For the last 25 years, online marketplaces such as Etsy, Mercado Libre and Rakuten have been the go-to sources for consumers buying physical goods from creators. But in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, the rapidly growing “creator economy” has opened the door to online shopping hubs that are solely dedicated to digital content.
There are some 50 million content creators worldwide that sell digital content, according to estimates from SignalFire, including educational courses, digital art in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), investment advice, newsletters, various forms of social media content and more. That figure is likely an underestimation given the anecdotal evidence of full-time workers migrating to the creator economy in various capacities during the pandemic, sometimes permanently. Overall, content creators have become an important part of the gig economy.
As these content marketplaces such as Patreon, Substack and Teachable become more popular, both creators and consumers within these virtual forums will come to expect the same level of experience they encounter on more mainstream sites like Etsy. These newer platforms will need to enable various methods of payment so that consumers of digital content can easily make — and content creators can easily receive — payments in the currency and marketplace of their choice. So how do online marketplaces begin fortifying their capabilities around foreign exchange, fraud and payments to cater to their clients’ evolving needs?
Unique Creator Economy Issues
While the behind-the-scenes workings of creator economy marketplaces resemble their physical goods counterparts, there are some unique aspects to keep in mind.
For a digital content marketplace, payments are all about immediacy. Digital content should be delivered to a buyer immediately, not in five to seven days while they wait to process a payment. In that specific scenario, a wire transfer is not good enough to pay the seller. An online marketplace needs localized payment options that provide a smooth customer experience. This aspect has become increasingly important during the pandemic.
Another area for these marketplaces to consider is access to credit that enables content creators to grow their business. Access to credit is readily available to SMBs that sell via online marketplaces; however, such credit might be difficult to come by for a content creator just starting out.
There’s also an opportunity for third parties to create a system that assists the content creator with end-to-end solutions such as actual content creation, analytics, money management, payments and sponsorships. Most content creators don’t have a sense of what is needed to run a successful business — they just want to be able to create and sell their goods as seamlessly as possible. An all-in-one solution can anticipate creators’ needs and address them more holistically, in turn empowering creators to become even more successful.
Addressing the Key Challenges
In general, any two-sided marketplace needs to focus on payments for both buyers and sellers. It’s key for an online marketplace to not only have best-in-class payments solutions for buyers, but to also cater those offers to the sell-side.
Consumer buying patterns have drastically changed during the pandemic. A recent survey from PwC indicates that 50% of consumers have become more digital during the pandemic, and some have even permanently migrated to online shopping, even as restrictions have loosened in parts of the world. Those consumers are buying on devices such as smartphones, tablets and smart devices. Merchants, in turn, need to ensure a smooth shopping experience across a variety of devices.
Global marketplaces also need to manage exchange rates and multiple currencies. Foreign exchange management is especially vulnerable to inefficiencies in systems that must both receive payments from buyers and disburse funds to sellers. Solutions that alleviate friction in the exchange process will be positioned to gain market share against competitors with a clunkier experience.
The combination of split payments and foreign exchange also presents a challenge to online marketplaces. In this instance, a marketplace needs a system in place that manages both commission and disbursement of funds to the seller. This is where payments can become complex on a global marketplace with multiple currencies in play. Online marketplaces put themselves at a unique competitive advantage if they can innovate around these challenges.
Global online content marketplaces today are in a unique position to continue growth, but only if they work with the right platforms that can handle payments, fraud and operational logistics.
New global developments within payment trends might open the door to new businesses, platform solutions and technology innovations that can help content creators and the associated platforms. The time is now for global digital content marketplaces to future-proof their business and invest in the forward-looking strategies that can pay dividends for driving long-term growth among a global base of digital creators and customers alike.
Mathieu Limousi is VP of Marketing at dLocal, where he sets and implements the company’s strategy for branding, communications, digital marketing, demand generation, sales enablement and go-to-market. Prior to joining dLocal, Limousi delivered revenue-generating marketing strategies for companies such as Ingenico (Worldline), WorldFirst (Alibaba Group) and Nokia.