How Online Marketplaces Can Help Local Economies

February 2nd, 2023 | 6 min read

Small is the new big! The pandemic created a surge in local businesses around the globe. 65% of customers now choose to buy local goods. Local online marketplaces have also helped to democratize markets.

Making it easier for small players to get involved. Organizations are providing localized online marketplaces all over the world.

For e.g., Gojek, in Indonesia, started its localized version of Uber. "Gojek" is a name for "Uber for motorbikes." 

It comes from the word, Ojek, which means privately-owned motorcycles taxies that take individuals short distances.

Gojek started integrating these localized versions of transportation into their app.

Gojek started integrating localized versions of transportation into their app.

Before this, drivers were limited to driving people from one place to another.

Indonesian Ojek drivers can now use their privately-owned motorcycles to deliver food during lunch hour! Or even deliver a couple of parcels in their free time.

In the same way, Jumia, a leader in eCommerce in Africa, focused on the need for women to be empowered to sell online.

We'll dive into this deeper, but, Jumia launched an online platform for women under thirty years to access training to support them online. Jumilia was able to address a local niche and start a new business segment.

Local Marketplaces Driven by Lockdown Limitations and Local Culture

Many of the limitations during lockdowns drove a surge in local online marketplaces.

Many of the limitations during lockdowns drove a surge in local marketplaces.

Local online marketplaces also tapped into people's desires to increase support for sustainability (buy local). 


Understanding what drives local customers enabled many local online marketplaces to provide differentiating strategies. 

Grab was able to beat Uber in Southeast Asia by focusing on a local approach instead of a global approach.

Grab had cultural knowledge that Uber didn't have. Specifically, Grab differentiated itself by implementing a cash-based payment system.

Grab had cultural knowledge that Uber didn't have. Specifically, Grab differentiated itself by implementing a cash-based payment system.

They knew their local customers preferred cash. And Uber didn't offer cash payments until 2015. By then, they were way behind Grab.

Similarly, Quebec, Canada, focused on encouraging local online marketplaces. This led to the creation of marketplaces like Boomerang and Le Panier Bleu to promote local French Canadian merchants.

A sustainability focus is also a differentiating strategy for many local online marketplaces.

Amongst the green trends, a sustainability focus is also a differentiating strategy for many local marketplaces.

If there is a heavy emphasis on sustainability in your country, why not tap into people's desire to be sustainable?

The trends are there:

  • In a BGC survey, 70% of respondents said they are more aware of how human activity threatens the climate
  • In that same survey, 40% of respondents said they plan to adopt more sustainable actions in the future, one of which includes buying goods produced locally
  • In another study from Walnut Unlimited, they found that 64% of the UK population said they are now more inclined to shop locally.
  • A study from TMW Unlimited found that localizing one's marketing message helps, with 66% of purchases being affected by local activity.

While not sustainably focused, Restorando's reservation app found its own way to differentiate itself from larger reservation apps like OpenTable.

Restorando's website and the app get around 200,000 bookings a month despite Latinos not being generally reservation-intensive compared to most Americans.

How did Restorando get there?

  • Restorando was able to make headway locally by partnering with foodie entrepreneurs.
  • They would create weekly restaurant events.
  • Those events enticed Latino consumers to make reservations.
Restorando was able to make headway locally by partnering with foodie entrepreneurs. They would create weekly restaurant events. Those events enticed Latino consumers to make reservations.

The events not only helped promote local restaurants but helped to slowly integrate the value of the reservations into the Latino culture.

The learning? To better gain market share, focus on location-specific consumer culture. Differentiate yourself and align yourself with the local culture.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Differentiate yourself with recyclable packing options
  • As a local marketplace, donate to local causes

Create Your Own Marketplace Fast

  • Launch your own marketplace niche fast
  • Easily connect your own domain name
  • Create your own categories quickly
  • Create custom fields specific to your requirements

Offer More than Financial Incentives to the Local Community

Do more than make money.

Local online marketplaces can do more. They have an opportunity to connect with local businesses.

By adding other value, like community learning, local online marketplaces add more value than just giving people the opportunity to make money. Adding non-monetary value also assists with the "chicken or the egg" problem that online marketplace operators have issues with. 

Adding non-monetary value also assists with the "chicken or the egg" problem that marketplace operators have issues with. 

How do you get buyers when you don't have sellers? Or how do you attract sellers when you don't have buyers yet?

It's a challenge! To get vendors and service providers to join when starting. Providing incentives outside of your platform can entice sellers to join.

Retake the example of Jumia. They operate in a region with low digital literacy.

Jumia invested in education programs for young people. Not only could you earn an income from Jumia, but young people started their education there.

Not only could you earn an income from Jumia, but young people started their education there. Over 1,000 Nigerian youths participated in in-person training sessions.

Over 1,000 Nigerian youths participated in in-person training sessions.

From that amount – 277, women signed up for the Jumia platform.

In the end, the 277 women that signed up for Jumia referred 878 other women to the platform within three months.

In the end, the 277 women that signed up for Jumia, referred 878 other women to the platform within three months.

Jumia increased its pool of sellers. Jumia also improved digital literacy in their country.  Localized online marketplaces work.

  • Around 40% of Nigerian women are entrepreneurs. Jumia has helped contribute to this through its programs that empower women and help them get a broader audience for their products.
  • In this analysis, online marketplaces could help create 3 million jobs in Africa by 2025, which would also boost the African economy through the supply of goods and services expansion, making people more productive and gaining new demand in remote areas.
Online marketplaces could help create 3 million jobs in Africa by 2025, which would also boost the African economy through the supply of goods and services expansion, making people more productive and gaining new demand in remote areas.

  • According to the 2019 eBay Global Marketplace Index, 91% of American small business owners believe that marketplaces offer the tools and support required to run a successful business.

Take Grab as an example again.

Grab also provided more than only monetary value to its users. Grab was founded in Malaysia - it was there that Grab launched GrabBenefits.

This was essentially their benefits program. For gig workers!

Grab desired to help gig workers on multiple levels. Their GrabBenefits sought to improve the financial resilience of the Grab partners significantly.

  • GrabBenefits provides literacy education.
  • GrabBenefits provides insurance products.
  • GrabBenefits assisted its partners in getting more livelihood security. Make more informed choices.
GrabBenefits provides literacy education. GrabBenefits provides insurance products. GrabBenefits assisted its partners in getting more livelihood security.

Ultimately helping its partners with more than just an online marketplace service. How do you do this?

  • Look for services you can offer your sellers and vendors.
  • Find ways to help them in their livelihood.
  • Find tools to assist them in making better-informed decisions.

Summary

While online marketplaces sometimes displace local businesses, it's not always negative. The localized online marketplace can significantly contribute to local economies.

The localized online marketplace can significantly contribute to local economies. Then can strengthen a sense of community. They can help people grow through programs. They can strengthen financial resilience in the community.

  • Then can strengthen a sense of community.
  • They can help people grow through programs.
  • They can strengthen financial resilience in the community.

Think through your goals. Think through not only your platform's goals but your local communities.

  • What do you want your sellers' future to look like?
  • What is your online marketplace's best value outside of a monetary benefit?
What do you want your sellers' future to look like? What is your online marketplace's best value outside of a monetary benefit?
  • Consider - if you knew that an online marketplace supports the causes you also support, would you be more likely to shop with them?

Create Your Own Marketplace Fast

  • Launch your own marketplace niche fast
  • Easily connect your own domain name
  • Create your own categories quickly
  • Create custom fields specific to your requirements

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