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How to Build Peer-To-Peer Marketplace Website? We Share Our Experience

According to statistics, the e-commerce market has been growing by 17-18% annually. People are increasingly buying online, which means that e-commerce is becoming a profitable investment and an effective business tool. However, traditional online stores are gradually giving way to peer-to-peer marketplace platforms that are gaining incredible popularity. As PwC predicts, this so-called "sharing economy" will have reached $355 billion by 2025.

To assess the prospects for building a two-sided marketplace, you should look at the successes of the leaders of this market, for example, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Airbnb, and other mastodons of the online trade segment. It's time for you to join their ranks and make a website like eBay (or Amazon, no matter!). And our Agilie team is ready to provide you with some useful tips on the issue, for we have experience and expertise that we are always happy to share with you.

Contents:

  1. What is an online p2p marketplace?
  2. Best peer-to-peer marketplaces
  3. Building a marketplace startup
  4. How to make a peer-to-peer marketplace website and app?
  5. Our example of building a two-sided marketplace

What is an online p2p marketplace?

Online marketplaces are quite profitable due to commission sales, affiliate programs, and promotional tools. Not to mention the scalability of projects and geographic coverage that is virtually unlimited.

However, before moving to the question of how to start a marketplace website, it is necessary to understand what distinguishes such a trading resource from classic online stores, and what are its main advantages.

In other words, we need to figure out the peer-to-peer marketplace definition.

Peer-to-peer business model

What is a p2p marketplace model? We should specify: it is not the same as the usual Internet store is. So, let’s see!

An online store is a multifunctional site that provides sales on the Internet, and also allows creating a full online representation of the offline store. That is, you, as the owner of the resource, independently carry out sales, you bring suppliers and buyers together, you set prices... of course, the maintenance of such a store requires considerable effort and time. Everything'll be much easier if you build a multi-vendor marketplace where two groups of people meet: some need certain services or goods, others can offer these products under certain conditions - on a barter system or for payment. The second option, of course, is more common. There are marketplaces that allow monitoring the execution of the transaction, as well as compliance with the obligations of suppliers and customers.

In fact, you are not selling anything, you’re just providing people with space for the exchange of values, you’re giving a place where supply meets demand. And your task is to make this place as comfortable as possible.

P2P marketplace peculiarity

There are marketplaces consisting of numerous small Internet shops. Such online portals are also beneficial, but their creation requires a great deal of effort. After all, every online store must have a certain functionality. But when it comes to the p2p marketplace model, you offer a trading platform not to companies, but to anyone who has a suitable product (or can provide a service) and wants to exchange it for an appropriate value, whether it's money or something else. This greatly simplifies the development process, which means it is easier to achieve your goal.

etsy and ebay

So, we have figured out the peer-to-peer business model definition, it's time to tackle another question: why do you need to know how to build an online marketplace? What is your benefit?

Benefits of building a two-sided marketplace:

  1. Network effect. Users themselves distribute information about your ecommerce marketplace solution. And your main goal is to give the first push, make the site recognizable and useful... and your visitors will do the rest of it, that is, they will complete the task of popularizing your service.
  2. Geographical freedom. When it comes to online trading, the number of users is not limited only to your location - in the end, the problem of delivering the goods is not up to you, your task is to offer a convenient platform for interaction between the seller and the buyer. So, the number of potential users of your site increases in dozens of times. This p2p business model in e-commerce is just excellent, agree!
  3. Financial benefit. Online p2p marketplace model allows earning with minimal effort. You do not even need to set up production or look for suppliers of goods, your site visitors will be both buyers, and sellers. So here you can get a good profit without the hassle.
  4. Simplicity. The task of building a two sided marketplace is not as difficult as it might seem. The best option is to hire specialists and delegate them this issue, for they definitely know how to create a marketplace app or website (at your choice, since applications are also very beneficial for these purposes).
  5. Financial Accessibility. To launch an electronic trading platform is much cheaper than to open a full-fledged e-commerce site or an online store.

So, we summarize: having decided to build a marketplace app or website, you get:

  • combining supply and demand on one platform;
  • low transaction costs;
  • cash flow from the first buyer;
  • fast aggregation of goods and services according to market needs;
  • ease of creating a client base;
  • reliable protection against viruses and hacker attacks.

