With the success of eBay, Uber, AirBnB, and other similar online marketplaces, the concept of an online marketplace is rapidly entering new industries. As a result many modern software companies are providing online marketplace software for these different industries. Consequently, the problem of payment handling in marketplace-type systems becomes more and more relevant.
What an online marketplace is
Online marketplace is a platform, allowing its users to exchange products and services, which is provided and supported by a third-party entity. Examples include eBay and AirBnB.
Plenty of different companies develop software for online marketplaces. However, the need for effective organization and support of complex payment processes at online marketplaces maintains its relevance.
The difference between an online marketplace and a conventional business
The main marketplace-specific problem is as follows. During a traditional transaction, when a customer pays a merchant for a purchase, the merchant receives the money with a small processing fee withheld. The fee is retained by the processor (the company that processed the payment).
In an online marketplace two conceptually new components were added to the above-mentioned simple transaction processing mechanism.
The first one is as follows. In an online marketplace situation there is an additional party involved that needs to be paid for the service vended. So, when the merchant is paid, a fee has to be withheld (as in the conventional model). However, it needs to cover not only the cost of processing, but the cost of the service of the marketplace. Let us use examples to illustrate the difference.
While it is possible for the marketplace to collect its fee as a monthly subscription, or as a separate (second) transaction, it is preferable to be able to withhold just one fee from the main transaction, and then – split it among any other parties, such as affiliates, that are involved.
Moreover, the marketplace owner is not the only new player in comparison to a conventional business.
Another important thing to consider, when dealing with marketplaces, is the affiliates. We are talking about third-party blogs and web-sites, which handle the promotion of different products (ads, which we see in blogs, leading to online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, provide vivid examples of such promotions). Say, a blogger writes about different cleaning products and detergents. She writes about unique cleaning products, and references a link to the web-site (online marketplace), where these products can be purchased. It is expected, that the blogger is going to receive some small commission of every purchase that is made through the link from her blog.
As we can see, the traditional transaction processing model does not fully meet the needs of an online marketplace. Online marketplaces have a need for split funding, i.e, they require the ability to split an original transaction into multiple sub-components (smaller payments), that can be distributed among different parties, such as affiliates.
If you want to build your business in accordance to the online marketplace model, you need to select the right payment processing partner, who, potentially, is capable of providing flexible split funding functionality. Although you can go with a traditional processor and build the split funding logic yourself, you are likely to experience many challenges, and still the process might not be transparent enough. Consequently, it might be better and more profitable for you to partner with a payment platform, which already supports split payment functionality. It might also be useful for you to check, if a payment facilitator model is the right one for you.
In the next article we are going to address two basic split funding models.