In a previous news story, Zupplychain's founder explained how his experience running a distribution company and as a shareholder in appliances e-tailer AO.com had inspired him to address the market for warehouse space with an innovative web platform. A further inspiration has been the growth and often phenomenal success of what can perhaps best be termed 'peer-to-peer' or 'aggregating' sites which bring together similar parties, who can often be both buyers and sellers, to transact.
Early on in their research, the Zupplychain team did a survey of 'peer to peer' sites to understand the common themes and learn from them for the development of Zupplychain. The first thing to do was to find some examples, from the obvious to the less well known and, within that, some on the edges of what Zupplychain wanted to achieve.
The headline names are Ebay, Airbnb and Uber, all with stratospheric valuations and mouth- watering growth rates. Less obvious examples - but equally relevant - are peer-to-peer lending sites (e.g., Zoopa), crowdfunding sites (Crowdfunder, Kickstarter), dating sites (fun to research!) and Betfair, a peer to peer gambling platform. On the edges of Zupplychain's market were sites offering domestic property for domestic storage, such as garages, lock ups and attics and the handful of UK websites offering backloads.
Some common themes emerged which helped inform the development of Zupplychain.
- All sites landing pages are dominated by the 'Buy this', 'Sell that' buttons.
- Dating sites aside, a buyer usually gets a 'free ride' in terms of being able to go straight into specifying his requirements and, with a few exceptions, seeing potential results available without registration. In contrast, sellers usually have to register with basic information before they can see what a full registration entails.
- Availability and pricing are transparent. This is one of the new developments that Zupplychain brings in searching for warehouse space.
- Given the website usually doesn't 'own' its sellers' propositions but acts as a market maker, many landing pages have some form of reassurance information, helping to legitimise the site: often some outline data on the user/transaction number, or regulatory bodies involved or 'featured in' particular media; and testimonials and case studies. You will see more of this on Zupplychain in the future.
- Extending the above are ratings systems of the parties involved - Ebay's buyer and seller ratings being the best or earliest example. As we bring together warehouse space and pallets for storage, this will be integral to Zupplychain also.
- Many of these websites work to create a sense of a community for the websites' participants, reflecting that both sellers and buyers are using the site frequently and for the long term.
- In this age of intuitive users, it is rare to find an instruction leaflet-style guide of 'How to Use' on a site. 'How To' sections tend to be top line repeats of 'what we are', coupled with video introductions, re-emphasising the opportunity to dive straight in. This is backed up by exhaustive and structured FAQ zones.
- However, there is often lots of help and advice - particularly for 'buyers' who may be new to the market in general or the platform. We will be adding more help for Zupplychain users over future months- both on the wider logistics industry and how Zupplychain can solve storage problems. We've also added a 'Glossary' section.
- Both subscription and commission models exist, depending on the nature of the transaction. (Commission doesn't work for dating sites, though some sites vary charges according to usage).
- B2B sites have phone numbers and help at hand. So you can always call Zupplychain if you can't find what you want on the site.
- The very best sites are built around a creative and ambitious technological platform which starts with the basic centre of the proposition, but is also a coherent and comprehensive 'engine' on which to build more.
These themes reinforced Zupplychain's core goal of bringing together pallets and warehouses in an efficient and transparent community. Or, alternatively, a dating agency for pallets!