Over the years of helping online marketplaces moderate their real estate sections, we’ve gathered a long list of best practices for content moderation rules and guidelines specific to this industry.

If you work with a real estate site or platform you know that you need to keep a close eye on the user-generated content published by users. If you don’t, your site quickly turns from a helpful tool for smooth interactions between renters and landlords to a scam infested spam forum.

Today we share some actionable guidelines on what to direct your content moderation efforts at. You can use them to increase the quality of listings, protect your users and hopefully increase the conversion rates of your real estate site.

Edit or reject ads with contact details

While the whole industry should slowly be moving towards sites that monetize and provide value through value-added services, most sites are not there yet.

Unless your site already has a unique and strong offering of additional value, it’s likely still relying on sellers who use it as a lead generator. If that’s the case you should remove all mention of phone nr, name, and email or physical addresses to prevent platform leakage.

Unconventional payment methods

Unless it’s your USP, all ads that mention unconventional payment methods should be removed. This is true both for swap and exchange suggestions, such as a car or cellphone in exchange for accommodation.

The rule applies to unorthodox payment methods such as Bitcoins and other electronic currencies.

We advise against allowing such reimbursement options as the value comparison can be hard to get right and there’s a risk one of the two parties will end up dissatisfied. You don’t want those negative feelings associated with your platform and you definitely do not want to get involved in disputes concerning unconventional payment methods.

Finally, there’s also the additional risk that some of the commodities, offered in exchange, has been acquired illegally and you don’t want your platform involved in what could essentially be seen as fence activities.

Whether you monetize your real estate platform by charging listing fees or not, you should remove listings with more than one item in.

If you charge a listing fee, sellers who post multiple items in one go are circumventing the fee and negatively impacting your revenue. If you don’t, listings with many different offerings are still really bad as they make it harder for users to find relevant results when searching for accommodation, decreasing the user experience.

Links or references to competitor sites

It goes without saying that it’s best practices for content moderation to remove or edit any mention of competitors immediately, particularly if they include outbound links.

It’s bad enough with bouncing visitors, it’s even worse if the content on your site is actively referring them to rivals in your space.

Pay attention to listing prices

We have an entire article focused on things to look out for to prevent scams on real estate sites, but one of the things we haven’t discussed in depth is listing prices.

Most areas will have a pretty baseline price range for similarly sized accommodations. For cities that are extra prone to be targeted by scammers, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with this range. Scammers often offer up apartments for rent at too good to be true prices. If you know the realistic range, it’s easier for you to catch them before they get to your customers.

We are currently working on building out a pricing database for some of the bigger cities in the world. If this project sounds interesting, be sure to subscribe to our blog and get informed when we have more information available.

Take a hard stance against discrimination

You’re probably already aware of the multiple lawsuits Airbnb has faced due to various instances of discrimination that’s occurred through their platform.

To avoid getting into the same legal trouble and the ensuing PR storm as well as to provide all your users the best possible experience through your site, we advise taking a hard stance against any discriminatory listings. Reject any listings that singles out people of specific race, religion, or sexual orientation etc.

Prohibit rentals that enable prostitution

For anyone who has followed the case of backpage.com and how its owners were indicted for earning over $500 million in prostitution-related revenue from the site, it should be second nature to have processes in place for finding and removing any content that facilitate prostitution.

Apart from the moral implications, allowing prostitution is illegal in many countries and could land your company (and you) in both legal and PR troubles.

If your platform isn’t offering hotel rooms or vacations homes, it’s often a good and safe practice to reject rooms-for-the-night type listings. That type of listings is often advertising accommodations used for indecent interactions.

Remove duplicate items

Users will sometimes submit the same listing multiple time. Why they submit duplicates may vary, but the most common reason is to try and bump up their ranking on your site. When users try circumventing rules, it’s never good as it usually impacts either user experience, violates legal commitments or, as in the case with duplicates, could get your site penalized in Google rankings.  

The best cause of action is to remove duplicates from your site directly before they get published, this way you ensure the quality of your site and avoid a messy search experience for other users.

We’ve written more about why duplicate content is bad for real-estate sites and how to remove it here.

Re-categorize listings placed in the wrong category

Vacation homes in the permanent residency category or for-sale houses in the for-rent section, all contribute to irrelevant search results and negative user experiences.

It’s important to remove or re-categorize misplaced listings quickly to ensure a good experience for users.

Reject listings with poor descriptions

Depending on the category, the required details on the commodity for rent or sale may differ. What’s always true though is that the description needs to be accurate and descriptive. Information like location, price, minimum rent time etc. should be a given. But sellers are often in a hurry and don’t want to spend too much time on the admin work that goes into writing a good listing that converts.

Make sure you educate your users to create proper descriptions and titles for their listings, otherwise both bounce rate and conversion rates may suffer. In a study we did on user behavior we found that irrelevant content leads to 73% of users never returning to the site again.

Following these guidelines outlined above will help you eliminate fraudulent listings and improve the quality of content as well as the overall user experience of your site.

4 most common refusal reasons on real estate sites in 2019

Now that we have gone through the best practices for content moderation let’s also quickly disclose where we find the biggest content moderation challenges lie for real estate sites.

In 2018 these were the top 4 rejection reasons for the real estate sites we help.

