In my last post, I shared my thoughts on what customers truly love about Airtasker: a huge range of services, available times and prices — and why as a consequence it’s important to be Liquidity First and to be super considered before adding structure to the marketplace.
In this post, I’d like to share my perspective on how the Airtasker marketplace will evolve over time to cover our customers’ different types of service needs by layering structure on the marketplace.
The atomic unit: a task
Our mission at Airtasker is to empower people to realise the full value of their skills and our job is to create income for our Taskers. We create this income by bringing Posters and Taskers together to complete tasks.
The atomic unit of the Airtasker marketplace is a task which is made up of 4 components:
- Poster (a buyer of service)
- Tasker (a seller of service)
- Description (of the task to be done; the service)
- Price (that the Poster agrees pay the Tasker for that service)
As a marketplace, our role is to create liquidity: to connect Posters and Taskers and to guide them on a journey to agree on the Description and Price of the task (bringing all 4 components of the task together).
Depending on the type of service, this journey can take many paths. For some services, the journey starts with the Poster describing the task to be done whilst for other services, the journey may begin with the Poster identifying the right Tasker for the job. For certain specific services we can also use structure to remove friction or to set the task up for success — for example by pre-setting the task Price or Description.
One significant way that we can apply structure to the marketplace is through marketplace models which define the starting point and then guide Posters and Taskers towards landing on an agreed Price and Description.
Where we started: Open Marketplace
Airtasker started out with an Open Marketplace model.
From the perspective of the Poster, this model is the most open and flexible way to create a task: the Poster creates the Description from scratch and is then responsible for selecting the right Tasker for the job and a Price which they are willing to pay.
There is almost no structure in the Open Marketplace customer journey which empowers Posters to request and buy almost any service at any time.
Another way of thinking about this: Open Marketplace gives customers access to the biggest range of services possible.
Open Marketplace requires the Poster to either describe or make decisions to bring together all 3 other components of the task.
This model places a significant cognitive load on the Poster (more friction) but it’s open and flexible (unstructured) form empowers Posters to request and access almost any service at any time.
Solving a knowledge and/or confidence problem: Tasker Listings
Whilst Open Marketplace offers customers access to the biggest possible range of services, it requires the customer to know exactly what they need and to be sufficiently confident that Airtasker can provide a service that fulfils that need. But customers don’t necessarily know all the things that they could use Airtasker for: so only providing an Open Marketplace model results in low purchase frequency.
To address this problem, we’re introducing Tasker Listings — a marketplace model in which the Tasker will create (and commit to) the task Description and the Price ahead of time — transforming the Poster’s purchase decision into a simple yes/no decision: to buy or not to buy.
Tasker Listings removes friction from the purchase process, allows customers to discover price upfront and will inspire people with a range of services which they may otherwise have never imagined. But it also represents structure that narrows the range of customer needs that can be served (since Taskers need to commit to their Listings upfront and Taskers won’t be able to anticipate every possible service that Posters might need).
In the Tasker Listings model the Tasker creates the Price and Description components of the task.
From the Poster perspective this simplifies the purchase decision by bringing 3 components of the task together and transforming an open-ended process into a much simpler yes/no decision.
But Tasker Listings also represents an additional layer of structure in the marketplace which narrows the range of services we can make available to our customers.
Because we want customers to always be able to access the broadest possible range of services, Tasker Listings should not be considered an evolution or a replacement of the Open Marketplace — but rather an optional layer of structure that can help bring the 4 components of a task together in a more intuitive, low friction way.
Removing friction and providing certainty: 1st-party Instant Booking
Both Open Marketplace and Tasker Listings provide customers with access to a broad range of services — but both models still represent a significant amount of friction as either the Poster or the Tasker need to go to the effort of creating the task Description and Price.
As Airtasker grows and we build more marketplace liquidity, we will naturally learn more about what Posters need as well as what fair Price and great service (Description and Tasker) looks like. Once we have sufficient confidence, Airtasker can step in with 1st-IB to define a standard Description, select a reliable Tasker and set a fair Price, giving customers certainty upfront and removing pretty much all of the friction from the purchase process — for certain services.
But 1st-IB represents even more marketplace structure and because Airtasker (rather than the Tasker) will now need to commit to a significant number of promises (Description, Price and Tasker availability) upfront — this marketplace model will further narrow the range of customer needs that can be served.
From the perspective of both the Poster and the Tasker, 1st-IB simplifies things even further with Airtasker now responsible for Price, Description and Tasker selection.
The Poster now only makes simple yes/no decisions and is no longer required to select the Tasker.
But whilst 1st-IB removes significantly more friction for the Poster (and the Tasker), it represents another layer of structure which even further narrows the range of services we can make available to our customers.
Our customers really value access to a huge range of services, available times and prices and whilst we know that adding structure can help remove friction and guide Posters and Taskers towards more completed tasks in specific circumstances, we also know that adding structure narrows the range of the customers’ service needs that can be met.
As such, we should not assume that Airtasker is moving towards more structured marketplace models (eg. Tasker Listings, 1st-IB) but we should instead think of each new marketplace model as a layer of structure that can help guide customers and set them up for success — but in a narrower range of service needs.
I am super excited about the potential for new marketplace models to guide customers toward quality outcomes for certain services — but it’s important to remember that the Open Marketplace always represents a way for customers to access an infinite range of services.
We evolve by simply layering structure on our Open Marketplace.
Bonus: inspiring needs (creating wants)