We’ve all gotten used to marketplace businesses.
We’ve all used Uber to order a ride, gone to Etsy to find hand-made house-decor, or used Upwork to find a freelancer to do a quick assignment.
The same goes for Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions.
You’ve probably used Dropbox to store your files, edited your image files with Photoshop, or sent your email marketing campaigns with GetResponse.
But there’s an interesting intersection between them, which I bet, many of you haven’t heard about.
That intersection’s called SaaS enabled marketplaces (SEMs).
What is a SaaS enabled marketplace platform
Point Nine Capital provides a good definition of a SaaS enabled marketplace.
It’s a business that combines the characteristics of both models:
– Marketplace component that connects two or more parties to conclude a transaction and thus can generate and benefit from real network effects.
– A SaaS (Software as a Service) component that offers software features to one — or more — of the parties. This SaaS component needs to be usable as a standalone software. This is how we differentiate pure marketplaces (like Uber) from SEMs like StyleSeat.
In simpler terms, it’s a SaaS product with additional marketplace features.
The fascinating part is that the SaaS component can be both on the buyer and the supplier side.
Even though I’m sure you could name at least a dozen SaaS business or marketplaces, I bet it’d be harder to do the same with SEMs.
That’s because, most of the time, we’re only looking at the platforms we use from one perspective. We’re either the buyer or the supplier.
Less frequently, we think about the other party and what keeps them on the platform – other than the revenue from the transactions, of course.
To show you how versatile the SEM ecosystem can be, I’ve decided to list 10 companies – some more and less-known – that fit the definition of a SaaS enabled marketplace.
Here they are.
Contently is a subscription-based marketing platform that was built with two key audiences in mind:
– marketers and brands who’re looking to develop and manage engaging content better
– freelancers who’re looking to market their services to new organizations
Other than providing the technology, what puts Contently apart is the additional value it provides to its core audiences.
Freelancers are encouraged to create their online portfolios using Contently. It’s a quick and free process, which allows them to pull content from various websites and showcase their work to new potential clients.
On top of that, the company also provides additional guidance and training to those writers, who match their clients’ needs.
As for marketers and brands, Contently is not only a marketplace that lets you find talented and trained writers. They also offer a set of tools to publish, track, and manage the entire content development process with their team members more easily.
In other words, Contently isn’t just a marketplace that puts businesses and freelance writers in the same place.
It’s a SaaS enabled marketplace.
It has the software as a service component (here for the buyer), which is critical for two reasons:
– It lets the platform charge a monthly subscription fee on top of the commission they make from every transaction that takes place in Contently
– Buyers don’t have the incentive to bypass the platform by taking the relationship with their favourite writers elsewhere.
And since the buyers don’t want to bypass the platform and suppliers get additional guidance and training, they’ll all stick to using Contently as long as it builds value for them.
DOZ helps you scale your digital marketing campaigns by giving you access to marketing professionals for hire and also offers a set of project management tools.
Like with the previous example, this is a marketplace with a SaaS component for the buyer.
DOZ aims to solve the problem that businesses of all sizes have when trying to enter a new market or expand within their existing one – not having enough qualified and experienced workforce. Whether it is content development, social media strategy, or search engine optimization – the platform will let you set tasks and quickly pick the experts that’ll do the job for you.
When it comes to paying for the platform, you either have a monthly subscription fee that comes with a certain number of credits or a freemium version, where you pay for the credits as you go.
Said credits can be exchanged for tasks. As you’d expect, different tasks cost a different number of credits, depending on the complexity of the assignment.
The paid version of the platform comes with additional features. For example, similar to Contently, you can set up tasks for your internal team members too. Thanks to this, the tool along with all its analytical features can be used to hire new contractors or to help you streamline your internal processes.
An interesting element of this platform’s offer is its talent pool. The experts come from all over the World. They’re not just experts in their field (e.g., social media or content marketing), they also have the local know-how and understanding of the market which is critical if you want to expand outside of your country and maintain the same strong brand image.
Tenderscout is a G2B (Government to Business) SaaS enabled marketplace that lets businesses bid for various government and privately-offered tenders.
What’s interesting is that companies that use Tenderscout can bid for the tenders either individually or as a group.