Best peer-to-peer marketplaces

And now let's look at the best peer-to-peer marketplace examples. Maybe, they will inspire you to create a marketplace website of the same sort.

Amazon.com is the largest online peer-to-peer marketplace platform that was originally created to sell books. Today, Amazon sells tens of thousands of various products daily, from fishing rods to guitars and designer handbags.

eBay is a trading platform, a kind of online auction, giving users the opportunity to offer, sell and buy almost any goods in a variety of places and formats of prices. The actual sale contract is being concluded between the seller and the buyer directly. So eBay is not a traditional organizer of the auction.

It seems that this service unequivocally suggests us to think about how to build a website like ebay.

Etsy is similar to eBay, but it's focused on handmade and art products. And this site is also very successful and belongs to a number of great peer to peer business examples.

Craigslist is a free classifieds board. This is not exactly an e-commerce platform, but thanks to Craigslist you can sell anything. This site has a huge traffic, because Americans know that here you can always find something interesting, rare or necessary.

Of course, there are many beneficial peer-to-peer business ideas, and this is definitely one of them.

This is another marketplace for those who sell or buy handmade goods. Moreover, Zibbet makes it possible to place 10 products for free.

This is an excellent alternative to traditional hotel booking. Airbnb is a system that connects homeowners and travelers who need temporary accommodation. The project covers the whole world. In addition to booking accommodation for himself, a user can become a hospitable host offering tourists to stay in his apartment or at the cottage.

Airbnb acts as guarantor, all payments pass through its system. Naturally, this is another case of wonderful peer-to-peer marketplace examples.

This is a paid analog of eBay. Having paid $7, the seller gets a place on this site which is available during 7 days. If you need an unlimited tariff, you should pay $99. The system operates in 23 countries around the world.

Rakuten allows selling a huge range of products, but it is heavily oriented towards electronics. This is the second most popular site after Amazon, where people buy equipment through the Internet. You can follow this lead and think about how to build a peer-to-peer website of the same type.

Uber is very different from the systems described above. It offers to sell and buy not products, but a certain service: people can order a taxi, and drivers can find their clients. Uber sets its rules and also provides a place for comfortable interaction.

how to build an online marketplace

We hope these competitive marketplace examples will help you in finding original and profitable peer-to-peer business ideas.

Building a marketplace startup

Building a marketplace startup is not an easy task, it requires a special approach. The most difficult thing is not to create a marketplace website itself, but to make it popular. After all, only such a resource will be in demand, which means it will bring you a profit. Having a small number of people offering their goods, you will not be able to attract buyers. On the other hand, if no one is looking for products or services on your site, potential sellers will be not interested in posting their goods here.

We hope, our advice will help to achieve the perfect balance between supply and demand.

#1. Focus on your expertise

In fact, there are a lot of peer-to-peer business ideas, as you have already noticed, and the sale of goods is not the only option. Therefore, you should be guided by your own expertise when choosing the marketplace area. You need to understand your customer and his needs, and the best way to do this is to use your knowledge and experience. Only then will your site become popular and in demand, so that the network effect will have worked quite well.

#2. Find the balance

Thinking about how to build a marketplace app or site, remember that you should work for two audiences. The first group of users offers goods or services, the second one seeks to get them. And your service must satisfy the requests of both parties. Keep it in mind when developing a system of features. Find the right balance when everyone is happy.

#3. Think of a transaction system

When building a two-sided marketplace, think carefully about the interaction between the buyer and the seller. Say, a potential buyer came to your site in search for a certain product. What steps should he take to find what he wants and make an order? Remember, the transaction system should be simple, clear and secure. Eliminate all unnecessary actions (but do not overdo it).

#4. Who came first, the chicken or the egg?

And again, we are talking about two audiences with which you have to interact. Each of them needs its own approach. And you should primarily decide who to attract (and how) in the first place, sellers or buyers?

#5. Invest in marketing

Marketing is a rather expensive investment, especially at the very beginning. But, once becoming the leader in the niche, it is almost impossible to lose these positions, you will already have a high reputation. So the game (that is, marketing costs) is worth the candle if you want to build a multi-vendor marketplace that will bring profit.

