You’ve already had your great idea, and thought about how you want to present your marketplace. Now it’s time to think about which marketplace platform will work for you.
While there are a number of off-the-shelf multi vendor platform options available, they all have one thing in common – their built-in features will limit what you’re able to do. In addition, there’s the risk that in the future the software or third-party plugins may stop being updated or no longer receive support.
In fact, the only way to guarantee your multi vendor marketplace platform requirements are fully met for the entirety of your business life-span is to opt for a custom solution. And here’s five more reasons why a custom solution should be the option you choose:
- You own it
You might not be at a stage where you’re thinking about selling your business, but that’s not to say you won’t want to in the future. Investors will be much more receptive to a marketplace that uses custom-built multi vendor marketplace software as it will be your intellectual property
- It’s cost-effective
There are no unexpected costs for additional plugins, features or updates, so you know exactly what you’re dealing with from the start. Custom software works out more budget-friendly over time.
- Better UX (User Experience)
Because you control the specification of a custom marketplace solution you can ensure it delivers a great user experience for both your customers and vendors that meets your vision.
- You’re in control
Off-the-shelf software can be subject to unexpected changes, be they costs, terms and conditions of use, software updates etc. On the other hand, with custom marketplace software you’ll have full control at all times.
- It grows with you
As your brand grows and your business requirements change, custom solutions let you quickly and easily adapt and scale without the need for expensive upgrades.
Here at Code23 we create our custom marketplace platforms using a variety of popular front-end frameworks with Laravel, a flexible PHP framework, at the core of our marketplace engine. This allows easy customisation, with features such as multi-currency and payment integration and has a thriving open source support community. We create unique multi vendor marketplaces and help shape the user journey to best meet your users’ needs.
Although it’s not our suggested route, it is worth running through some of the popular off-the-shelf multi vendor platform examples and explaining the limitations that come with them.
WooCommerce (WC Vendors)
Popular with small to medium multi vendor marketplaces, WooCommerce works alongside WordPress to allow content-focused sites to also sell products. It integrates with WordPress plugins such as WC Vendors, which lets vendors easily register. You can then add products using the WordPress dashboard.
Although WooCommerce and WordPress are free, the WC Vendors plugin has a yearly (or optional lifetime) fee. The main downfalls with this option are the lack of bespoke UX and design for your particular target users and vendors. You are limited to using third party themes which can be clunky and don’t provide a great mobile experience. Because of the amount of plugins required to give you the features you need, the site gets bloated very quickly, which will damage your SEO and general user experience.
Shopify has an extension that lets you turn your existing eCommerce shop into a marketplace. The drag and drop functionality makes it quick to build and design your site and add vendors and products, and sync products from other online stores.
There are also a number of third-party plugins available that allow you to further customise the interface. Whilst Shopify is a leader in standard eCommerce ‘Out of the Box’, multi vendor is a different discipline and managing the platform in the back-end and customising a design in the front-end requires skill and technical knowledge that most people don’t have.
This open-source platform also has a marketplace extension available, which allows you to convert your online store into a multi vendor marketplace. Prospective vendors register on your site ready for you to approve their request before they add products. They can then view and manage their inventory and profile via a vendor dashboard.
The marketplace extension works by charging a one-off fee, but you may need technical support to help get everything up and running. This means fees can add up, and aside from that Magento has a particularly cumbersome feel, both for admins and users due to the amount of code bloat in the system. In addition, design is hugely limited with less options than most other off-the-shelf platforms.
CS-Cart multi vendor platform lets you create and run a marketplace straight ‘out of the box’ for a one-off fee, without the need for additional extensions. The dashboard gives an at-a-glance overview of how your store is performing and the mobile app lets you manage things on the move.
Technical support is free for the first three months but will be charged after that. While CS-Cart is certainly more rich in features than most other similar platforms, it feels clunky from a user perspective. UX and design are again compromised due to the themes and templates available (or lack thereof).
Sharetribe differs from the other options we’ve discussed in that it allows vendors to sell services and rentals as well as products. That makes it a popular choice for a peer-to-peer marketplace platform aimed at individual sellers rather than established stores. The open source version requires additional support to develop and customise your marketplace and you are left to your own devices to push your business once you have the site up and running.