  • Multiple products
  • Duplicates
  • Wrong category
  • Poor description

As you can see most of the rejected items affect either user experience, and as a result conversion rate, or they impact your revenue more directly, as is the case with multiple products, where users circumvent the listing fee.

Curious about which other listings we reject for real estate sites? Check out our presentation 9 listings to remove from your real estate site to optimize for monetization from Property Portal Watch in Bangkok 2018 where we go into more details.

Want to know more about best practices for content moderation or expert advice on how to set up and optimize the content moderation on your site? Get in touch and hear how we can help out.

AI automation can help you optimize your moderation processes immensely, but as with all new technology, there are good and bad ways of implementing automated moderation.

One of the things you must pay attention to when investing or developing automation is which parameters the solution looks at before taking a decision.

One obvious benefit of AI is its obvious speed when taking decisions. To put it into perspective an experienced moderator can handle around 400-600 decisions per hour whereas AI decisions are instantaneous.

A less commonly recognized strength is AI’s ability to include a multitude of parameters in its decision-making and at a fraction of the time it would take a moderator to review the same information.

For this strength to be properly utilized it’s imperative that the team developing the AI model know which parameters are relevant and could be important. If they don’t, the accuracy, precision  and recall of your AI moderation may be a lot worse than expected. And the user trust and experience of your site will suffer as a result.

Important decision parameters for marketplace content moderation AI

So, we’ve established that the parameters your AI take into account are very important, but which parameters in particular matter when you are creating an AI for marketplace content moderation?

Let’s begin by saying as with all truly efficient AI these parameters should be customized to fit your particular service and setup. This means that to achieve the best possible AI moderation solution you, or the partner developing the solution for you, need to spend time investigating which parameters give relevant information that helps in decision making.

That being said, at Besedo we have of course over the years identified a number of parameters that always help the AI do a better job. We’ll share some of the most general here, but with the caveat that for the best results an expert should take a look at your unique case and build the AI models around that.

User attributes

These can vary widely depending on the purpose and setup of your platform. For marketplaces, user attributes could be restricted to as little as user name and area, but there’s really no limit to the number of attributes. AI could look at anything from subscription status to gender as long as this information is available. The more information the AI gets to work with, the more accurate decisions it can take.

User history

What has the user done on the site before? Has their behavior changed, or do they have a history of taking unwanted actions? AI will take user history into account on a broader scale, comparing the behavior of users to that of other users and use that to take a decision on the item it’s reviewing. If users who generally behave in a certain way, usually post good content, then chances are that content by a user who behave similarly is also good. And vice versa.

Ad history

Has the ad been rejected previously? Which queue was it originally sent to and was it edited by the user? All this information helps the AI understand the context of the ad and take better decisions.

Publishing time

When was the ad published? If it’s published outside the regular publish time patterns it may be an indicator that the ad isn’t genuine.

Ad Publishing frequency

How often does the user publish ads? Are they publishing a large number of ads within a short timeframe or does the publishing pattern feel more organic? Some scammers use bots to publish a big chunk of ads at the same time across multiple platforms. Reviewing the ad publishing frequency will help define whether it’s a genuine user.

Possible duplicates

Has this exact ad been published before? In general, duplicate content isn’t great for the user experience or SEO so if the AI finds duplicate ads it can easily take a decision on it.

IP address

Where was the ad posted from? Is the IP Address consistent with the one usually used on the account? Is it consistent with the IP address used when the user account was created?

Contact details

What phone number and other contact details are listed on the account? Is everything consistent with previous information and with other details on the account such as IP and email? Have other users with similar contact details behaved as they should?

Email

What email address is associated with the ad? Has other similar email addressed been used to publish unwanted content?

Ad title

What’s the title or headline for the ad. Is it relevant to the rest of the content? Does it contain words usually used in unwanted content (like swearing, illegal or even phrases often used by scammers)?

Ad body text

How is the ad described in the body text? Is the text relevant? And as with ad title, does it contain words that are associated with unwanted or bad content? Does the language of the body text correspond to one accepted by the site?

Based on the information provided by these, and often as many as several hundred more parameters, the Besedo AI takes a complex decision and boils them down to an easily actionable output. The result is a simple yes or no answer for each item sent through the API.

Maintaining high moderation quality with AI models

A good AI moderation model is built on experience and knowledge. Make sure that the AI solution you are using, in-house or outsourced, is developed for its purpose and that it’s constantly improving. User behavior on online marketplaces is constantly changing, which means you may have to update your AI model regularly to maintain high moderation quality.

Stay on top of your AI’s performance, and make sure to make use of the data generated by your manual moderation as well. As your site evolves and user behavior change, you will need new, high quality, labelled data and your manual team is the best source for that.

Use the data generated by manual moderation to improve and optimize your AI models on a continuous basis.

Do you want to learn more about how we build our AI models for moderation? Get in touch with a content moderation expert, or read about the 6 reasons why our moderation AI is unique.

On a yearly basis, we deliver a scam awareness calendar to help online marketplaces prepare for scam spikes in the year to come. We base the scam calendar on trend observations from previous years and analysis of major happenings in the coming year. Our trust and safety team is working day-by-day with analyzing data to find fraudulent behaviors, and proactively supports our clients with information to help them stay ahead of scammers.

Fraudulent behaviors on marketplaces are constantly fluctuating, as we witness periods of increased and decreased scams. Scam spikes are typically triggered by holiday seasons, festivals, events and other large happenings in a year.