#6. Think bigger

Always look for new approaches to old problems, explore innovative opportunities, keep an open mind. Search for the best peer-to-peer business ideas.

#7. Listen to your customers

It will be useful to analyze the behavior of your site visitors and carefully read (and respond) to all comments. This will help you immediately react to any unpleasant situation (no one is immune to trouble). The result will be striking in the best possible sense of the word.

And, of course, remain optimistic. The most important thing in business is the very process of creating success. There are smart people who know everything, but are afraid to take risks. They say, "Yes, that's a great idea! But what if this or that happens?" And they never start.

And we advise you to start… and make a website like eBay. But first, let's see how it should look like, or what features it should have.

The perfect p2p marketplace model

The perfect peer-to-peer marketplace platform includes the following features:

  • original, unique and thematic design
  • convenient administration of goods and pages
  • product catalog
  • goods basket and price calculator
  • forms for ordering and feedback
  • order notification via email / sms
  • the possibility of comparison and rating of goods
  • advanced search feature
  • interactive feedback form
  • payment acceptance system

 Any owner of the peer-to-peer marketplace platform needs to know all about mobile app payment gateway integration. And we are happy to share with you our expertise…

How to make a peer-to-peer marketplace website and app?

So, how to start a marketplace website? What should you remember about, what should you take into account?

  1. Smart navigation system. The user should be able to quickly find and buy the product of interest. Accordingly, in the process of building a two-sided marketplace, technological innovations cannot be ruled out.
  2. Responsive design. According to Statista, in 2017 about 39% of purchases had been made with the help of smartphones, tablets, etc. It is expected that by 2020 traffic from portable devices will have increased about 8 times, which makes responsive layout an urgent necessity for the successful project development.
  3. User-friendly interface. The intuitive clean design is half the success of any website, and your peer-to-peer marketplace platform is no exception. Therefore, it is important to hire a competent UI/UX experts to create an interface for your web or mobile resource.
  4. Entertaining element. The majority of popular trading platforms use a typical, ordinary, even boring approach to business that is devoid of invention and a factor of novelty. Therefore, any conceptual innovations will attract the target audience and help to stand out from a competition. For example, you can diversify the process of selecting and buying goods by the game component and thereby increase the involvement of users.

We should warn you right away: the possibility to implement these benefits depends on the development method you have chosen. Sometimes such modifications are not entirely feasible…

But let's try to be more specific. Suppose you want to create a marketplace website... what options do you have, what is your consecution of action? Let's see…

how to etsy and ebay

Three development options to choose from

In fact, you have three main options: you can build a multi-vendor marketplace from scratch, use ready-made schemes, or resort to the SaaS solution. Each of these methods has its pros and cons.

#1. Development from scratch

So, if you decide to make a website like eBay from scratch, you should understand that this type of development means that no ready-made solutions and templates will be used. And in this case, you cannot cope with the task yourself.

But, on the other hand, this is the best way to implement the elements of a successful site described above and to create something unique.

But let's look at the issue in more detail.

Pros:

  • Uniqueness. Uniqueness is the main advantage of the custom peer-to-peer marketplace platform. If you want to go non-standard way, this is the only right decision.
  • Flexibility. Since the custom marketplace is originally written for your specific requests, you can easily make changes to the code (for example, if you’d like to extend the functionality). All you need is an understanding of what you want to get, and a competent developer.
  • Original design. Templating solutions is definitely not for you if you want to create a marketplace website that will have its own unique design.
  • Resistance to loads. The platform is being developed with an allowance for the increased load. If your project grows, you do not have to worry about slow speed and slowdowns.
  • Adding any options of your choice. If you want your resource not to be limited in functionality, it's also worth thinking about how to build an online marketplace from scratch, for it means a creation of the original feature set designed specifically for your business purposes.

Cons:

  • Need for help. As we said, you cannot solve this problem on your own. You will have to hire developers who know how to create a marketplace app or a website.
  • Expensive. Of course, it all depends on the rates of the specialists you've hired. Still, building a two-sided marketplace from scratch involves a lot of work, and additional development hours lead to extra costs.
  • Long process. A site from scratch is the most high-quality, unique... and all the unique can not be created quickly. So you should be patient and wait... However, the result is worth it.

