Online marketplaces, where merchants rent products or provide services to customers through a web or mobile platform, are gaining immense popularity. The ingenuity of these marketplaces lies in the fact that almost anybody can create an account, advertise their services, or even set their own prices and communicate directly with other users. However, the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created many difficulties for marketplace operators. Not only do consumers have less income to spend overall, but on-site services such as babysitting and house-cleaning are also no longer possible as social-distancing measures are adopted in many countries around the world.
In this article, we will share how Freelensia tackled this problem. As an online marketplace helping companies hire short-term interpreters (translators) to interpret in seminars, exhibitions, and conferences, we rode the COVID-19 wave by moving interpretation services from on-site interpretation to remote interpretation. We will provide you with 3 tactics that may help other marketplace operators move their suppliers’ services online as well.
1. Understand whether remote services are right for you
As a fundamental business principle, the purpose of any online marketplace must be to create values for its users. In other words, the marketplace must identify the user’s issues and offer services that resolve the issues better than conventional methods can.
When looking at the translation and interpretation industry, we noticed that the geographic barrier is one of the biggest obstacles from the perspectives of both the service providers and clients. Remote interpretation (through audio or video web-conferencing technologies) is a great solution for both clients in rural areas where there is a lack of qualified interpreters, and clients in developed countries wishing to hire interpreters from developing countries to cut costs. Using remote interpretation also helps reduce travel and accommodation expenses for all parties involved, while the event preparation time can be shortened significantly.
On the supplier side, remote interpretation is a good option for interpreters who want to reach out to a bigger pool of clients outside their region or country, as well as get access to higher-paying projects. Remote interpretation provides them with more work flexibility and convenience, as they can perform their job anywhere, any time.
However, remote interpretation also has its disadvantages. Clients generally do not favor remote interpretation because of the perceived business risks, technological complexities, and lack of face-to-face communication. As the intermediary between clients and interpreters, Freelensia analyzed both pros and cons and decided that remote interpretation is worth promoting for our marketplace.
2. Tweak your business approach to promote remote services
- Website design
Once you have decided to offer remote services, your website must be re-designed to support the remote service offerings.
On Freelensia’s website, we have added a field called Presence which allows the interpreters to notify their clients whether their prices are for on-site or remote interpretation, simply by ticking “On-site interpretation” or “Remote interpretation” checkboxes when they are creating their listings. For the clients, we also customized Freelensia’s listings page with a “Remote interpretation” checkbox that they can use to filter out the interpreters providing remote services.
This function has been reported to be helpful to our suppliers and customers. Without the checkboxes, both parties had to have additional discussions if either one prefers remote interpretation. Now they can check the checkboxes from the beginning which saves much time and effort.
- Payment method
Cash payment on-site after the event finished is preferred by interpreters, yet it is unsuitable for remote interpretation. Therefore, Freelensia is incorporating online payment into our procedures. We only take the commission (reservation fee) online, and we are encouraging both parties to switch to online payment and to conclude the payment before the remote interpretation event takes place. This is initially applied for remote events but we have a plan to implement it for on-site events as well, by making it compulsory in the payment flow.
3. Convince the users to perform remote services
After the adjustments above were made, this is what we have done to make remote service appealing to our clients and suppliers.
- Build the knowledge
Users are hesitant to choose remote interpretation because they do not know much about it. Therefore, it is important that your marketplace has a good information database providing comprehensive knowledge about the remote service. In our case, Freelensia is building a knowledge database and blog articles explaining what remote interpretation is and the benefits that each party can get. We also analyze the disadvantages and risks of remote interpretation and offer recommendations on how to execute a successful remote interpretation event.
In addition to blog posts, comprehensive insights on remote interpretation will be added to our Frequently Asked Questions. The steps to conduct remote interpretation will be updated to the How It Works section in our landing page as well.
- Spread the knowledge
We share the above knowledge through many ways. We send emails regularly to clients and interpreters to inform them of new trends in the interpretation industry (i.e. remote interpretation) as well as any upgrades to our marketplace to make sure the users have the most seamless experience on Freelensia’s website. We also publish posts on social networks (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and chat apps (i.e. Line, KakaoTalk, Wechat, etc.) to promote the new remote services.
- Provide training and support
Since remote interpretation is relatively new, we have prioritized this service in our marketing campaigns. Our marketing team also promotes specific remote interpreters to clients in need via social media or emails.
When it comes to conducting an actual remote interpretation event, Freelensia offers to organize the online event together with the client for an extra fee. Alternatively, we provide the parties with a comprehensive step-by-step instruction to make sure the remote interpretation event occurs smoothly.
In a nutshell, we advise marketplace operators to first analyze your users’ unmet needs towards remote services and decide whether it is worth to serve those needs. Next, you will need to adjust the way you do your business to accommodate remote services. Finally, make sure you provide clear and sufficient communications to all stakeholders.