Changing face of online marketplaces

Ken Soo, who owns a limousine transport company, and his wife Valerie Lim sold their seven-year-old Toyota Alphard to 99 Motors Trading through Wheel Deal.
Ken Soo, who owns a limousine transport company, and his wife Valerie Lim sold their seven-year-old Toyota Alphard to 99 Motors Trading through Wheel Deal. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

New entrants focus on customer experience, offering more services beyond just connecting buyers and sellers

Armed with novel features and consumer-pleasing services, a new breed of local speciality online marketplaces are raising the bar for incumbents such as sgCarMart and PropertyGuru.

Carro, Andios and Wheel Deal are among marketplaces that have appeared in the past few months.

They do not just provide listings to connect buyers and sellers, but they also differentiate themselves by offering a slew of value-added services and resources.

 

Used car marketplace Carro was launched last July with over $1 million in seed funding. It currently facilitates about one transaction a day. Founder Aaron Tan said that a speciality marketplace such as Carro can give users more assistance during the buying and selling process.

"General marketplaces cannot have the same level of customer experience. For example, if you buy a car on Gumtree or Craigslist, you're on your own," he said. "But at Carro, we can hold your hand through the whole process and guide you."

BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE

General marketplaces cannot have the same level of customer experience. For example, if you buy a car on Gumtree or Craigslist, you're on your own. But at Carro, we can hold your hand through the whole process and guide you.

MR AARON TAN, founder of used car marketplace Carro, on speciality marketplaces.

Carro aims to make transactions smoother and more transparent, and to quash any worries that buyers and sellers may have about making such a big transaction.

For example, listed vehicles have an extensive array of pictures taken by an in-house photographer, and users can also choose to have a Carro mechanic inspect and certify a car. The company also provides a six- to 12-month warranty for selected vehicles.

Help is readily available via a live chat function, and financing options can be arranged through the portal as well.

Carro charges an administrative fee of $250, and also receives commission if a customer applies for a loan.

Mr Tan added: "For us, a focus on customer experience is very important, and making sure that our customers are happy is an important part of what we do."

The used phone marketplace has recently seen a new entrant as well - three-month-old Andios, a platform backed by Challenger's venture capital arm Challenge Ventures.

Mr Ian Tan, senior director of sales and marketing at Andios, said: "Many people have an old mobile phone sitting around in a drawer, but they don't sell it for a variety of reasons... some may be worried about losing their data, while others may find it too much of a hassle."

To give users a level of assurance when transacting, Andios offers solutions such as an inspection and certification service, a data wiping service and a photo backup service.

They also have phone-specific resources that users can tap, such as a pricing guide for different models of phones, and price comparisons between different telco plans.

While the services Andios offers are currently free, there are plans to charge for them eventually. There are also plans to charge a fee for premium listings.

Since its launch, more than 1,000 phones worth over half a million dollars have been transacted on the platform.

Mr Ian Tan noted: "These additional services not only benefit users, but they make it easier for us to focus our marketing as well, as we can provide services and information that cater to our target user base."

SPECIALITY MARKETPLACE ON THE RISE

These new kids on the block are snapping at the heels of incumbents such as sgCarMart or PropertyGuru, which were founded in 2004 and 2007 respectively.

Such stalwart speciality marketplaces have a raft of advantages over general classified listings: They allow for easy searches and price comparisons, are packed with pertinent resources, and have relevant tools, such as car depreciation calculators and housing location maps.

All these advantages have resulted in their rapid growth. In 2013, sgCarMart was acquired by Singapore Press Holdings for up to $60 million. Last June, PropertyGuru raised over $175 million from three investors.

Globally, speciality marketplaces are also becoming commonplace, with sites such as handmade marketplace Etsy becoming more popular over the last few years.

They are set to become more common in the future, said Dr Jimmy Wong, senior marketing lecturer at SIM University.

He attributed this to their many advantages. For buyers, they provide a "convenient and consolidated virtual space to make product and price comparisons".

For sellers, being listed on such platforms could "help boost awareness for their products", especially among their targeted group of consumers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Changing face of online marketplaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe