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How Taskrabbit navigated market requirements during international expansion

Learn how Taskrabbit approached its global expansion.

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⚡ Key takeaways
  • Expanding from a single geography to a global audience opens you up to a number of regulatory challenges, which must be taken into consideration. 
  • Regional and country-specific laws and regulations may complicate your compliance efforts — and often require a nuanced approach. 
  • A playbook can help plan for these complications in each market you expand into.

If you’re like most online marketplace operators, you initially launched your platform in a single geography — your home country — and spent those early days really nailing your business model and execution. But as you see early success and gain traction on your home turf, it’s only natural to start looking for growth opportunities abroad — especially if your marketplace offers a solution that easily transcends national and regional boundaries.

Global expansion can be extremely valuable and worthwhile. But it unfortunately doesn’t come without challenges. 

One key challenge: In recent years, more and more countries have begun enacting laws aimed at regulating online marketplaces. At the end of the day, those regulations are a good thing, helping to reduce fraud and ultimately protect your customers and users. But because regulations vary from geography to geography, they can also complicate and potentially hinder your expansion plans if you don’t account for them carefully.

To better understand the compliance challenges related to global expansion, we chatted with Sidra Khan, senior lead on the trust and safety team over at Taskrabbit, about Taskrabbit’s experience moving into new markets. We also discussed the importance of having a playbook to guide your efforts.

Want a more in-depth discussion about the challenges online marketplaces face during international expansion? Watch our free, on-demand webinar with Taskrabbit, where we speak to these challenges in more detail and offer advice you can put into practice as you begin planning your own expansion. 

More regulations and requirements

When your marketplace is only operating in a single country, compliance is relatively simple. That’s because you only have to worry about meeting the requirements set by one country’s laws and regulations. Marketplaces operating in the United States, for example, must comply with the recently-passed INFORM Consumers Act, which establishes Know Your Seller (KYS) requirements. 

But once you begin thinking about global expansion, this will change. Depending on the markets you plan on expanding into, you might have both regional and country-specific legislation to consider. Marketplaces operating in the European Union (EU), for example, must comply with the KYS requirements established by the DAC7 directive and Digital Services Act (DSA)

Depending on the industry your marketplace serves, you may also find yourself on the hook for industry-specific laws and regulations that vary from member state to member state. 

“Even when you go into these new markets and you have these new regulations, they often won’t have considerations for each other,” says Jeff Sakasegawa, trust and safety architect at Persona. “The work that you do in France (or elsewhere) won’t necessarily extend you any courtesy with the regulatory bodies you’ll be working with in other countries.”

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Shifting timelines

Actually complying with the requirements established by new regulations will take time. Depending on how complex the requirements are and how aggressive the timeline is, it might seem like an impossible task — but it’s important to push as hard as you can to meet the minimum requirements by the originally-proposed effective date. 

The good news is that when it comes to implementing new regulations, extensions are pretty common. These are oftentimes caused by lawmakers’ unrealistic expectations around regulators’ and the industry’s ability to adapt to new requirements. Regulators and regulatory bodies need time to design and staff up their enforcement efforts; merchants and marketplaces need time to understand the requirements and build a plan for compliance. 

In the event of an extension, having a minimally-compliant program in place by the originally-proposed effective date offers you the opportunity to iterate and optimize your new policies. 

“This isn’t an excuse to push a deadline,” says Jeff, “but if the original effective date doesn’t end up being the one that comes to pass, that can actually be a really nice thing that allows you to continue iterating on your processes.”

Customer and user education

Many of the regulations affecting online marketplaces are related to things like tax verification, identity verification (IDV), and other Know Your Seller-related policies. Complying with these regulations will require you to collect potentially sensitive information from your platform’s users. If you don’t educate your users as to why it’s now necessary for them to provide you with this information, it can cause confusion, mistrust, and non-compliance — and might even trigger some sellers to stop using your platform altogether. 

This is why it’s so important to educate your users about any new regulations that might affect them. Some strategies you may want to consider include:

  • Support center articles and blog posts that document the new laws, requirements, and timelines in an easy-to-understand way
  • Push notifications and in-app notifications aimed at explaining the requirements to your users and prompting them to complete any necessary steps (for example, uploading documentation) 
  • Email communications sent directly to your users explaining the same

“You want to use every communication channel that exists because every user has a different preference about how they like to be communicated with,” says Sidra. “So we try to maximize communicating the requirements to our users in the way that they best like to receive them.”

