How searching for a service is different to searching for a product

A marketplace is essentially a platform for vendors to list their offerings while enabling customers to search for and purchase them. With this article we’ll look at these two key functionalities ie. user search and listing, at a closer level. When you think about it, they’re two sides of the same coin, and in a way the search determines the scope of the listings. While that may be true, an important aspect that marketplace operators need to pay attention to is order in which they produce/list this result.

User Search: does this differ for products and services?

Yes, there is a difference between searching for services vs searching for products. One is about people, the other is about objects. In the case of products, with the knowledge of inventory it is fairly straight forward to search for, display and purchase them.

On the other hand, while selling a service on a marketplace, you need to ensure that the service provider will accept the service request. Determining the availability of a service therefore not only requires that we have a match in dates and location, but also that the offeror is willing to provide the service. A good search result is therefore not just the result that best matches the query. The list of results must suggest those providers that are most likely to accept the request of the customer. This depends on various criteria like:

  • acceptance rate
  • speed of reply
  • recently updated calendars
  • last login times
  • profile completion
  • of received reviews

Implementing a service search: navigating the choppy waters

Searching for services assimilates to searching for people. Neither resembles a product search. Several particularities about a services search engine are visible to the naked eye: you need to search by date, time and location. These notions are indeed novel when compared to traditional e-commerce sites. Other aspects are more difficult to identify and to implement. As discussed earlier, in traditional e-commerce we manage our stock and know in real time if we can make the sale. In the service industry however, we cannot expect service providers to behave like inanimate objects. It’s not because a provider says that he is available at a given time & place that we can be certain that he will accept a customer request. To provide users with pertinent search results that have a strong probability of being accepted by the service provider, it is necessary to factor in multiple behavioural aspects when building a search result. This includes taking into account the probability that a service provider will accept (or reject) a request if we send him one. Therefore, a good search result when selling services is not only the one that matches most closely the search query, but the one that has the most chances of leading to a successful transaction.

To make this search experience easier for the customer, your marketplace could include the following search functionalities:

  • Date & Time search
  • Search by structured information for each service type
  • Geolocation search