Thanks to this, small and medium businesses (SMB) with limited product offering can bid together and win tenders that require more-complex work.
For example, let’s say a municipality would like to have a new website developed.
The tender requires bidders to provide design, development, hosting, and customer service for 2 years.
Tenderscout allows companies to find partners for bidding – meaning that one company provide the design, the other one development, and the third can offer hosting and customer service.
Other than improving the tender-win rate and being able to collaborate over the marketplace, Tenderscout offers additional services for their platform users.
Companies can access business consultants, expert bid-writers, or build their business profile, which can further improve their tender-win rate.
Booksy is a mobile platform that connects beauty and health professionals with customers who want to book an appointment without the hassle of making phone calls.
On one end, the customers, thanks to the app, can search, review, check the calendar, book, and even pay for the appointment, e.g. with a hair-stylist or masseur. It’s convenient and saves them time, too.
On the other end, professionals and business owners can manage their entire appointment booking system and payment collection through Booksy. Thanks to this, professionals can focus on activities that generate the most value for their business.
On top of that, Booksy offers additional tools for the providers, which can help them build stronger relationships with their customers and manage their business more effectively.
The features include appointment reminders, communication through SMS or email, and customer profile history.
The pricing structure of the platform is based on the number of staff members that are going to be signed up for the app and accessing your business profile.
On top of that, the tool comes with first 500 text messages for free. If you go over that limit, you have to pay extra for each additional SMS.
Do you own or manage a lab? Want to track, manage and purchase all your supplies from one place? That’s what Quartzy’s for.
Quartzy is an online platform that puts together lab materials and equipment suppliers and buyers in the same place. The buyers could be some local laboratories or even Universities.
What’s interesting about Quartzy is that it’s not marketed only as a marketplace or a tool that can replace your existing purchasing systems, like Ariba or SciQuest. It’s a solution that can help you streamline your purchasing processes.
In other words, it can be used along with your existing tools, which is important if you’re serving businesses where there’s one centralized platform that has to be used by all the departments.
To motivate the buyers to use the platform along with their other solutions, it’s offered completely free of charge. The only time they make money is when a transaction takes place.
This approach lets you take advantage of the tool, get familiar with it, compare the prices you get on your orders outside of the platform, and then one day you might switch to Quartzy.
Given the additional services such as improved delivery time, thanks to Quartzy’s fulfilment centers, this is completely justified.
Yardbook is a cloud-based solution that helps you run and grow your landscaping business.
It does so through a marketplace that puts the homeowners and landscapers together, as well as through the additional set of tools that let the second group improve their business operations.
In Yardbook, landscaping business owners can build their company profiles, get new clients, schedule jobs, track their completion rates, set invoices, and more.
In other words, if you’re a landscaper, you’re able to open yourself up for new business without having to make a substantial investment. On top of that, much of the technical stuff like setting up your company page or communicating with your employees could go away as it can be done through the platform, automatically.
Homeowners, on the other hand, can search for, review, hire, and pay for the landscapers that operate in their neighbourhood.
Provided that landscapers fill out their profiles fully, e.g., by uploading photos showing what types of projects they’re working on and asking their clients to review their services, homeowners get a chance to find a trusted provider that operates in their neighbourhood quickly.
The platform offers only three pricing plans, which vary in the number of features you decide to go for.
Their business one, for example, lets the landscapers send mass emails and text messages to their clients, as well as check their employees’ location thanks to GPS tracking.
This is another example of an interesting SaaS enabled marketplace.
Recruitloop connects recruiters looking to find new clients with businesses that cannot fulfil their hiring needs with their internal team’s resources.
Recruiters can use the platform to gain new clients, build and optimize their profiles, and streamline their recruiting projects thanks to a variety of available free tools.
On top of that, they can also expand their knowledge and form relationships with others in their field by participating in the community, joining live webinars, Q&A sessions, and private forums.
As for companies looking to extend their hiring capabilities, they can use the platform to obtain a list of passive candidate profiles or they can hire a recruiter that’s going to help out with any part of their recruitment process.
On top of that, they can use the platform to track the progress of their recruiting processes, review and manage candidate profiles, as well as share and watch video interviews with their candidates.
