Thinking of moving your B2B business online in the form of a marketplace? In April 2023, France’s iconic luxury lifestyle brand Maison&Objet did exactly that.
Their marketplace – dubbed “Maison&Objet and More” or “MOM” – has been a roaring success. It’s used by 50,000 buyers worldwide and boasts an ever-changing supply of 30,000 products from 5,000 brands. But the adventure doesn’t end there. Since 2016, the team at Maison&Objet have continuously upgraded their digital marketing to create dazzling customer journeys. From Instagram to interior design webinars, participants are offered a full suite of seamless multi-channel experiences. You could even say MOM remodelled the role of a B2B marketplace. Along the way, it cleverly diversified its revenue stream too. For example, with its subscription-model learning portal, Maison&Objet Academy. Here, members can stream masterclasses covering all aspects of the design world, from playing with colour to managing purchasing budgets. This doesn’t just keep the community engaged – ingeniously, it keeps Maison&Objet at the heart of the ecosystem too.
Spearheading this movement is Maison&Objet’s Chief Digital Officer, Sinziana Marian-Pudlowski. Since 2015, Sinziana has carried the brand through its digital evolution. In this article, we’re sharing her top five tips for building a successful B2B marketplace.
1. Put the customer first
“The most important part is to put the customer at the core of your activities," Sinziana begins. In her role as Chief Digital Officer, Sinziana is laser-focused on the requirements of users. She always aims to “build the online experience according to [their] needs and adapt as much as possible to their business problems.”
It’s not just Sinziana who follows this approach. It was also a mantra that the late Steve Jobs lived by too: “One of the things that I've always found is that you've got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology," he said.
And it works. One 2022 study found that 56% of customers are happy to spend more for a better experience. Another report published in 2020 revealed that 89% of companies who lead with customer service have a stronger financial performance than their peers.
When building a marketplace, it’s important to consider every customer, Sinziana advises. And this means not just the buyers but the sellers on the platform too.
“When I think customer-centric, I'm not only thinking about buyers – because we have two customers, we have the brands and the buyers," Marian-Pudlowski elaborates. “Being customer-centric doesn't necessarily mean being buyer-oriented only. It is very important – and the payment solutions are part of this – it is very important to think of both.”
2. Evolve with users’ expectations
Ask a Gen-Z about Kodak and they’ll probably refer you to a vintage shop. While the winding, flashing and clicking cameras may have lit up the world in the 1990s, the brand behind them failed to keep up with the times. Unsurprisingly, when customer expectations moved towards digital cameras and eventually smartphones, Kodak got left in the dark. Stories like this are the stuff of nightmares for marketers. They shudder at the memory of now-obscure but once globally renowned brands like Kodak, Blockbuster and Nokia that didn’t keep up with customer demands.
Sinziana is no different. She’s a firm believer in adapting to customer expectations. “We identified a business need from our customers,” she elaborates about the MOM marketplace. “We felt that our industry was ready to go to the next level.”
Former CEO of Google Eric Schmitt famously spent 10% of revenue on innovation, applying the 70:20:10 model. Apple, likewise, spends about 7% on research and development. Research from McKinsey found that the most successful brands consistently spend more on innovation. This is one of the most significant reasons why they can stay relevant, creating – rather than following – trends. For B2B marketplaces, it’s no different: long-term success requires long-term strategising.
3. Prioritise payments
In our conversation, one of the topics that came up again and again was the critical role of payments. After all, a modern B2B marketplace cannot exist without a way to accept and process transactions.
Creating flexible and seamless checkout options is so crucial for B2B marketplace success that Sinziana says they should be built into the very foundations of the platform. “When you build a marketplace and the transactional model it’s important to address the payment issue at a very early stage of a project,” she explains. This has been key to the success of MOM, where merchants are offered flexible Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) terms provided by Hokodo, alongside other payment options.
In the UK alone, 60% of B2B sales rely on trade credit, so it’s crucial to embed this into the infrastructure early on. “The payment methods are the very core part of these problems that must be addressed in advance,” adds Sinziana.
4. Share a story
There’s a reason why stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts. Many different areas of our brain light up when we visualise situations and sympathise with characters on their journeys. Humans told stories to each other some 30,000 years ago, and even today we tear up watching our favourite movies or find ourselves engrossed in the plot of a gripping novel. Fairytales are the first way many of us will communicate stories with our children, and sharing tales of the past might be the last conversations we have with loved ones.
Like many art and design focused brands, Maison&Objet knows the immense power of storytelling, and uses it to enhance their platform. Sinziana encourages marketplaces to grasp this tool and tell “the story behind the products, and the story behind the brands.” Doing this will not only create a lasting memory, but also enhance “the beauty of the products.” Maison&Objet use storytelling across almost every aspect of their customer journey, to help forge a bond between merchants and designers.
5. Hold on to what makes you unique
One of our favourite tips from Sinziana to B2B marketplace builders is to hold on to what makes you unique and translate it into the digital experience. For different platforms, this will mean different things. To discover what separates your marketplace from others, it can help to revisit the original motivation behind setting up the platform.
“Our aim was to give our community the possibility to pursue business exchanges 365 days a year," reflects Sinziana. Throughout the journey, Maison&Objet has maintained a strong sense of taste, trend-setting design and story-telling. For B2B marketplace builders today, weaving the mission and vision right into the heart of the infrastructure can help to stand out from the crowd.
If you’d like to discover more about how to build payments into the infrastructure of your own online B2B marketplace, book a call with a Payments Specialist today.