For you and your moderation team to stay on top of the scam spikes, you need to be aware of when and where scammers might appear. In this article, we will share some of the most common types of scam for 2019 and when you are likely to see them spike. If you want to learn more about the specific scam spikes, visit our scam awareness calendar where we predict spikes on a month-by-month basis.

Tech release scams

We are spoiled as consumers with new tech releases every year. In so many ways it’s neat that we continue to develop and outperform our technical developments. And often, we witness competing companies triggering each other to step up their game and drive development. One of the most reoccurring battles between brands is between the two phone giants Apple and Samsung. When Samsung releases their phone of the year, Apple can’t wait to release theirs.pan>

These two annual releases are considered some of the most important product launches of the year, by tech enthusiasts and consumers. Unfortunately, this also attracts scammers looking to deceive eager buyers.

As with previous years, we’re expecting the scam spike in the weeks leading up to the launch of a new iPhone or Samsung. To protect your users, make sure to be on the lookout for pre-order listings, cheap prices compared to market price, phrases such as ‘item is new’ or ‘as good as new’ or ‘brand new in box, as well as deceiving phrases used in the description.

Samsung is rumored to release Samsung Galaxy S10 on March 8th, with prices starting at $719. Rumors are also floating online, that Samsung will launch the world’s first foldable smartphone in March this year.

Apple, on the other hand, usually host their big annual product release in early/mid-September, and if they stick to their tradition, we’re expecting their new iPhone to be launched on September 10th this year. Visit this page to stay on top of the latest news surrounding the next iPhone release.

 

Holiday booking scams

One of the most common actions targeted by scammers is vacation and holiday bookings. When we’re dreaming ourselfves away to various destinations in front of our computer or phone, scammers strategically expose us to exclusive vacation deals that looks stunning, but which in reality doesn’t exist. At Besedo we witness these types of scams on a daily basis, but April and August are considered peak season for holiday scams – when we book our summer and winter vacations.

Make sure your users stay safe on your site. Be on the lookout for fraudulent holiday rental ads and offers that are ‘too good to be true’. And more concretely, your moderation team need to look out for high quality or stock pictures, free email domains, IP’s, large group rentals, price below market, full payment in advance etc.

Want to learn more about holiday scams?

Check out this article: It’s that time of the year again, the peak season for vacation rental scams.

 

Shopping scams

Shopping, shopping, shopping. We all do it, we all (most at least) love it. Phenomena like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, after Christmas sales, Singles day etc. are periods where consumers are rushing to get exclusive deals and discounts.

While offline consumers are in the risking to be trampled in packed stores, online shoppers need to be vary of scammers trying to capitalize on the shopping frenzy by deceiving consumers with ‘super deals’. Be ready for a period of increased scams during and after the shopping peaks. Your team needs to be on the lookout for things like “too good to be true prices”, stock photos and phishing emails.

Learn more: Holiday shopping moderation guide and Online marketplace owners’ checklist for holiday shopping.

 

Big events scams

Every year there are multiple events taking place, everything from sports events to concerts and festivals. Unfortunately, most large events also attract a wave of scammers. In 2019 there are two major sports events, the Asian Cup and Copa America. For these kinds of events, your moderation team should be pay extra attention to ads with many available tickets for sale, low prices, miscategorized tickets, ultra-cheap airline tickets, address and phone number are geographically disconnected, and requests for bank transfer payment only etc.

Besides the two football tournaments mentioned above, there’s a lot of concerts and festivals already sold out, which means tickets may be for sale on your marketplace. Stay ahead of the scammers, learn more about ticket scams and how to keep your users safe.

 

Back to school scams

Being a student often comes with a tight budget and a need to find new accommodation, often in very specific and possibly unfamiliar areas. This, naturally, makes them vulnerable to potential fraudulent rental deals and loan offers. Make sure your moderation team pays attention to new users posting flats/flat shares, pricing, emails, stock photos, and dodgy loan offers.

New courses usually start twice a year, every January and September, and it is during these months we typically see an increased number of scammers trying to trick students of their money.

Here’s how to automatically reduce student accommodation scams.

 

Stay ahead of the scammers

Most of the scams we’ve listed will happen throughout the year and your team should always be looking out for them. However, by knowing when a spike is likely you can better prepare your team and you can staff accordingly.

By being aware of scam spikes and adjusting your moderation setup accordingly you can both keep your users safe, reduce time to site and shrinkage. If your team size isn’t flexible, a good way to manage spikes with minimal impact to the end user is to increase your automation levels when the volumes grow.

With the right setup you can automate up to 80% using filters alone and with tailored AI you can reach even better quality and levels.

Want to know more? Get in touch with a content moderation solution expert today or test our moderation tool, Implio, for free.

This is a guest post by Juho Makkonen, CEO and co-founder at Sharetribe. Sharetribe builds software tools to help entrepreneurs create their own sharing economy platforms quickly and with a low budget.


 

Online marketplaces are a megatrend with no end in sight, but building a successful platform business is challenging. Many of the most common pitfalls for early-stage marketplace entrepreneurs can be avoided when you approach your marketplace as a process, not a project.

There are many reasons why a marketplace can be a really great business.

For one, marketplaces usually don’t need initial inventory. Unlike a brick and mortar store or a traditional e-commerce site, a marketplace business can launch without first investing in storefronts, product stock, storage spaces, or even a dedicated office.

