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The $ecret b€hind paying

Finn Torget has gone from being a bulletin board to a portal handling transactions. At the same time the Norwegian marketplace created safer transactions and gained valuable user insight. Lasse Klein brings us behind the scene.

Finn Torget is a highly successful marketplace in Norway. It is like most other marketplaces built around the bulletin board model of connecting a seller with potential buyers and letting them handle negotiation, agreement, shipping and payment outside of the service.

To provide an even better service, Finn has created a service helping users handle the transaction in order to provide a higher degree of safety and trust for both buyers and sellers, and to gather valuable insights to improve the marketplace. One important step on this journey was collaboration with Schibsted payment.

Extensive research

To create a payment service like this, we started off with extensive research. We gathered research from the marketplace, analyzed user interviews and user feedback, and mapped out customer journeys with pain points to get an understanding of user needs.

Before a payment can be made, we need to know who is going to pay, and how much. This is trivial when buying from a store with fixed prices, but not so straightforward when trading between people with a negotiable asking price. Sellers may want the asking price, they may want buyers to bid, or they may be ok with haggling if it means selling faster. They may or may not want to handle shipping, and they may even be picky about who they want to sell to for items with sentimental value. Buyers may want to see the item first, they are likely to want to haggle, and they may need to have the item shipped.

Verification to build trust

We are required by European law to verify the identity of both parties for payment between people. Instead of just enforcing verification for payment, we made verification a separate feature to reduce fraud and build trust in the marketplace. More than 600,000 users have verified at the time of writing, and nearly half of all ads on Torget now belong to a verified seller.

The service lets buyers get in touch with sellers by sending messages through a chat interface in FINN. We added the offering functionality right inside the chat to allow users to finish their most common tasks without having to leave the conversation.

An intended side effect of this is that the conversation becomes a history of the sale; documenting everything that has been said and done for future reference – in effect a written agreement.

The system was visualized as a state diagram that shows all states in each negotiation phase with arrows between the states representing actions.

Creating discussions

The diagram has become a great tool for discussions on the user’s context in each step of the customer journey, and it served as a unifying element to align both developers and product owners on a common understanding of what we were building.

It also ended up becoming a model that mapped almost 1:1 between the user interface and server side code using domain driven design semantics.

We made a fully functional interactive HTML prototype for user testing before anything was actually built. Removing functionality from the prototype based on user feedback was significantly cheaper than having to do the same based on a fully developed application.

The two-sided nature of the marketplace made it possible for us to combine dogfooding and user testing in an amusing and interesting way in production. We negotiated and bought items from people without telling them that we were designing the product. This allowed us to interact with real people with real motivations, selling their own stuff in real life. Talking to these sellers afterwards gave us valuable insights that helped us improve the service – and it filled up our desks with stuff like card decks, games and Minion dolls.

The new conversational user interface for negotiation and payment has been live in some categories of Torget for a while now, and it is constantly being improved. In the near future we will be rolling out the functionality to the whole of Torget and to other FINN marketplaces, and later on we plan to deliver offering and payment as common Schibsted components for easy integration in the many other popular sites across Schibsted’s global ecosystem.