Deciding between an Open-Side or a Blind-Side Marketplace

Open-Side vs Blind-Side: Understanding the difference

Open-Side and Blind-Side are both concepts related to the booking flow of on a Marketplace. Booking flow essentially consists of all the steps your customers goes through between deciding they need the service to purchasing the service. Determining who decides which vendor a customer would purchase their requested service from influences how your booking flow will be implemented on the marketplace. This decision usually made either by the customers themselves or by the platform.

Open-Side: This is when the customer is presented with all the available vendors and makes a decision on which vendor he’d like to avail the service from. In such cases the customers are usually provided with quite a bit of information regarding the vendors to aid them in their decision.

Blind-Side: Here, it is the platform that determines and matches a customer with the respective vendor that would best meet the requirements. The customer is not burdened with this responsibility.

To make the difference between two even clearer, we take the example of BlaBlaCar and Uber – both marketplaces that fall in the same transport category. While booking an Uber, once you put in a drop request, it is the platform that matches you with a driver based on your location requirements, making Uber a Blind-Sided marketplace. On the other hand, when looking for a ride-share partner on BlaBlaCar, a customer is usually presented with all the people taking the same route as him along with their details, and it is the customer that finally decides who to go ahead with. This makes BlaBlaCar an open-sided platform.

openside blindside marketplace

Binary concept or a sliding scale?

While the Open-Side/Blind-Side discussion may seem like a binary concept, there are, however, cases where a booking flow may lie somewhere between the two. In such occasions, both parties are involved in the decision making process.

The usual booking flow then goes as below:

  • Customer states the service requirement
  • Platform narrows down some vendors based on the request and presents it to the customer
  • Customer chooses which vendor to go ahead with

This does not imply that both, the customer and the platform have an equal say in the vendor that’s chosen. Its clear that whoever makes the first filter, has an upper hand.

Deciding on what works best for you

We believe the below mentioned indicators service as a good guideline to self-reflect and figure the right booking model type for your services

A] User Experience

It is important to understand the kind of user experience a customer would like: self-driven or automated and quick. It is essential to know how critical it is for a customer to determine who he is served by. This would help us determine if presenting him with the “gift of choice” would be incremental or detrimental to his user experience.

Lets consider a platform like Doctolib – a marketplace that lets you make appointments with a chosen doctor. In this case, a customer would want to decide for himself who he’d want to be treated by. Similarly even while planning a vacation, a customer would prefer choosing his hotel as per his taste.

On the other hand, a customer using yourmechanic – a marketplace that connects you with mechanics, may not really care which mechanic he gets matched with as long as the work is done.

B] Operational Execution

A booking on the marketplace can be completed only if both the customer and the vendor agree and follow through on the service requested. The customer experience highly depends on how often his request is accepted/declined by the vendor. This usually depends on the commitment and interchangeability of vendors on your platform. Are the vendors you onboard already committed to entertain requests from every client? If yes, both an open-side/blind-side could be possible. However, if the answer is no, it is better to go for a blind-side. You can then minimise the number of rejects a customer faces from vendors by only showing vendors that are committed. If the request can be easily met by another vendor, on a blind-side platform you could also replace one with the other.

C] Benefits for the customer

openside blindside marketplace choose

Is the booking model determined by commoditisation/non-commoditisation of your service?

Rendering types (commoditised/non-commoditised) and booking models are two independent concepts used to better understand a marketplace. The classification based on one, doesn’t determine the classification of the other ie. both commoditised and non-commoditised marketplaces can use either of the two types of booking models