Secondly, a marketplace platform can be built very efficiently. Only a few years ago, setting up a platform with all the necessary features meant building it from scratch, which takes a lot of time, money, and technological know-how. Today, a number of SaaS companies offer platform technology at a fraction of the cost. This makes starting a marketplace business possible for everyone—including people without a big budget or extensive technological expertise.

Furthermore, successful marketplace unicorns like Etsy, Airbnb, and Uber have laid the groundwork and introduced large audiences to the way marketplaces work. They have managed to convince consumers to change their behavior and do something they’re used to doing—like booking a hotel or getting a cab—differently. Today, if you say you’re building “an Airbnb for saunas” or “an Uber for personal trainers”, most people will instantly understand what you’re about. When a new platform with an appealing value proposition emerges, potential users need much less persuading to trust the platform and give it a try.

With such significant advantages, it’s no surprise that a wave of new marketplaces for a variety of markets and industries has emerged. And this is only the beginning! According to marketplace investor Josh Breinlinger, there seems to be “no end in sight for marketplace opportunities”—yours could very well be the next marketplace success story!

This is not to say that marketplaces can’t fail. In fact, working with marketplace entrepreneurs on a daily basis, we have noticed some pitfalls that lurk particularly in the early stages of a founder’s path. Many start their marketplace without properly validating their idea and end up solving a problem that isn’t there. Another common mistake is for entrepreneurs to not understand the concept of liquidity and its importance to marketplaces, and then making matters worse by working with too broad a focus.

We’ll untangle these three pitfalls so you can get going with your marketplace business without making the same mistakes.

Your problem isn’t there

If you have a great marketplace idea, you might be tempted to launch it as quickly as possible. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. Once your platform is live, you’ll get to interact with your users, receive feedback, and see how you can develop your marketplace further. Besides, with the boom of marketplace businesses going strong, who knows if a competitor is building a similar platform as we speak and is close to beating you at the race to market?

However, before you write the first line of code—or even before you subscribe to a platform tool like Sharetribe—there are steps you can and should take to make sure your marketplace is solving a real problem.

Every business begins with a set of assumptions or hypotheses. Your very first goal before starting your business is to understand what your assumptions are, and how you can validate them.

This can be more difficult than it sounds—when you are sure you have a great business idea, it’s easy to get carried away by it and wind up ten assumptions deep. That is why we suggest using tools like the Business Model Canvas recommended by Steve Blank or Simone Cicero’s platform design toolkit and the Platform Design Canvas featured there.

These tools can help you map out different aspects of your business idea and get to the bottom of the assumptions behind them. You will likely have many different types of hypotheses: some regarding your value proposition, some about your customer segments, your distributions channels, your revenue streams, and so on. Furthermore, marketplaces typically have two completely different types of users—customers and providers—meaning a different set of assumptions for both sides.

After you have mapped out your assumptions, it’s time to get out of the building and talk to potential providers and customers. This is a crucial step—one you should not neglect or outsource. Ideally, you’ll find at least ten people to interview on each side. Ask open-ended, not-too-specific questions and check which assumptions hold true and which ones you should reject. You can also study online search data to find out if people in your city are searching for keywords that are relevant to your marketplace.

After going through this process, you should have a good idea of what types of problems your potential users really have, and how you could go about solving them. When it’s time to start building the first iteration of your platform—your Minimum Lovable Platform—you’ll know what the absolute essential functionalities are, and what are technical details you can focus on later.

You haven’t achieved liquidity

If there was a competition about the quote we repeat the most often, a strong candidate would be one by Simon Rothman:

“Liquidity isn’t the most important thing. It’s the only thing.”

In a marketplace context, liquidity means that your providers can reasonably expect to sell something they list, and your customers can reasonably expect to find what they are looking for. Marketplaces should keep track of both provider liquidity and customer liquidity.

Your first job as a fresh marketplace entrepreneur is to achieve liquidity.

Liquidity is measured as a percentage. To find out your provider liquidity, look at the percentage of listings that lead to transactions within a given time period. The time period you should focus on will depend on your marketplace type. For product marketplaces such as Etsy, looking at the percentage of stock being sold per month is likely a good tactic. For marketplaces like Airbnb or Uber, finding out the occupancy rate on a daily or even hourly basis is more relevant: how big a percentage of bookings are made for each night, or how many of the listed cars are in use each hour.

Measuring customer liquidity is a bit more straightforward. The simplest way is to calculate how many visits you get on a given month (not including bounced visitors), and how many of those visits lead to a transaction.

As an early-stage marketplace entrepreneur, assessing your provider and customer liquidity will likely leave you facing the infamous chicken and egg problem. You need more quality providers to get your customer liquidity up, but providers will only join your platform if it looks like there are enough customers for them.

The tactics you use to tackle the problem will depend on your specific business model. James Currier’s 19 tactics to solve the chicken or egg problem offer great strategy suggestions for early marketplaces.

You’re building something for everyone

One of the most common reasons why marketplaces fail is that their focus is too broad.

Startup owners are frequently taught that their single goal should be to grow as fast as possible. What would be a better way to do it than to go for the biggest audience possible—to start off with a huge geographic market, or build a horizontal marketplace where everyone can sell or rent anything?

We recommend doing the exact opposite. Focus tightly on one, restricted location and one vertical, particularly if your providers and customers need to meet face to face. Why?

