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There’re hundreds of e-malls available for shopping today, and this number constantly grows. This article will tell you in brief, how to start an online marketplace. First of all, your ecommerce website needs a base – a platform, by means of which you’ll rent your selling space to vendors, and they, consequently, will sell their goods to customers.

To figure out, what is the best shopping cart for your marketplace, just answer yourself two major questions:

  1. What kind of marketplace would you like to create? A charity platform for different fundraising affairs, a flea market, an e-mall where parents would sell second hand baby and toddler gear, or an antique store? The type of e-sales largely determines the choice of ecommerce marketplace software.
  2. How much money are you ready to pay? A solution with 1k budget is completely different from that of 10k. With lower budget you, probably, won’t be able to spend much on design, extended functionality or additional services, like hosting or security pack. Nevertheless, be sure your solution provides basic must-have features, like admin management panel, order and payment processing, customer support and user-friendly navigation. Otherwise, your online mall will be a venture with high risk of failure.
As a general rule, for ecommerce start-ups it’s better to launch sales asap, without spending much time, effort and money upfront on marketplace tuning. Trial run with minimum features (as a minimum viable platform) will reveal major operation bugs that you can fix in progress. You’re sure to do this, anyway, no matter how you try to tune every little thing beforehand. So, instead of passing twice this stage, do bug-fixing and tuning after e-mall launching. Many shopping mall management software builders offer SaaS – software as a service. That means you buy an application license together with several useful services, like hosting, security or cloud pack. This variant is certainly more expensive, but highly reliable and secured. It’s a perfect choice for web mall owners who aren’t tight in cash, and cannot or don’t want to grapple with development and hosting problems.

If you’re short in budget, or are an open-source follower, opt for a PHP solution. Anyway, try to stick to the same principle – early launching saves your time and money. Bear in mind, that the trickiest part in creating an ecommerce mall business isn't choosing or building the software, but making the marketplace platform work both for your customers and vendors.

Ecommerce marketplace software

Another good idea is to get advantage of trial periods offered by all ecommerce marketplace software builders. Usually 14 or 30 days are more than adequate for making the decision. Use all the compulsory functions provided, load several products with prices and images, in order to understand how it really works. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, to see if the navigation is enough intuitive, the check out process is rapid and simple (while secured!), and the website response time is extremely short. The last point is often neglected by ecommerce start-ups, while it’s of highly importance – if your images, product descriptions or check out page don’t open immediately, in 1-3 seconds, you’re likely to lose impatient customers (and, unfortunately, most of them are exactly of that kind). For that reason, choose your hosting provider very carefully.

Admin features, both for you and your vendors, will be your main tools to analyze the online marketplace or shopping cart efficiency. Here, also, pay much attention to usability and reliability. In fact, every single feature, available on your selling platform, should meet at least these two requirements – be reliable and simple to use.

Later on, you could take care of mobile users and add a mobile version, specifically designed for tiny tablet and smartphone screens. It differs from a desktop one: the images are fewer and therefore load quicker, there’s only critical information, necessary for decision-making, without all these marketing bells and whistles. Large graphics and fonts, bright, easy-to-read letters – this is the essence of a mobile version, perfectly adapted to small format. For that reason, some additional functions, present in the desktop version, may become unavailable. Instead, there appear several new ones, designed especially for smartphone users:

  1. Direction and GPS feature that enables customers to quickly find your physical shop (if you’ve got one), without typing the entire address.
  2. Click-to-call function: customers click the vendor’s phone number to dial it, without pressing all the numbers. It’s very important for comprehensive customer support services.
  3. Any graphics, coupons, menus are streamlined to provide easy and quick loading in cellular networks.
Social networks have recently become a powerful marketing instrument in ecommerce. Customers leave their comments on the products they’ve bought in the online shop, and prospects navigate Facebook and Twitter e-mall pages to see the promos and attractive goods. Why not get advantage of all this to multiply your sales? Just add the appropriate social networks’ buttons on your store homepage.

Customer confidence and loyalty will certainly bear you fruits and, eventually, success to your selling business. A 24/7 accessible and reliable customer support will result in customer satisfaction, but also help you to figure out weak points and bottle necks in your web site operation, order and delivery process. Don’t argue with dissatisfied customers - just offer them compensation – a discount, a promo code or a simple refund. The number one here is to give him a positive image of your marketplace and thus retain his loyalty, even if eventually he hasn’t bought your goods, or has been refunded. Leaving a positive comment about his shopping experience somewhere in the Net, this customer can potentially bring you a dozen of prospects. Rather inspiring, isn’t it? So, make your best to satisfy him, even if it means a loss of profit for this very order.

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