If that’s not enough, you can even outsource your whole recruitment processes to Recruitloop as they also offer entire talent teams that are suitable for bigger hiring projects.
UpCounsel is an online marketplace for legal services.
Whether you need a one-off consultation or ongoing assistance with managing your legal needs, you can find an attorney that’ll help you out through UpCounsel.
The idea behind this marketplace is simple: most businesses don’t want to pay premium prices for legal consultations, neither do they want to spend time travelling every time they need a quick consultation.
This is especially true for small business owners and start-ups. Interestingly, however, the platform’s also offered in an Enterprise version that’s aimed for larger organizations that need help with higher volumes of routine and bespoke work for a short period of time.
From a business owner’s perspective, the benefits are clear. You get to quickly hire freelance trusted attorneys, without having to pay premium prices.
From an attorney’s perspective, not only you’re able to acquire new clients without having to invest in your website and promoting it, but also you get access to many additional tools.
These include free document collaboration software that let you sign documents digitally as well as the full-service billing platform that makes tracking, sending invoices, and receiving payments much simpler.
UpWork is probably one of the best known if not the best known SaaS enabled marketplace.
It’s a place where you can find and hire freelancers to help you with almost any kind of project.
Although they operate in over 100 categories, the main ones they want to be associated with are:
– web development
– mobile development
– admin support
– customer support
Similar to other marketplaces we’ve listed before, freelancers on UpWork can help you with either short-term, long-term, or recurring assignments.
As someone who’s interested in hiring a freelancer, you can either search through the website yourself or start by posting your job offer.
The platform’s algorithm will then create a shortlist of likely candidates for you, but also other freelancers will be able to see your posting and apply for the job themselves.
As a freelancer, you can, of course, use the platform to build up a profile, gain positive reviews, and acquire new clients.
On top of that, UpWork offers different tools that help freelancers work more efficiently. For example, you can easily share files and review them with your clients, track time spent on hourly-based assignments, set deadlines and milestones for your project, and more importantly – get paid automatically when an assignment’s been accepted.
What’s interesting about this platform is the commission structure that’s been arranged for the freelancers. It’s a sliding fee that starts with 20% of everything you make from any given client that goes down to 5% if you earn over a specific amount of money.
This fee structure is designed to motivate freelancers to seek long-term assignments and make sure they deliver the best possible quality so that they’ll be rehired in the future.
It also secures UpWork’s revenue stream, given that most of the job postings on marketplaces like this one are one-off or short-term assignments.
Working from home and looking for a space to meet with your client for a few hours? Or maybe your organization wants to send a whole department for training, outside of the work environment? That’s what Deskbookers is for.
Deskbookers is an online marketplace that lets individuals and organizations seek and book spaces for training, events, and other types of meetings.
Larger organizations can also use the platform to help and improve their office space booking processes. By having all the information about current and upcoming bookings within one tool, organizations have full control over their expenses and can seek ways to lower them.
On the other side of the equation are the location owners, who can list and manage their spaces through Deskbookers.
Among the tools available for location owners, Deskbookers offers a CRM for communication, calendar and automated billing for an improved booking process, as well as some other promotional solutions including white labelling for larger organizations.
Interestingly, location owners can choose only to list their location through the marketplace and not use the additional (extra paid) tools at all.
Similar to other platforms, like Airbnb for example, there’s no cost to sign up for the customer. There is however a transactional fee that the customer needs to pay if they decide to book a space through the marketplace.
Location owners, on the other hand, have to pay a small monthly subscription fee and a 15% commission on top of each booking.
On top of that, if they choose to not only list their location but also use the additional tools and manage their space through Deskbookers, there are three different pricing plans available that come with a monthly subscription fee.
Are we going to see more SEMs in the future?
We’ve long been seeing the rise of marketplaces.
At first, they changed how we bought products. Now they’re also changing how we’re buying our services.
The sharing or gig economy seems to have made a powerful-enough impact to stay here for good – or at least the next big thing comes up.
New SaaS enabled marketplace platforms are appearing every day.
But are they going to last?
I’ll say yes – as long as they continue to deliver value to both sides of the equation and don’t go overboard with their commission.
And if their commissions are too high, the odds are that a new competitor will quickly appear and try to steal away part of the market for themselves.