In general, this option is the best choice for advanced and innovative business projects that need unique approaches. If you would be satisfied with a more limited result, then study the following two e-commerce marketplace solutions.

#2. Ready-made platforms

The second option to build a multi-vendor marketplace involves the use of open source platforms, for example, Sharetribe, Mayocat or Cocorico. Of course, the result will not be as unique as when developing from scratch, but time and money costs will be significantly reduced.

  1. Sharetribe. This popular open source solution is great for building a two-sided marketplace (a service like Etsy or Airbnb). Sharetribe supports a lot of useful features such as multi-currency, listing, multi-language and so on.
    • Programming languages: Ruby and MySQL.
  2. Mayocat. If you want to know how to build a website like eBay, this solution is meant for you. It offers a wonderful basic functionality for marketplaces, these features are quite enough to start your project.
    • Programming languages: Java 7 and a PostgreSQL database
  3. Cocorico is not suitable for the goods market, but this platform is an excellent option for those who offer services and want to create a marketplace website like Airbnb. Cocorico provides you with a pretty good set of features including advanced revenue management capabilities, processing of third-party payments and deferred payments, adjustable commissions for sellers and buyers, etc.
    • Programming languages: PHP (Symfony)

So, as you can see, all these open source solutions offer advanced marketplace feature sets, and all you have to do is to modify and finalize this functionality, adapt it to your individual requests.

However, there are also such resources as Magento, Drupal, OpenCart, etc. They’re quite efficient too though they’re originally intended for online stores, not for marketplaces. But it doesn't’ mean you cannot build a marketplace app or site with their help. On the contrary, you can take advantage of these ready-made platforms, the same Magento, for example, which is a fairly popular open source system. In this case, you will have to use the Magento extension to customize this solution to the needs of your service.

Pros:

  • A simple solution. Yes, this solution is much easier to bring to life. In the case of custom development, more effort will have to be made.
  • Fast development process. The first advantage leads to this one. You will need substantially less time to make a website like eBay.
  • Relatively inexpensive solution. Simplicity & high speed of development is equal to saving money.

Cons:

  • The lack of uniqueness. This solution is more typical than designing a project from scratch.
  • The difficult upgrade process. Yes, a site created with open source platforms is much more difficult to scale.
  • Need for help. As in the case of development from scratch, you will need the assistance of experts to adapt one of the open source systems to your resource's requests.

#3. SaaS solution

And, lastly, you can choose SaaS as your ecommerce marketplace solution.

SaaS means "Software as a Service". This way to create a marketplace website is really easy though it has its by-effects.

There are a lot of popular SaaS solutions such as:

  1. SaaS solutions designed for the development of marketplaces:
    • Sharetribe. This is one of the most popular platforms for today which offers the most convenient solution for the development of P2P services. Its important advantages are permanent technical support (24/7) and high security (SSL Certificate, PCI Compliant).
    • Marketplacer. This solution allows building a two-sided marketplace of any type. Marketplacer is difficult to adapt to the individual needs of the client, but in general, this platform is quite suitable for use. Its important benefit is a connected analytics system, such as Google Analytics and Financial Reports (and many others), which will enable you to monitor the development of your project.
    • Near Me. This platform offers a fairly extensive functionality and good design solutions. However, this affects the cost of services (increasing it, of course).
  2. SaaS solutions for the development of online stores. However, they, too, can be used to build multi-vendor marketplaces (with some modifications and adaptation).
    • Shopify. This SaaS platform is being used for 9% of all e-commerce projects. The service provides a convenient management system and a server for a fixed monthly fee, but, in fact, the site itself is not the property of the entrepreneur.
    • Oracle Commerce. This is another SaaS service that has been used to create almost 11% of online stores all over the world. This solution is especially popular in European countries and the USA. It has a developed system of navigation and the convenience of managing the catalog.
    • Demandware. This is one of the largest and most scalable SaaS platforms that is 6th in the world ranking and being used to create 5% of e-stores. Almost all the necessary functionality is available "out of the box" which allows you to start your project as quickly as possible. However, it has significant shortcomings, for example - instability of the payment tariff and the existence of sales limit.

