How to grow a marketplace: 7 tactics and tips

Now that you have launched your marketplace and your offering has proved successful to your initial users, you’ll want to know how to grow an online marketplace. The ideal way for this to occur is naturally – vendors will attract customers, and increased customers will attract new vendors.

Make sure you’re clear about what sort of growth levels you’re looking for. Growing online marketplaces can take longer than traditional online businesses, so don’t be concerned if it’s taking time. In reality it can take around three years for successful marketplaces to become truly self-generating. Hang on in there, it will be worth the wait!

In fact, if you grow too quickly, you may not do your marketplace business justice and fail for all the wrong reasons. If you get too big before you’ve ironed out any problems or listened to feedback, you won’t be showing yourself in the best light. But equally, don’t use it as an excuse to remain stagnant. Things should be improving in terms of signups and transactions a little every month.

Let’s look at some marketplace growth tactics

Different tactics work for different marketplaces, you may need to test a few before deciding which is best for you. Start by coming up with ideas as to how to grow a marketplace and then pick the ones you think will work the best. Focus on the ones that worked best and use it to increase growth and get you closer to your target growth rate. If one stops working, test a new channel. It’s a pretty simple strategy! 

Some of the common channels you’ll initially be looking at include:

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

If your SEO strategy is correct, customers will find you organically rather than you having to actively look for them. This is achieved by making your marketplace easy to find when potential customers are searching for services or goods that you offer in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). 

A good SEO strategy will include a strong technical build, an optimised site structure, internal linking and effective user flow. Competitor analysis and link building, as well as a targeted content strategy. You can find out more about the SEO services we offer for marketplaces here.

TIP: Vendors and their product or service pages will play a key role here too, so you’ll want to make sure you educate them about the importance of SEO. 

2. Content marketing

The content on your marketplace can be used to help grow marketplace traffic through search engine rankings. And this isn’t just relevant to your blog, content is a key ranking factor across all of your landing pages and product pages. 

TIP: Duplicate content is one of the biggest challenges on a marketplace. Ensure your vendors aren’t copy and pasting product descriptions from other places online.

3. Pay Per Click (PPC)

If you want to boost your visibility quickly, you can pay for ads on search engines such as Google. These ads are shown depending on the keywords you specify you want to rank for, along with a lot of other factors.

Likewise, you can pay for ads on Social Media sites such as Instagram and Facebook. Depending on your target audience, this can be a great way to improve brand awareness and attract new customers to your products or services.

With paid advertising be sure that your return (ROAS) is more than you are spending (ROI). PayPerClick can be expensive (particularly for popular search terms) with costs sometimes being reduced if on-page content and ads are of the highest quality. Even then though, they are usually not suitable for low value product or service marketplaces purely due to cost, but they are worth testing if you can.

4. Referrals and viral marketing

This is perfect for growth as it doesn’t cost you anything and builds you a good reputation! Ideally, your initial group of users will rave about you and encourage others to become customers. What’s more, it’s scalable as the new people will bring in their own new people etc. It’s a good idea to give customers an incentive to tell other people about you, the nature of which will depend on your marketplace but could be a financial incentive for referrals upon completion of a transaction. 

Likewise, if you have a good relationship with your early vendors and they have bought into your idea, you can educate them in ways they can go about marketing for you too. 

5. Email campaigns

This is probably the most efficient way to encourage new and existing customers to complete transactions. Before you go to the expense of looking for new potential customers, make sure you’ve activated the ones you already have. Send them information about new products or services as you get new vendors, give them offers, create an interest with successful reviews.. However you do it, get people active on your site and then continue to engage with them. 

6. Create your own community

If you can get your users to communicate with each other and enjoy spending time on your site, before you know it you’ll have your own marketplace community. And once people begin to feel ‘a part of something’ they are less likely to go elsewhere.

7. Marketplace technology

Investigate whether you can add growth through technology, integrating other existing services into your offering. Integrations could include, accounting, calendar bookings or google shopping feeds.

Want to learn how to grow a marketplace?

In the early stages we advise that keeping your focus narrow is important, but there will come a time when you want to learn how to scale a marketplace. At that stage keeping things ‘niche’ may no longer be appropriate. 

The time to do this may become clear naturally, for example, if you begin to have a lot of marketplace sellers whose offerings don’t fall into existing categories. Or it might be that you remain in the same niche but suddenly find there is a new interest (or resurgence of an old one) and many more potential clients you can tap into. 

At the risk of repeating ourselves, it all comes back to trust. If people trust you, no matter how much your marketplace grows and expands, they’ll continue to use your service.