A series of comments this week focus in on two important aspects of peer to peer marketplaces — working on creating a flow of transactions, and then helping users find where in that flow is best for them to fish in given their needs.
This was my comment from a discussion of peer-to-peer networks:
The nice thing about the business of being a peer-to-peer market rather than being a retailer or a proprietary supplier is that you make money from the flow of the business rather than taking positions that put your capital at risk.
To make a comparison to Wall Street, it is why being a pure market-maker is a safer position for banks to be rather than taking positions in markets such as by holding onto a bunch of bad mortgage debt.
This was my further comment in that discussion:
Something that follows from thinking about it as the flow of business is that as the peer-to-peer network, your job is to work to increase that flow of business.
A big part of that for me is not only making sure that customers are finding good product and experiences but also that you are empowering suppliers and drawing them into the market, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise be suppliers.
That latter part makes these businesses IMHO even more rewarding.
This was from a discussion later that week on “Explore” functions on peer to peer networks.
To mix metaphors, the “explore” tells the user where it’s good fishing in the flow that you have enabled with your peer to peer network.
Still a lot of opportunity with these explore filters. I think generally speaking we are much better at enabling the flow than surfacing the good and personally relevant stuff for an user
This is an excerpt from someone else’s comment from that discussion, which provides some thoughts to think about the Explore function, especially for the anonymous or first-time user:
Explore is a really difficult feature to get right. Maybe one of the most difficult.
There are two different classes of explore: one for anonymous users on which you have no meta-data and one for users on which you have some sort of data to personalize your recommendations. This is often logged-in vs logged-out but not always (cookies, etc).
The anonymous user explore is the homepage of many websites. In this case I think the best thing to do is to make the homepage look nice without caring too much about the relevancy of the content. Etsy does a good job of this. They might choose a collection of handmade items that are all blue for example. A person won’t buy a bunch of stuff just because it’s blue but it makes the homepage look nice and then you can search or browse for what you want.
If I tend to buy clothing on Etsy or steampunk gear (http://www.etsy.com/listing/11… ) you can show me better options on the homepage the next time I log in.
With Fred’s examples, Foursquare has far and away the best explore feature in my opinion, because they know where you’re standing and they know the kind of places you like to visit (not the kind of places you say you visit, but the kind of places you actually visit). This makes the explore feature very relevant to the user and it’s both temporally and geographical relevant which is something few other services can touch.