Liquidity Challenges in Illiquid Marketplaces

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From previously published blog NFT lending models and the risks associated, we can safely conclude that the main problem that any market faces is of lack of liquidity in the marketplace. In illiquid marketplaces, it is hard to find the counterparty to make a deal. Hard but not impossible. 

Why are Marketplaces Illiquid?

But why are marketplaces illiquid in the first place? There are multiple reasons for that. Let’s have a look at some of them, which apply to both real-world assets as well as on NFTs

  • Information Asymmetry

When one party in a trade knows more than there other, then there is said to be information asymmetry. With information asymmetry, it becomes challenging to establish mutual agreements and facilitate transactions.

  • Market Structure

The marketplace infrastructure plays a crucial role in liquidity. For example, if the marketplace is designed in a complex manner, i.e., has complex trading rules or lacks proper infrastructure, users will find it difficult to navigate. This will lead to the platform being illiquid.

Over-the-counter (OTC) markets especially require more efficient planning w.r.t. infrastructures.

  • Market Size

If the marketplace is a small platform, it will have fewer users, which will obviously result in less liquidity.

  • Fragmented Marketplace

When sellers have the ability to impose rigid terms and conditions that are tailored to their preferences, it can create barriers for potential buyers who may not be willing or able to meet those specific requirements.

This fragmentation of the marketplace can result in a mismatch between buyers and sellers, making it difficult to find counterparties for trades.

  • High Asset Prices

When an asset costs too much, only people with the buying power can access these assets, reducing the size of the market and making the asset illiquid.

  • Economic Conditions

When economic conditions face contractions, market participants become cautious and less willing to participate in market activities.

An illiquid market doesnt mean that you cannot buy or sell assets, you can, but it takes time and even planning. Such as, if you have stocks of a private company, the shares will only sell in the case that the company has a good reputation. However, you can still sell the stocks to the people inside the company or even to an investor, but you will have to put in time and planning in finding a suitable counterparty. 

Note: we are making an assumption that the legalities are not a hurdle in the trade.

It's important to note that liquidity can vary across different types of marketplaces, such as financial markets, real estate markets, or online platforms. The specific factors contributing to illiquidity may vary depending on the nature of the marketplace and the assets being traded.

Measuring Liquidity in Cryptocurrency

Measuring liquidity in the cryptocurrency markets can be complex, given their distinctive attributes and decentralized structure. However, there are metrics that help in achieving that, such as

  • Trading Volume: A higher trading volume represents more trading activity which is a sign of liquidity.
  • Price Impact: If larger trade affects the price of the asset significantly, we can conclude that the asset is not that liquid. 
  • Bid-Spread: The spread is the difference between the highest and the lowest bid in the order book. A narrower spread suggests higher liquidity since there is a smaller price gap between buyers and sellers.
  • Exchange Concentration: Assessing liquidity across different cryptocurrency exchanges is essential since liquidity can vary significantly between platforms.

Real-World Assets

Real-world assets refer to tangible assets. They drive their value from their properties or utilities.

Some examples of real-world assets are;

Real Estate, Infrastructure, Commodities, Intellectual property, and Collectibles or Art.

These real-world assets were hardly converted to assets in the DeFi industry. As the value of these assets is derived from the real world, the volatility of the crypto market shouldn’t have an impact on this, which is why it only makes sense to utilize these assets in the DeFi market.

Any asset which can be tokenized can be put on a blockchain and leveraged. Depending on the functionalities and usage, almost every RWA can be tokenized.

Tokenization of RWAs

Tokenization is the process of converting real-world assets into digital tokens that can be recorded and traded or leveraged on a blockchain. Several types of real-world assets can be tokenized, including:

  • Real Estate

Properties, whether residential or commercial, can be tokenized to create fractional ownership. Each token represents a portion of the property, allowing investors to buy and sell these tokens, providing liquidity and easier access to real estate investments.

  • Artwork and Collectibles

Tokenization enables the fractional ownership and trading of valuable artwork, rare collectibles, and other high-value items. This allows broader participation in the art market and makes these assets more divisible and tradable.

  • Commodities

Physical commodities, such as gold, silver, etc., can be represented as digital tokens. Tokenization can provide more efficient trading and settlement processes, fractional ownership, and increased liquidity for these assets.

  • Intellectual Properties

Digital tokens can represent ownership rights or licenses for intellectual property, including patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Tokenization can facilitate the licensing and transfer of intellectual property assets in a secure and transparent manner.

  • Fractional Ownership in Businesses 

Tokenization can be used to divide ownership in businesses or startups into tradable tokens. This allows investors to buy and sell fractional shares of the company, providing liquidity and facilitating investment opportunities.

Why Tokenize Assets? 

Some common benefits of asset tokenization are Liquidity and flexibility, along with all the other benefits that blockchain has to offer, such as transparency. However, the benefits will vary depending on which asset is getting tokenized, we’ve seen examples of this with USDT or USDC, which tokenized dollars and engineered an ecosystem to add dollar currency to the blockchain ecosystem. Which provided users with a stable alternative to keep their assets in the volatile crypto market.

Next, the question which may come to mind is how this tokenization is done. If you’re even a little aware of blockchain, you must have an idea of tokens. Depending upon the type of asset, we can create a fungible or non-fungible token and get that listed on the blockchain with all the functionalities it has to offer.

Then these tokenized assets can be leveraged in many different ways, like how we discussed in the protocol examples of rocketFi, drops NFT, and NFTFi, all of them enable using USDT as collateral which is one of the different use cases we can have of the tokenized dollar a.k.a stablecoins.

RWAs Lending

We’ve discussed multiple Loan models, and although all the loan provision models have different utilities, we’ve seen implementation along with advantages and shortcomings. The one platform that still has to see more implementations is Blend.

If we consider RWAs, most of the owned assets don’t have an expiry. Blend doesn’t offer expiry dates, which is definitely a plus point, unlike other lending platforms, which have an expiration date as part of the system design.

On the other side, Blend avoids any oracle dependencies in the core protocol. Interest rates and loan-to-value ratios are determined by whatever terms lenders are willing to offer. However, to accommodate RWAs so that their real-world values are reflected on-chain, oracle dependencies are needed. 

However, the auction mechanism introduced by Blend hedges the risk for both parties, such as lenders can extend the loan period or get higher interest depending upon the market demand of the asset, and borrowers don’t have to choose between keeping the NFT they like or selling it for liquidity, they can leverage the NFT to get collateral which can be put to work. 

But even this model doesn’t cater to illiquid marketplaces.

TL;DR

Marketplaces often face liquidity challenges due to factors such as information asymmetry, complex market structures, small market sizes, fragmented conditions, high asset prices, and economic conditions. These factors make it difficult to find suitable counterparties for trades. However, with careful planning and effort, it is still possible to navigate and make deals in illiquid markets. Understanding market dynamics and addressing specific liquidity concerns is essential for effective solutions.

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