Are you looking to build a multi-vendor marketplace? Or want to convert your existing eCommerce business into one? Are you wondering whether Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce is the best option for you? Or maybe you don’t know which eCommerce platforms offer the best multi-vendor features?
We compiled a list of the best and most popular solutions that you should take into consideration during your research.
Let’s start with establishing what a multi-vendor marketplace exactly is.
What is a multi-vendor marketplace?
A multi-vendor marketplace is a platform that allows multiple vendors (or sellers) to create their own online stores (or profiles) and put up products for sale. An amazing example of this is Amazon, eBay, Etsy etc.
Multi-vendor marketplaces all have in common a few features like:
- there is always one store administrator who manages and, in most cases, owns it. He receives a commission from each sale
- vendors manage the product uploading process, however, admin can approve or disapprove it
- payment operations are managed by the store admin
- shipment of the products can be done either by the admin or the vendors
- both the store admin and the vendors can sell products through the multi-vendor marketplace
What makes a good marketplace?
Marketplaces have very unique characteristics. There is a nice simile, comparing them to a butterfly. Marketplace is where suppliers (one wing) meet buyers (other wings) in one spot (the body). Successful multi-vendor marketplaces like Amazon, eBay or Alibaba have some winning ingredients in common. This is the recipe:
- Liquidity - marketplaces have to deliver a high-quality demand to suppliers and high-quality products to buyers in an efficient and effective way. They need to satisfy both sellers and buyers by delivering liquidity. With increasing momentum, the demand increases. A marketplace is as good as its trading liquidity.
- Customer trust and safety - a transparent community of buyers and sellers is a key value of marketplaces. Safety is also a crucial factor for success. It is important to create a store that is transparent and ensure the quality of services.
- Loyal customers - another indicator of a successful marketplace is how many buyers and sellers will continue to use it. Marketplaces must know how to attract customers and retain them over time. Amazing features, various payment or shipping methods are what will make the early adopters become the strongest evangelists of your business.
- High-quality - with the competition constantly growing your marketplace should deliver product quality comparable to the big names. User’s attention span is getting shorter so the performance and layout of your website should also be of the highest quality.
There are many providers to choose from when building a multi-vendor marketplace. We gathered the most popular ones below and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses.
Shopify is an eCommerce builder platform for building online stores. With Shopify you can build scalable online stores with many amazing features and lots of applications. It allows them to sell products directly from their website, across many marketplaces and social media platforms.
Shopify is known to be one of the most popular eCommerce platforms that are outperforming many of its competitors. It is perfect for small businesses as well as big enterprises due to its scalability.
Shopify serves over 800 000 businesses and has many amazing advantages like:
- multi-channel integration
- 100+ payment gateways
- easy to use
- multiple themes
- 24/7 support
- transaction fees
- when switching themes, you have to reformat all content
- only 10 free themes
When it comes to the main theme of this article - building a multi-vendor marketplace, Shopify allows adding unlimited sellers and products. What is more, it allows syncing products from sellers with Shopify Store, Wordpress Store, those coming from Prestashop or Magento. Pricing for the multi-vendor store starts at $10 a month and can go up to $45 a month.
- admin panel for managing sellers and products
- multi-lingual application
- own sellers profile pages
- customer ratings
- mobile application
- seller-buyer chat
BigCommerce is a scalable eCommerce online stores builder. It has the most of built-in sales tools than its competitors. With its amazing SEO features, it is a perfect fit for large or fast-growing businesses. BigCommerce is said to be built in such a way to help its users sell online. BigCommerce clients include brands like Kodak or Toyota.
- lots of built-in features
- amazing SEO
- multiple-channel selling
- complex terminology
- advanced features influencing ease of use
Developing a multi-vendor store with BigCommerce there is a software application that can convert your single admin store to a multi-seller marketplace. This will give you backend access and control over products, orders, sellers etc. Similarly to Shopify, you can choose from 3 paid plans: basic, executive and pro plan.
- flexible seller plans
- commissions for admin
- separate seller panel
- automatic or manual product approval
- admin panel for managing products, categories, orders, sales etc
- enable or disable seller’s admin
- synchronization of products from store to marketplace
An open-source CMS platforms for building digital stores. Full of addons and applications. Magento is free to use, however, will not be suitable for everyone due to being open-source. It might be time-consuming to et it up due to a rather complicated dashboard and interface.
- great addons and apps
- free to use
- huge community
- flexible design
- many marketing features
- good for growing business
- supported by Adobe
- steep learning curve, not for beginners
- complicated editing
- paid hosting
There are two extensions available for the Magento store in order to convert it into a marketplace: one by Webkul and one by Purpletree.
Webkul marketplace has features like:
- customized email notifications for admin
- admin can approve or disapprove sellers and products
- different commission for every seller
- landing pages for sellers with their top products
- sellers can add carriers and tracking numbers to orders
- seller public pages are SEO friendly
Base cost for Webkul is $349, with an additional $70 for installation service and $140 or $175 for 6 or 12-month support respectively.
Purpletree marketplace features options like:
- multilingual capability
- bulk import for admin
- vendor categories
- reviews and ratings of vendors
- split order view for vendors
- enquiries management
Purpletree costs around $150.
Sharetribe is a platform that helps you to start, run and grow a marketplace. They widely advertise as a tool for creating platforms like Airbnb. Sharetribe is priced at $119 per month for a full plan with 1000 users. If you expect to have more than 100 000 users, you would have to pay $239 a month. Worth adding is the fact that you can go headless with Sharetribe, however, this requires a Flex account for $299 a month.
- no coding required
- a step by step tutorial for config page
- can be created within a day
- a supportive community of developers
- nice, quality design
- impossible to import a ready product list
- payments can be configured only via PayPal or Stripe
- may have useless features
- lack of integrated CMS
- you have to pay extra for landing page customization
- not so popular
Sharetribe offers a 30-day free trial. The marketplace can be equipped with tools like usage, transaction and business metrics to keep you up-to-date. Thanks to them you will be able to measure bounce rate or provider-to-customer ratio.
Spree is an open-source eCommerce platform. It is used for custom build online stores, headless eCommerce, multi-store dashboards and multi-tenant platforms. It is integrated with payment processors, 3PL, ERP or POS.
- fast development
- full ownership and control
- easy payment integrations
- mobile commerce
- need for shipping integration
- no supply management
- not a super active community
- strong understanding of Ruby on Rails necessary
Spree allows you to launch a fully-featured multi-vendor marketplace within a few weeks. You can request a demo vendor access and super admin access in order to review the admin dashboard.
- multi-vendor functionality with a plugin
- marketplace IP assets ownership
- quick vendor onboarding
- product information management
- payments management (automatic and manual)
When aiming to answer the question of how to choose a multi-vendor eCommerce marketplace for your business you should take into consideration that Shopify is the biggest and the most matured solution preferred for any multi-vendor solutions.
BigCommerce can be a great alternative to Shopify with its high-level integrations.
On the other hand, Magento is also a very popular choice but is not as powerful as other ones. Businesses are frequently migrating from Magento to other solutions.
If you want something more niche, Sharetribe is a solution dedicated solely to building multi-vendor stores. And if you want an open-source solution Spree would be the way to go, providing you have a solid Ruby on Rails understanding - or are looking to hire RoR developers.
Our experienced development teams at Selleo want to help you develop the best multi-vendor marketplace. Feel free to reach out and book a call.