Likewise, consider the other teams within your organization that may be communicating with your users — for example, your marketing team. Try to time these important educational messages so that they are not competing with other teams for your users’ attention. Otherwise, they might be missed or ignored. 

“Other arms of your company, like marketing and sales, will be using the same channels that you’re using for this education,” says Jeff. “If a message is of particular importance, you may want to make it more prominent to make sure these things are seen and heard and understood.”

How having a playbook helps

If you know that your marketplace plans to embark on international expansion, it pays to put together a playbook to guide these efforts. 

“I remember our first launch into Canada, as well as France, and just having no idea what we were actually doing,” says Sidra. “It made us realize that a playbook would be necessary if we were going to expand globally.” 

Here’s a quick look at the benefits such a playbook offers.

A checklist of requirements

Compiling a playbook empowers you to think through a checklist of everything that has to happen — and everything you need to plan for — when expanding into a new market. Examples might include Know Your Seller / Know Your Customer processes, user authentication, and more. 

“We know that it’s not as simple as just copying and pasting a solution when you go global, especially when it comes to KYC and authenticating users,” says Sidra. “But having a playbook ensures that you have a basic checklist of all the considerations that have to be made.”

Even if you don’t know the specific requirements for each of the countries you are expanding into, simply having a list like this makes it clear where you need to dig deeper on a more local level.

Consistency

Having a playbook to guide your international expansion ensures that your marketplace operates consistently across multiple markets, regardless of any local adaptation that has to occur. This makes it easier for you to maintain the same standards, branding, and customer experience. 

“You’ll need to make some minor tweaks on a local basis,” says Sidra. “But for the most part, you want to remain consistent across your different markets.”

Risk management

Going global involves various risks, such as cultural differences, regulatory challenges, and market uncertainties. Compiling a playbook prior to expansion allows you to identify these risks and put in place mitigation efforts for each — reducing the risk of failure once you do launch.

“A well-documented playbook also streamlines the risk management process and operations, making it easier for your teams to implement your strategies and adapt to new markets efficiently,” says Sidra.

Planning for the unplanned

Every global expansion will come with some unforeseen challenges that will need to be addressed on the fly. A playbook can help you anticipate these challenges and establish a protocol for resolving them when they do occur. 

“Your playbook will evolve based on the learning and experiences you have,” says Sidra. “Having that initial template allows you to make improvements as you go along.” 

Vendor selection

The act of compiling a playbook will help you think through the capabilities that any IDV or KYC solution you leverage will need to provide. It’ll also help you evaluate potential vendors based on the types of solutions and coverage they provide. 

While it may be convenient to work with a single vendor in all of the markets you plan to expand into, this may not always be possible. When evaluating vendors, consider whether there’s a single provider that can get you 80 percent or 90 percent of the way to where you want to be. Then, think about what other vendor(s) you might be able to add to the mix to reach full coverage. 

“I generally walk into any global expansion expecting that I’ll probably have multiple vendor relationships,” says Jeff. 

For more advice on selecting an IDV vendor, check out our Buyer’s guide to identity verification solutions.

How Taskrabbit approached its global expansion

Taskrabbit was founded in 2008 as an online marketplace connecting two kinds of people: people who needed to get stuff done, and people willing to do those tasks (for a fee). As the marketplace gained traction in the US, it looked for opportunities for growth abroad, ultimately deciding to expand into seven new geographies, including Canada, the UK, and a number of European countries. 

To accomplish this Taskrabbit broke down the process into three key steps:

  1. First, it sought to understand what would be required to expand into each country it was considering. Importantly, this included not just regulatory requirements, but cultural requirements as well. 
  2. Then, it gathered input from relevant internal stakeholders. As expected, this included legal, but it also included other stakeholders capable of influencing the company’s product roadmap — like its risk, marketing, payments, and trust and safety teams. 
  3. Finally, Taskrabbit embraced the idea of launching with a minimum viable product (MVP), knowing that it could make adjustments and optimizations along the way. 

Getting global expansion right

Embarking on international expansion is an exciting time for your marketplace. But getting it right will require you to make plans for complying with regional and country-specific regulations that might vary from what is required in your home turf. Compiling a playbook to guide these efforts can make it easier to uncover these requirements and plan for uncertainties.

Interested in learning more? Watch our on-demand webinar with Taskrabbit to see how they navigated market requirements during their international expansion. Or, try Persona for free or get a demo today.

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