Get advice from mentors on how to de-risk disintermediation in your marketplace


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by Foti Panagiotakopoulos Founder at GrowthMentor

Table of Contents

Disintermediation Definition

Disintermediation, commonly referred to as platform leakage in the context of online marketplaces, occurs when users circumvent a platform’s payment system to conduct transactions independently. This leads to a direct loss of revenue for the platform as it misses out on commissions or service fees that are normally incurred during on-platform transactions.

Key Aspects of Platform Leakage

  1. Avoidance of Fees: A primary driving force behind disintermediation is the user’s motivation to evade platform fees. By transacting directly, both buyers and sellers can save costs that would otherwise be allocated to the platform as a part of its revenue.
  2. Direct Relationships: Users often seek to establish direct connections for more personalized interactions or better terms. These relationships, formed outside the platform’s purview, allow for customized services that might not be feasible within the platform’s constraints.
  3. Confidentiality or Privacy Concerns: In certain scenarios, users might engage in off-platform transactions to maintain higher levels of privacy or confidentiality. This is particularly relevant in platforms where transaction details are closely monitored or made public.
  4. Restrictive Platform Policies: Overly restrictive rules or policies can inadvertently push users to find alternative transaction avenues. Limitations that might provoke such behavior include restrictive product listings, communication barriers between users, or limited payment options.
  5. Convenience and Trust: Established trust between users can lead to a preference for direct dealings, especially in cases of repeat transactions. The convenience of direct interaction often outweighs the perceived benefits of transacting through the platform.

Impact on the Platform

  • Revenue Loss: The most immediate impact of disintermediation is the loss of potential revenue, as the platform does not earn its usual fees from off-platform transactions.
  • Quality and Safety Risks: Platforms typically offer mechanisms for quality assurance, dispute resolution, and safety. Transactions conducted outside the platform’s ecosystem lack these protective measures, increasing the risk of fraud, subpar service, or unresolved disputes.

Mitigation Strategies

To counteract disintermediation, platforms must focus on adding value that encourages users to remain within their ecosystem. This includes offering value-added services, maintaining reasonable fee structures, and enhancing overall user experience. Additionally, platforms may enforce policies to discourage off-platform transactions while continuously striving to make the on-platform experience superior and more attractive for both buyers and sellers.

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