in 2005 as an online platform for craftsmen to sell their handmade and vintage goods. Today Etsy has created an online community of craftsmen featuring over 60m items and attracting 7.4m sellers and over 39.4m buyers.
Builders Bay is another great example of an online marketplace which has brought together a unique online community. Buildersbay.co.uk was born out of the desire to solve the problem of dangerously excessive construction waste by enabling nationwide suppliers to sell surplus products to builders, renovators and DIY enthusiasts. The UK is a nation of DIY enthusiasts who spend £1.5bn annually on building products, yet 13% is never used and enters the country’s waste system. Builders Bay also solves the problem in the DIY retail market of unsold and surplus end of line stock either clogging up prime retail space or having to be stored, all costing the retailer money. Products bought on buildersbay.co.uk cost a fraction of the usual price. For example, some brand-new appliances are up to 45% cheaper than anywhere else on the internet. The site features over 16,000 products offering customers savings of £8m.
What all of these communities, and the hundreds of others like them, are doing is connecting likeminded people. For customers, online communities are a great way of getting more value from products and services and for businesses, online communities can help improve the way they enhance their products and services and help to better develop them.
According to Forrester Research’s 2015 Customer Lifecycle Journey report we are now living in the age of the customer. A time when customers, not brands, control the business agenda and technology and social media have given more power and influence to customers. More than ever, customers want to have a voice and influence business decisions which is why to remain viable, companies need to build stronger customer relationships and online communities allow businesses to do this.