How to launch an e-commerce marketplace in Oman – Part II
I recently advised my Omani friend Ibrahim on a new marketplace idea in Oman. This is the second part of the column.
When I operated my shops on e-commerce marketplace I felt the pinch of logistics when I started receiving too many orders. I used to pack each product in a nice box with a nice label and bring the box personally to the post office. Then one day I started receiving many orders every day. That quickly became a very tiring job. I was waking up in the morning with pending orders, then I proceeded to prepare the orders and pack them for delivery. By the time I was done with preparation of the first batch, more orders reached my inbox. So I would have quickly prepared the new batch and rushed to the post office before noon. On the way back another batch of orders was received. So I would have gone back home, packed the new orders and back to the post office for the second time. So if Ibrahim was planning to allow each merchant to handle its own logistics, he could have expected quite a bit of headache to solve because clients might not be willing to wait too long. Hence having minimum standards of logistics quality for the merchants to match is essential.
I then asked Ibrahim who was going to handle the customer service. If the wrong products were delivered to the customer, then who should have the customer complained to? The merchant or the marketplace? There should be a common ground between merchants and marketplace, where the marketplace withholds the client’s payments for a period of time able to cover the return policy. Then the funds – after retaining a commission – are released from the marketplace to the merchants. So merchants are only paid once that the client has received the correct items. On the other hand, this implies that clients should return the goods before being refunded. So the marketplace should have a return policy and a refund policy to meet the expectations of both the client and the merchant.
We often hear about customer experience and customer service, but in a marketplace the satisfaction should be met and exceeded for all parties involved. Customers, merchants, logistics partners and financial institutions. By satisfying everyone’s expectations, the project can stand high chances to grow and expand. But focusing only on the final customer could be too narrow to guarantee success.
A complete business plan to include a financial model is essential before starting. Then subsequently prepare and define all the policies to regulate returns and refunds. Then finally prepare an onboarding process so that all the merchants joining the platform, as well as all the customers utilising it, are aware of what are the terms and conditions to participate in the ecosystem. Only at that point he could have started planning the practical elements, such as the brand and the website.