Building a multi-vendor marketplace platform used to involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears. That has changed as the growing popularity of the marketplace e-commerce model gave rise to a proliferation in marketplace builder software. These online marketplace builders are supposed to make it easier for digital entrepreneurs to get a multi-vendor marketplace off the ground.

What is an online marketplace builder?

It is a variant of SaaS website builders like Wix and e-commerce platforms like Shopify, which automate the development process by hosting editable website templates online. Users pay subscription fees to access various tier levels of features and functionality, such as third-party payment systems, which are necessary to run multi-vendor sites.

Widely advertised marketplace website builders include Sharetribe, CS Cart, Mirakl, Marketplacer, Arcadier, Izberg, Yokart, My Marketplace Builder, Cocolabs, Nabooki, Yelo, Kreezalid, and Shopify’s Multi-vendor Marketplace.

Caveat emptor

Entrepreneurs need to beware though – marketplace builders are not always the right option. What may seem as an inexpensive and quick way to implement your marketplace idea, can often result in time, effort, and money wasted.

That is in line with the general observation that choosing the wrong technology and lack of product-market fit are the two top reasons why new marketplaces fail.

Here are 8 good reasons why an experienced web development partner can give your marketplace a better chance at success.

Pricing

One of the most popular marketplace builders, Sharetribe, charges $1,428 per year for their cheapest white-label option, which is limited to only 1,000 users. This excludes additional features, landing pages, UX design updates, integrations, user analysis, and product-market fit strategies. 

If you need more flexibility (and most marketplaces do) you will have to fork out $3,108 subscription fees per year, plus 1% of turnover above $30,000, plus the cost of a developer to implement and make custom adjustments. 

Marketplace builder costs can quickly escalate depending on the number of users, transactions, and features. In most cases you will also have to pay developers for customisation of the template.
Marketplace technology
Custom development allows you to employ the latest, most suitable technology, thus giving your marketplace a competitive advantage over competitors.

Flexibility

Although most marketplace builders now offer hundreds of templates and plugins for customisation, it still does not compare well with the unlimited freedom that a custom web developer provides.

Marketplace features are usually not editable, which can be problematic if, for example, you need a specific shipping discount system to drive sales. Access to the template code is also limited and will cost extra to customise.

Another big problem is that you are restricted to one technology. Whereas a development partner can help you choose the right technology that will ensure the best performance for your particular marketplace.

Business Support

Marketplaces that establish product-market fit through a process of rapid iteration tend to have much higher success rates than generic templates that can only be adjusted superficially.

An experienced marketplace developer will help you make educated decisions about your site architecture, user flows revenue streams, product focus, target audience and more. Marketplace builders offer no business support.

Development Support

Marketplace website builder support is limited to FAQs, video tutorials, and chat bots. That said, customer service support is not the same as development support, especially if you are struggling to integrate a complex feature.

Reputable developers are dedicated to your project and will prioritise any emergencies or road blocks. Unlike marketplace builders, developers are able to offer end-to-end assistance throughout your marketplace evolution.

Performance

In their quest to be everything to everyone, marketplace builders often create bloated code that slows down websites. This will not only affect Google search rankings negatively, but can also decrease conversion rates.

According to Google, 53% of mobile visitors will leave if your site takes more than three seconds to load. A qualified developer can optimise the delivery of your site content in various ways to ensure fast page speeds for your users and higher conversion rates for your marketplace.

CS-Cart Multi-Vendor slow mobile speed
Google's mobile speed test shows that this website created with CS-Cart's Multi-Vendor marketplace software is too slow.
marketplace site structure is an important component of technical SEO
Technical SEO aspects like site structure need to be designed on an individual basis for best performance.

SEO

Your developer is responsible for the technical search engine optimisation of your marketplace platform. That means making sure that structurally the site is discoverable, readable, and usable. This is crucial since 46% of e-commerce traffic is organic. 

Since aspects like site architecture and structured data will vary from marketplace to marketplace, a dedicated development team is better equipped to implement technical SEO than a one-size-fits-all marketplace builder.

UX / UI

A marketplace platform’s user experience has to evolve constantly to establish better product-market fit. This can only be done by (1) analysing the right metrics and (2) implementing appropriate UX design improvements. 

Where marketplace builders leave you to your own devices, a skilled development agency will build UX best practices into the custom marketplace development plan. Thus increasing the chances of delighting your users and growing revenue.

UX design process
Source: Search Patterns by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender.
CS Cart Case Study
This website listed under the CS-Cart marketplace builder's success stories receives less than 1,000 visitors per month although it has been online for 3 years.

Unfounded Claims

According to marketplace builder Sharetribe, “You [have] to hire developers who would spend months building a marketplace before releasing a first version.”

This is not true for experienced marketplace developers. MVPs can be released within four weeks, ready for user testing, as part of rapid iteration cycles aimed at establishing product-market fit.

Despite glowing cases studies, the success rate of marketplaces built with automated software seems to be quite low. This is evident from the number of success stories with very low traffic and domain authority.

5/5

Marketplace website builders can be useful to determine if there’s initial interest in your marketplace idea. However, a custom development plan, based on your specific value proposition and target audience, will always be better at establishing product-market fit and growing your platform. An experienced marketplace developer can also help you identify and take advantage of new user and revenue growth opportunities.

5/5

CobbleWeb has a 100% track record of successfully helping marketplace entrepreneurs plan, design, implement, evaluate, and improve their marketplace concepts. Get in touch to find out what we can do for your marketplace idea.