As much as any organization wants their Intranet to be a bastion of communication, collaboration and engagement, the truth is that most have severe trouble realizing these lofty goals. In fact most Intranets are downright awful at providing information that employees need and will engage with.
What's embarrassing for many organizations however is that the most popular and frequently used functionality on their Intranet isn't something that provides tangible business value -- it's often a tool created simply to get people to log on and use the platform. Any guesses on what that tool is? How about the Marketplace?
An Intranet-based marketplace is a venue where employees can buy, sell, exchange or give-away items within their community of co-workers. Most commonly it's created as a way to engage employees by providing an internal eBay or Craigslist type of environment on their Intranet.
The marketplace often goes by different names such as: "Buy & Sell", "Employee Swapmarket", "The Market" or "The Bazaar" (my personal favorite). For many organizations, it turns out to be the most popular part of their Intranet, receiving the most hits and usage. As strange as this sounds, it makes sense because its one of the few areas where employees can actively participate in a community of users. Intranet adoption can be a big hurdle, so any type of engagement is better than none. Even though employees are using the "fun" part of the Intranet, the hope is that they will find and begin to engage with other useful content along their journey.
Can the Marketplace provide tangible business value?
We often gets asked if a marketplace can provide tangible business value to an organization? Should a company spend time and effort on marketplace functionality when its viewed mainly as something that has the potential to eat up a lot of work hours? At Bonzai, we believe that an engaging Marketplace can provide real value by:
- Facilitating connection between employees: As users buy, sell and exchange items in your marketplace, naturally they have to communicate with each other. Although the communication might be purely transactional, conversations and connections are happening between employees that might not otherwise have happened. We've heard multiple clients tell us about people buying an item on the marketplace and then forming a real relationship with a fellow employee because they found someone who shares a similar interest (for example, buying hockey tickets from a colleague means that they're likely to share your interest in hockey!)
- Encouraging a sense of community and belonging: The process of buying, swapping, giving away or selling items with someone from your own organization builds both trust and a sense of community. One reason that I think Intranet marketplaces are so popular is that there is a greater sense of trust in transacting with a co-worker (it's unlikely that they're scalping event tickets). Unlike Craigslist or eBay, the transaction isn't anonymous, but you also intrinsically trust someone more because they work at your organization.
- Promoting Corporate Culture: Your marketplace doesn't have to be only about buying and selling! Many organizations that deploy Bonzai and our marketplace module use it to actively promote charitable causes by selling items donated specifically for fundraising, or they may require sellers to donate a small percentage of their earnings to charity. This is a great way for the marketplace to provide not only a service but also contribute to the greater good. If your organization supports a charitable cause, and your marketplace gets a high percentage of traffic, doesn't it make sense to promote the charity there?
- Providing a gateway to other content: If you know that employees are using the marketplace extensively and skipping over the rest of your Intranet content, you can still use it to your advantage :) Although sneaky, one thing we encourage our clients to do is have the marketplace roll up (a Bonzai feature that allows you to show the latest marketplace items posted) at the bottom of the homepage. Users have to scroll down the entire homepage to get to the marketplace, giving you plenty of opportunity to catch their attention on the way down!
Our next article will cover some of the powerful features of the Bonzai Marketplace module, including built-in expiry dates for items (the last thing you want is someone selling their sock collection for the next 10 years), posting types and governance considerations around acceptable postings. We've used our personal buying/selling experienced and best practices to deliver a set of capabilities that create a fun, engaging marketplace for your employees!