Because the bigger you are, the harder it will be to achieve liquidity.

A marketplace can only scale sustainably if providers are likely to sell what they are listing and customers can find what they are looking for. When your focus is narrow, reaching this goal will be much easier.

There is a reason why many of James Currier’s 19 tactics for solving the chicken or egg problem are about focusing on a niche or otherwise constricting your marketplace. With a narrow focus, you reach your critical user mass and liquidity faster. You can target your marketing extremely efficiently, you will know how to talk about your platform in a language your users relate to, and you will be able to create content that is valuable for them. All this will help you build a community of engaged users around your product.

If you target a huge audience from the start, building a sufficient amount of supply and demand will take a great deal time and money—resources an entrepreneur with a narrower focus can use to improve the platform further. Which brings us to our second point, namely: you shouldn’t optimize for fast growth, but fast learning.

Building a marketplace is a process, not a project. Validating your idea and building version 1.0 of your platform is only the beginning. The best marketplace businesses are the result of constant iteration and improvement, and the foundation is the insight you get from your early users.

With a small but strong community around your platform, you will be in a strong position to validate your marketplace idea and unearth the biggest flaws and development needs.

As the startup guru Paul Graham once advised Airbnb founder Brian Chesky: “It’s better to have 100 people love you than one million people that sort of like you.” When the time comes, a great product with a small group of committed users is a solid foundation for scaling sustainably.

Summary

There are many reasons why a marketplace can be a great business, but building a successful platform business is challenging. In particular, there are three major pitfalls where many budding marketplaces tremble and fall.

If a marketplace isn’t solving a real problem, it will not gain traction. As an entrepreneur excited about turning a great idea into reality, there is a danger of layering assumptions upon assumptions without truly knowing if the fundamental business idea is valid. At this stage, it is important to take a breather and use some tools and techniques outlined in this article to see which assumptions hold true.

The second problem is that many marketplace entrepreneurs do not understand what liquidity is, let alone having tactics to achieve it. Put simply, your providers need to have a high likelihood of selling what they list, and your customers need to be able to find what they’re looking for. Achieving liquidity is further complicated by the so-called chicken and egg problem: to build supply, you need attractive demand, but to bring in demand, you need interesting supply.

The chicken and egg problem of an early-stage marketplace is much easier to solve if your marketplace’s focus is narrow. Yet, the third problem we frequently see is that marketplaces launch targeting a massive audience, or try to build an all-encompassing “Uber for everything”. Focusing too broadly is often a failing strategy because you end up building a platform that many people sort of like when you should strive towards a solution some people absolutely love.

Remember that a marketplace is a process, not a project. You should take the time to build a small but strong community around your product. Once you have that, you have a solid foundation upon which you can start building your global marketplace success story.

About the author

Juho Makkonen headshot

Juho Makkonen has been building marketplace websites since 2008. He is a co-founder of Sharetribe and currently serves as the CEO of the company. He’s also a OuiShare connector in Helsinki and a longtime advocate of the sharing economy. 

There is a saying, a craftsman is only as good as his tools. Anyone with a blunt kitchen knife or a printer of any kind will no doubt agree. So why should it be any different for your marketplace?  

A marketplace has a multitude of needs and while it can be tempting to create solutions for all of them yourself, it isn’t always the best place to invest your resources. In a previous blog post, we’ve discussed how you need to consider whether a feature or tool is a business need or a unique selling point before pouring time and money into developing it. If it’s the former, it may be prudent to save money by looking for a 3rd party solution to the problem. The good news for marketplace owners is that there are a ton of great tools out there that smoothly help solve a lot of your business needs. 

If you search for marketplace tools online you are most likely going to be flooded with offers, some useful some not so much. To make it easier to locate quality tools for marketplaces we’ve created an overview of companies who provide excellent tools that help with acquisition, conversion and retention throughout the buyer journey.  

When making decisions concerning conversions in the digital space it is good advice to think from a customer-centric point of view. Therefore, we have broken down the customer journey for buyers step by step to provide you with a list with the tools necessary to provide great UX at each stage.  

Check out our infographic “The toolbelt for marketplaces – Buyer journey edition” to see if you have everything in place for excellent user experience from early awareness to the re-engagement phase.

Normally when people think about health, it’s often physical or mental health for humans that come to mind. But have you ever stopped for a moment to think about your online marketplace from a health perspective?

If not, maybe you should?

Online marketplaces are like living organisms that require their own health checkups. But instead of visiting the doctor, the platform operator should constantly measure results and adjust strategies to ensure the desired goals, at each stage, are met. By tracking multiple parameters, you can confidently stay on top of your site’s overall health.

But defining your goals in each stage, knowing how to achieve them and select correct parameters to successfully track the performance, are not the easiest of tasks.

Together with Jeff Nolan, we sat down to explore how online marketplaces can define appropriate goals in three different lifecycle stages; growth, defend and expand, and help you discover what kind of parameters (or KPI’s if you want) you should consider tracking to ensure your marketplace is moving in the right direction.

Watch the webinar and learn how to ensure a healthy marketplace.

What you should consider before you choose an automated moderation solution 

 Are you stuck at a crossroad trying to decide which automated moderation solution provider to go with? 