Pros:

  • Help is not needed! Using SaaS solution, you don’t need to know how to build a peer-to-peer website. Moreover, in most cases, if you don’t need help from developers too. You can manage on your own.
  • Reduced costs for technical support and system upgrades. Providers of SaaS solutions take on this task.
  • The high speed of implementation. Using the SaaS solution, you can build a marketplace app (or site) really quickly, without any delay. It means you won't need much time to implement your idea.

Cons:

  • Inability to modernize the system for yourself. SaaS models are inefficient for services that require deep individualization, as well as innovative and niche solutions.
  • Template solutions. You will have to accept the fact that your site will not be original and unique.
  • The safety factor. Many are afraid to use SaaS because of security concerns and possible leakage of information from the provider of SaaS services.

So, we summarize: SaaS is a special ecosystem providing you with a possibility to use a certain group of features; moreover, this basic functionality is constantly being improved (by providers of this SaaS service). And, in consequence, your project is being improved too.

On the other hand, the SAAS solution will not allow you to redesign the site in your own way. In other words, the site will have technical and assortment restrictions. While open source platforms (say nothing of developing from scratch) give you the opportunity to create a marketplace website that is not limited to anything (technically or in terms of design).

Stages of development

If you decide to make a website like eBay from scratch or using open source platforms, we offer the following development steps:

  1. Preparation of the technical project. At this stage, the purpose of developing the site (or application) is being determined and a technical project is being developed.
  2. Creating a prototype. Qualitative project design will allow you to see the site structure and evaluate the location of the blocks and services.
  3. Creating a Design Pattern. On the basis of the prototype, a visual structure of the site is being created, decorative elements and various animation effects are being reconciled.
  4. Layout. Layout is the transformation of the static design pattern into dynamic "live" pages.
  5. Development. Building a two sided marketplace involves a lot of work for developers, including payment gateway integration, creating different features, developing a search engine and a filtering system and much more.
  6. Testing and debugging the site. At this stage, the project is being tested, and all the errors made during the development process should be identified and fixed.

What experts do you need to build a multi-vendor marketplace?

So, who should you hire to implement these stages of the development process?

  • UI/UX designers. Yes, you may need them, especially if you want to develop a site from scratch.
  • Web and Mobile developers. Even if you plan to create a marketplace website, you will certainly need its mobile version. So, experts in mobile development will also come in handy.
  • QA experts. These specialists are responsible for testing your resource and its serviceability.

It is more reasonable to hire a company which employs all these experts. The main thing is to make sure that they know how to build a marketplace app or site and have relevant practical experience.

Our example of building a two-sided marketplace

As we have already said, the e-commerce market is growing from year to year. We can add that the barrier to entry is also growing... which means that it is necessary to take your place in the sun right now. And we are ready to help you make a website like eBay and join the number of successful leaders.

By the way, we have experience of building a two-sided marketplace. We have several projects of this kind, one of which is Bookis.

Bookis

Bookis is an application available for iOS and Android platforms. This app is intended for users of Norway and aimed at bibliophiles - moreover, those who prefer not electronic, but paper books.

How does it work?

how to build an online marketplace

Suppose you have a book and you want to sell it. All you have to do is to scan its barcode, so the service will give a detailed description of the publication (year, author, publisher, etc.). You need to add a couple of comments: for example, specify the state of the book, and how much you want for it.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a book, the situation is even simpler. The convenient search system allows you to find the edition you need and offers all available options. Having found the desired book, you make an order. And then you either negotiate with the seller about a personal meeting or use the courier service (Bukis provides such an opportunity).

In addition to the books used, the application also allows searching for literary novelties.

Building a two-sided marketplace, we thought about making both groups of app users interested in this service. And we succeeded.

Benefits for the buyer (1st group):

  • advanced search feature
  • sorting
  • price comparison
  • protection against misconduct
  • convenient delivery system
  • possibility to assess the state of the book at a distance
  • chat with other users
  • possibility to read reviews of other users and leave yours

Benefits for the seller (2nd group):

  • opportunity to put your own price
  • detailed statistics for assessing consumer behavior
  • the simplicity of the process of adding goods (books)
  • the ability to communicate with other users

howetsy and ebay

As you can see, we know how to create a marketplace app and website. And if you are interested in this service and looking for help, we are more than happy to provide it.

 
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