Ready for 2018? Here are some of the trends we think will have the biggest impact on online marketplaces over the next 12 months.
2017 was a landmark year for online marketplaces and classified sites, but what can we expect for the year ahead? Here are a few trends we think will gain traction.
1) Virtually There
When many of us think of ‘Virtual Reality’ we’re transported back in time nearly 30 years – to when clunky, blocky visuals and impossibly heavy wearables were heralded as ‘the future’. Yup, VR took a while to catch on (and improve), and while it’s by no means a fixture in our homes, more and more businesses – from travel brands to interior designers – are using it to show customers what’s possible.
The real estate sector in particular continues to benefit from VR. With more traditionally ‘physical’ sectors made remotely accessible, there’s ample opportunity for all kinds of online marketplaces to help customers experience different environments – like ‘trying on’ clothes or even VR dating – without the cost and inconvenience of travel; opening up even more ways to create value.
2) Marketplaces Go Truly Global
Whether the US Federal Communication Commission’s decision to dismantle Net Neutrality laws – which effectively gives ISPs carte blanche to direct internet traffic however they choose – will have global ramifications remains to be seen. But in the immediate future, classified sites are almost certain to continue adapting to the needs of an international audience; using local, on-the-ground knowledge to attract a broader customer base.
For example, ‘Housing As A Service’ sites – like Homealike and Wunderflats – that allow customers to rent fully-furnished flats for a short period of time, are catering to an increasingly mobile city- and country-agnostic workforce.
In a similar way, as more classified sites that rely on user-generated content expand to different nations and draw a bigger customer base, they open themselves up to increased targeting by scammers. Scamming is a global phenomenon, and one of the easiest ways for scammers to slip under the radar is to ‘pretend’ they’re in one country, when they’re actually based in another. This means that online marketplaces may need to exercise greater awareness of where their customers are actually based, and use geolocation detection as part of their moderation and fraud prevention strategy.
3) Bring On The Blockchain
2017 is already being heralded as ‘the year blockchain went mainstream’ by many tech pundits and futurists. But that doesn’t just refer to bitcoin and its meteoric rise. For many, the blockchain itself – the technology that bitcoin’s built on – is infinitely more interesting and important than cryptocurrency. Why? Because it could completely revolutionise how our personal data’s controlled – which could have a huge impact on online marketplaces.
It sounds complex, and it is, but the basic principles are straightforward. Essentially, a blockchain is a unforgeable digital data record: decentralised ledgers that are run and owned by no-one and everyone: not a third party. When data’s anonymised and secure, its value is controlled by our willingness to share it: a 360 degree shift from how it’s been handled historically. For example, say we allow our shopping data to be accessed by an online retailer who wants to analyse local appetite for a new product line. Blockchain technology would both maintain our data’s anonymity and allow us to assign a value to our data. Yup, we could even earn money by granting access to it.
The first blockchain real estate transaction was made last year. And yes, it was by a high profile advisor to a niche startup. But this wasn’t just a show of what’s possible; it was a wake up call. Not just to real estate agents, but to online marketplace owners too. Businesses, governments, and even financial institutions are beginning to experiment with blockchains too; and for online marketplaces we’ll definitely see continued innovation as data usage and online security practices get increasingly sophisticated.
4) Impact On The Internet Of Things
For online marketplaces, the sharing economy presents new opportunities too. There are some 8 billion devices connected to the internet – from laptops to washing machines. And as automation becomes more commonplace, the ability to create value through sharing digital assets is becoming increasingly widespread.
While it’s been possible to share access to physical goods via online marketplaces (think Uber and Airbnb) for some time, thanks to securely managed blockchain technologies, more and more people are leveraging their digital assets and goods as a source of income: such as renting out their hard drive storage space, or selling their unused text message allowances. Automation allows us to simply ‘set and forget’ these transactions and activities; which is great… as long as security is brought into the mix as well.
5) Trust & Safety: Crucial Components
While the opportunities for online marketplaces to expand are ample, this places renewed focus on a particularly important area: trust. Any online marketplace navigating new digital territory needs to prioritise safety and security, but we’re willing to bet that the role of dedicated ‘Trust and Safety’ specialists will become integral parts of any online marketplace’s business operations: particularly as the EU’s GDPR legislation comes into effect at the end of May 2018, giving individuals greater control over how their personal data is used. Such increased scrutiny around data privacy might making human content moderation a lot trickier, and may also mean that some things – like one-to-one messages – can only be reviewed by AI.
As scammers find new ways to exploit burgeoning technologies, the emphasis on trust mechanisms, like content moderation, will continue to gain ground. While we will see an increased need for specialists who can predict and crack down on fraudulent user activity. Simultaneously we will see a rapid rise in the requirement to automate moderation activity, with bespoke machine learning filters custom made for particular site needs.
To find out more about content moderation and how our Implio tool works, contact the Besedo team.
Have a great 2018!