There are so many things you need to ensure works with a moderation partner; Are your unique needs and requirements met? Will the provider deliver a high-quality solution? Is the documentation transparent and the integration smooth? Are you supported after the purchase and is the solution well-maintained? And much more… 

With all these parameters to consider, it’s not easy to decide which automated moderation solution provider that suits your marketplace needs the best.  

To help you make that decision easier, we’ve developed a checklist with the questions you should ask both yourself and the solution provider to make sure the partnership will work as smoothly as you want it to. 

Download the checklist here: 
What to consider when choosing an automated moderation solution.

When did you last add an innovative feature to your marketplace? Does it align with and support the future trends within the marketplace industry?

In 2018 the big talking point at industry conferences and reports has been the move from classifieds to marketplaces. But what does this move actually mean, and what impact should it have on your operational and innovation strategy?

Here are 3 new challenges that you need to think into your business plans going forward:

Monetization strategies are changing

Traditionally classifieds earned money from listing fees and paid advertising. Going forward this will be less and less profitable. Seeing yourself as a lead provider to amateur and professional sellers is no longer going to be a viable strategy.

As more sites and Apps implement AI for smarter seller and buyer matching the lure of marketplaces as a lead generator will quickly dissolve. In the future, the name of the game will be value-added services. Marketplaces will use technology to match sellers and buyers with 1-3 high-quality leads and surround that match with ancillary services that both parties will find relevant. Such services could be everything from financing, insurance, delivery, to more creative value ads like stylist services when buying gala-clothing.

The winners will be those who manage to add the most successful value-added services both in terms of revenue and users experience.

Greg Goldring has shared a framework for how they decide which ancillary services to offer their visitors. It’s worth a look if you are stuck on how to implement this in your business.

Become part of the transaction

One of the main differences between classifieds and marketplaces is that, on the former, physical meetings is still a pretty standard part of the process. Contact may be established online, but delivery and payment is mostly done in the offline space. Apart from the inconvenience, this also leads to quite a bit of platform leakage, especially when it comes to professionals. Once that initial contact has been established, they no longer need the marketplace.

The solution, of course, is to handle the entire user journey inside your platform. This includes payments. Make sure it’s easy and safe to pay through your platform and you will stop the majority of leakage. We are moving into the era of the convenience economy and people will increasingly pick convenience over price.

Make convenience your new mantra

Speaking of convenience. Aimgroup recently quoted Martin Scheepbouwer, CEO of the OLX Group saying, “Convenience is the future of classifieds.”

This is going to be true for not just transactions, but for the entire user journey of both buyers and sellers. The platform that can develop the most features that support convenience will be the one that grows the most and if they can weave in value-added services to be part of the convenience model, they will not only win at attraction and retention but also have a much easier time monetizing.

Listing fees are no longer going to keep you alive, affiliate payment from value-added services are and your full development focus needs to switch from lead delivery to incorporating a convenience-centered design approach and ensuring that your core product supports this new strategy.

Another important thing to consider is that to push a user to the point in the user journey where they will be open to value-added services, you need to ensure that your product is delivering a unique and smooth customer journey throughout all touchpoints.

Strategies for distributing resources for innovation and growth

With so much to focus on it can be hard to know how to best allocate resources. To help with that decision. Take each area and fit them into one of two boxes. Business need and unique selling points (USPs).

Business needs are things that are required to run your business, but which are not going to set you apart from your competitors. It’s everything from the servers that host your platform to the tele-company providing your phonelines for customer support. You can’t operate your business without them, and you need them to be reliable and of high quality, but it’s not the value proposition you pull out when people ask why they should use your site over your competitor.

Unique selling points, on the other hand, is where your product rises above others in the market. This is obviously where you should focus your resources.

The rest can be outsourced and in many cases handing your business needs over to professionals will save you money. The time and resources you save can instead be used to increase the velocity with which you develop features and other areas that fall into the USP area.

What can you save by letting 3rd party vendors deal with your business needs?

Now comes the fun part. it’s time to look for areas that you can outsource without losing a competitive advantage and see how much you can gain from passing it on to a professional partner.

Content moderation is a really good example of such an area. It’s a critical business need for all marketplaces to keep your users safe and the user experience smooth, but it’s not a differentiator. It’s not what will set you apart from your competitor.

This makes it a perfect area to outsource so your developers can use their time focusing on your core product rather than creating solutions that already exist in the market.

On top of freeing resources, you can also save a good deal of money opting for a turn-key moderation solution, rather than an in-house setup.

Many companies we talk to are not fully aware of how much they actually spend on their in-house moderation. To help you better understand your total cost of ownership, we’ve put together a list that will help you calculate the total cost of ownership for your current content moderation set up.

Technology
  • Design and development of control panel including both manual and automation features.
  • Maintenance and hosting of all tools related to content moderation
Personnel
  • Salary of both direct and indirect staff
  • Recruiting/acquisition and retention
  • Onboarding and ongoing training to align with changes to policy and CX
  • Shrinkage and shift management
  • Impacts of ineffective and/or costly moderation
  • Damage to brand and retention
  • Reduced conversions and stunted growth
  • Customer support costs

On top of this remember that the cost you pay for moderation isn’t just financial it’s also about opportunity cost. Setup and management of moderation processes will divert some focus from what really matters. Developing a competitive product and features that can carry your platform into the new reality of the online marketplace industry.

