The physical safety of customers has historically been a challenge for marketplace technology companies – when connecting real people in real life they lose most of their ability to track, moderate and intervene during an interaction. Companies like Uber, Craigslist and Tinder bring people together, but none of them can truly claim to deliver a fundamentally safe experience. Smart phones, telematics, GPS, big data and mobile data all enable real-life commerce, love and transportation, but these technologies become antiquated when two people engage in real life. People are unpredictable, we have history and prejudice, we have ambition and intention. No one company or technology can capture all of this data, interpret and act on it in a way to guarantee physical safety. A quick Google search of nearly any tech company followed by the word “attack” shows we are nowhere near where we want to be yet.
OfferUp, a local ecommerce marketplace in the US, has launched a new feature that is designed to inspire trust by reducing the likelihood and severity of physical safety incidents. Their Community Meetup Spots are designated places where buyers and sellers can meet in person to exchange goods. The spots are located at police stations nationwide, and participating grocery store locations. The locations are well-lit with live video recording, decreasing the chances of a physical safety incident. None of this actually prevents an assault from happening, but like the analogy of the security guard standing by the door discouraging people from shoplifting, the public locations and recordings dissuade those looking to cause trouble. This is a great way to use technology to make the world a safer place, and given local tech-driven commerce is still in its infancy, is probably a life-saver.
What else could we do with local commerce? Mobile, marketplaces and payment technology is still young, and in the coming 10 years we will see more vertical experiences delivered by merging these sectors. Maybe we’ll see those cameras begin to recognise the people meeting and send a warning when the facial profile of the ‘seller’ doesn’t match the account. Payments will continue to fade into the background enabling seamless and safe commerce. Maybe the smart phone (or watch, or glasses, or ring) will detect when a person is stressed, nervous or scared and dispatch law enforcement automatically. It’s an exciting time to work in Trust and Safety and whoever delivers the safest and best value experience will win their race.