Benefits of Besedo Total

For 16 years we’ve been supporting classifieds and marketplaces across the globe. As moderation has moved from a USP to a business need, sites are increasingly looking for a provider where they can just offload their entire moderation process. Not just the manual labor, but the technology, the setup and the day to day management.

To meet the demands of the marketplace industry of tomorrow, we’ve developed a completely new service called Besedo Total.

With Besedo total you are guaranteed:

  • Moderation of 100% of your listings
  • 30 minutes or less average time to site
  • Moderation accuracy of at least 95%
  • A monthly report covering listing flow and trends and user insights observed while moderating

We shoulder all the responsibilities of day to day management, staffing and quality assurance. Giving you space to develop your core product.

Finally, our clients have seen a cost reduction of up to 60% of their previous moderation cost.

How does Besedo Total work?

For Besedo Total to work well it’s important that we truly understand the needs of our clients. As such, each setup begins with a thorough discovery phase where we discuss and agree on policies, processes and estimate the monthly volumes. With the foundation in place we can move on to implementation and execution quickly and in total, we can go live in about 9 weeks from the contract is signed.

Here’s how the full implementation roadmap looks.

moderation roadmap

“Besedo offered an easy solution exactly targeting our needs. We couldn’t have been able to develop a better solution.”
– Jelena Moncilli Anti-Fraud Specialist at anibis.ch

What does Besedo Total cover?

Besedo Total covers every single listing you need moderated and will be able to replace your entire moderation set up.

You will no longer have to develop and maintain a moderation tool, you save time and money as you no longer have to hire, manage, train and retrain a moderation team. Besedo Total also removes the need to spend time keeping up to date with new moderation challenges.

We handle both text and images with no extra associated cost and no restrictions on the ratio between them.

The Besedo Total setup consists of 1st and 2nd line moderation with trust and safety cases covered by experts in the area to keep your users safe.

All of our agents go through an in-depth training program and benefits from internal knowledge and support, but 2nd line agents are more experienced and often have more specialized focus areas.

Get time to innovate where it matters

Handing something so fundamental as content moderation over to a partner can feel daunting at first, but it’s a necessary step towards resource optimization. With Besedo Total you get a partner who understands content moderation to the core, with over 16 years of experience in the field, specifically focused on classifieds and online marketplaces.

You get a full-fledged moderation setup, that doesn’t require any micromanagement on your part, while still delivering the high-quality results you require.

Finally, integration is easy and smooth, implementation is done in 9 weeks or less and once in place, no maintenance is required on your part.

Isn’t it time you stop feeding resources into reinventing existing tools and focus full speed on developing features supporting the value-added services required for tomorrows monetization?

Get in touch with a solution designer to hear how we can take moderation off your shoulders so you can spend time on the challenges that will set you apart from your competitors.

Facebook is coming! So are the other tech giants, as well as an uncountable number of vertical competitors.

To survive as an online marketplace, the only strategy is to offer something no one else has and to keep coming up with smart ways to differentiate your online marketplace from the rest.

There are multiple approaches to make your marketplace stand out and the truth is that you may have to deploy more than one of these to truly set your platform apart. Because you are not alone in wanting to build a unique marketplace experience.

In fact, according to Gartner “By 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations“.

Designing your user journey with engagement in mind is one of the strategies that can help you win the race. After all, engaged users are more likely to remember your brand, and engaged consumers buy 90% more frequently and spend 60% more per transaction.

How to build Engagement at each step of the user journey

At Besedo we know how important high-quality content is to user engagement, however, we also know that you need to apply an array of other tools to create a truly engaging user journey. To cover more ground, we partnered up with Kahuna, who specializes in data-driven personalization, and did a webinar to provide a broad perspective on engagement driven user journeys for both buyers and sellers.

The key to getting it right is to think engagement into each touch point the customer has with your business. Learn more from Kahuna’s Jeff Nolan and Besedo’s Sigrid Zeuthen.

It’s 2018 and AI is everywhere. Every company and their grandmom are now offering AI-powered solutions. With so many options to pick from does, it really matter who you partner with for AI moderation?

When we started building our AI for moderation in 2008, machine learning had hardly been applied to content moderation. Since then others have understood the value automation brings in keeping marketplace users safe.

Every time we go to a tradeshow or conference we see new companies with AI offers and we understand that as the market gets more saturated it can be hard to decide which vendor to bet on.

To help you navigate the AI jungle we wanted to highlight some very specific areas where our AI is unique in the market.

It’s actionable

A lot of AI models work based on a sliding scale and the output you get is a probability score. The score gives you a picture of how likely the content piece is to be whatever the algorithm is looking for. So if a content piece receives a high probability score from a model looking to detect unwanted content, there’s a good chance that the content piece falls into that category.

However, a scoring system is often arbitrary. When should you reject an item as a scam? When the probability score is 100%? 99% or maybe 85% is good enough?

Our AI doesn’t operate this way. We want to provide our clients with clear answers that they can apply straight away. As such we do not send back an abstract score, instead, our algorithm provides a concrete answer.

We operate with 3 different, but clear answers that are easy to apply a moderation action to. The 3 values we expose are OK, NOK (not okay) and uncertain.

Let’s use the unwanted content model as an example. Our algorithms will look at the content and determine whether it’s unwanted content. If it is it will return “NOK” and you should reject the content piece, if it isn’t you will get “OK” back and you can accept it. If the model isn’t sure it will send back “Uncertain”, this doesn’t happen often, but if it does you should send the content for manual review.

That’s how simple it is. There’s no grey zone, only clear actionable answers to each content piece you run through the model.

 

A holistic AI approach

We believe that the value of AI is often mistakenly judged on the accuracy of the models alone. The reality is that it’s more complex than that. To explain why we need to get a bit technical and quickly outline a bit of AI terminology. (If you are interested you can read more about the basic concepts of AI moderation here)

When evaluating an AI there are multiple KPI’s you can look at, accuracy is just one of them. To determine if our AI is performing to our standards, we look at a wide array of metrics. We can’t cover all in this article, but here are some of the most important ones.

Precision

Is a number that describes how often models predictions were actually correct. If there are 100 content pieces and the machine determine 10 of them to be unwanted content, but only 8 of them were actually unwanted content then the model has a precision of 80%.

Recall

Recall is showing how many of the actual unwanted content pieces the algorithm correctly identifies. If we go back to our example with 100 content pieces. The AI correctly identified 8 unwanted content pieces out of the 100, but, there were 16 unwanted content pieces. In this case, the recall of the model is 50% as it only found half of the unwanted content cases present.

Accuracy

Describes the number of decisions the model gets correct. If we have 100 content pieces and 16 of them are unwanted content the accuracy of the model will be negatively impacted both by the unwanted content it fails to identify and by any good content it wrongly identifies as bad.

This means that if a model out of 100 content pieces correctly identified 8 unwanted content when there were 16 present and it wrongly identified 2 good content pieces as unwanted content the model would have an accuracy of 90%.

Automation rate

Automation rate is a way to measure exactly how much of the total content volume is being handled by AI. If you have 100000 content pieces per day and 80000 of them are dealt with by the models, then you have an automation level of 80%

When judging how well AI works we believe it needs to be based on how it performs in relation to all these 4 metrics as that will give you a truer picture of how well the AI is dealing with the content challenges.

You can never have perfect accuracy, precision, recall, and automation at the same time. Our AI is unique in that it is calibrated to meet your business objectives and to find the right balance between all of these indicators.

 

Supervised and continuous learning

Machine learning models can be taught in different ways and the way they are taught has a huge impact on how well they perform.

Our AI is trained on structured and labeled data of high quality. What this means is that the data sets we train our models on have been reviewed manually by expert content moderators who have taken a yes or no decision on every single piece of content.

We also update the models regularly ensuring that they are updated and adhere to new rules and global changes or events that could impact moderation decisions.

 

A calibrated solution

One of the benefits of designing our AI with an eye on multiple metrics is that we can tailor-make a solution to ensure the perfect fit for your business.

We have multiple levers we can pull to adjust the output allowing us to tweak accuracy and automation ensuring that everything is calibrated as your business requires.

With our solution the accuracy and degree of automation are elastic and that makes our AI setup much more flexible than other available options.

 

Adaptive AI Solution

One of the few drawbacks of Machine Learning is that it’s rigid and static. To change the model, you need to retrain it with a quality dataset. This makes it hard for most AI setups to deal with sudden changes in policies.

We‘ve solved this problem by deeply integrating it into our content moderation tool Implio. Implio has a powerful filter feature which adds flexibility to the solution, so you can quickly adapt to change.

For example. when a new iPhone comes out the AI models will not pick up the new scams until it has been trained on a new dataset including them, but you can add filters in Implio until there’s time to update machine learning. The same is true for other temporary events like the Olympic Games or global disasters except that these are over so quickly that it’s likely not feasible to update the models. Instead, you can add Implio filters that ensure high accuracy even during times with special moderation demands.

In addition, we have a team dedicated to studying moderation trends and best practices and all our AI customers benefit from their knowledge and our 16 years of experience to support and guide them.

 

ML Tailored to content moderation

Most of the AI solutions on the market were created to solve a general problem that occurs in multiple industries. This means that the AI works okay for most companies, but it’s never a perfect fit.

We took the other route and dedicated our efforts to create an AI that’s perfect for content moderation.

When we develop our AI we do it based on the 16 years of experience we have helping companies of all sizes keep their users safe and the quality of their user-generated content high. That has made our stack uniquely tailored to content moderation ensuring unparalleled results in our field.

We also have a team of experts supporting our AI developers with insights, internal learnings from moderating global sites of all sizes and research into industry trends and the challenges faced by online marketplaces and classifieds in particular.

Our research team feeds their insights to Besedo as a whole ensuring a high level of expertise at every level of our organization. From moderation agents to managers and developers. This ensures that our experience and expertise is infused into all our services and products.

 

Get an AI solution that fits your needs

There is no question about it, AI will play a huge role in marketplace growth over the next couple of years. However, to truly benefit from machine learning, make sure you get models that will work well for you.

We often talk to marketplace owners who have become slightly disillusioned after testing AI solutions that weren’t properly calibrated for their business. They have wasted time implementing a solution that didn’t solve their issue in a proper way and now they are wary of AI as a whole.

That’s a shame, when applied correctly AI is a great money saver and provides other benefits like fast time to site and user privacy protection.

To avoid spending money on the wrong AI, have a chat with our solution designers and they will give you a good idea of which setup would work for you and the results you can expect. Together you can tailor a solution that fits your exact needs.

Get in contact with us for our tailored AI moderation solution