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3 options to build online marketplace and tools

How you can develop an online marketplace? When we’re talking about the developing marketplace, there are many ways you can do it. It doesn’t matter which type of it you plan to create: B2B, C2C, e-commerce or even auction. In this article, we want to tell you about the options and tools you can use for creating your own custom online marketplace.

Over the last several years the number of marketplaces has exploded. At the moment every second project we do in Syndicode is a marketplace. We have done tens of mobile and online marketplaces in different countries and industries and want to share our experience with you. To build a marketplace you have 3 options:

  • Build your own Marketplace from scratch and develop an MVP platform with hired developers or companies that will take your project. It might be the most time-consuming option. But only in case you’re not about using Ruby on Rails framework. Later on, we’ll tell you how it can save the situation.
  • Buy an existing off-the-shelf solution. Launching is relatively fast and easy but after it requires time to customize and might be even inflexible to your needs.
  • Use one of existing open systems for providing eCommerce to develop your Marketplace on its base. There are plenty of solutions for this option. We will stop on some of them to introduce to you all the possibilities and threats.

So let’s start with existing open systems. There are plenty of marketplace open systems and platforms that are already created and you have to just use them for your own: Sharetribe (we wrote about it in detail in our blog), Mayocat, Spree, WordPress, Woocommerce, Near Me, Yo-Kart and Magento… All of them good but at the same time have pros and cons points you have to consider before using them.

  • Sharetribe is an open-source platform that lets users build their own marketplaces. As all of such platform does. But Sharetribe is a perfect solution for small businesses that want to launch in a short timeframe. Browse for Marketplaces built with Sharetribe: Quiver, Cycle.land. Getting deeply into analysis we can tell that Sharetribe is focused more on creating peer-to-peer marketplaces rather than multi-vendor marketplaces with organized storefronts.
  • Next open source in WordPress. It currently stands as one of the most enduring Content Management System (CMS) on the Internet. As of 2016, 26% of all websites globally used WordPress. It’s well-known and it’s interface became somehow a standard. When you work with WP limited amount of coding required. So it’s very popular among non-programmers. Anyway, in WP you have ready-made solutions that disable your own variants. It has other disadvantages too: WP needs plenty of plugins to be installed (and they influence the script efficiency not in a good way), It uses its own script, which is not protected as well as other applications, lack of stability guarantees.
  • Spree is also an open-source eCommerce platform for building online storefronts. Spree has an active open-source development community that constantly maintains support for the latest version of Rails. It offers a user-friendly admin panel. But Spree is hard to customize to meet unique needs.

Going back to the other option you can create your own Marketplace, – off-the-shelf solutions, – we can also name several of them:

  • If you develop your Marketplace in Shopify: Shopify apps can be developed with Ruby on Rails, Python, or any other coding language. It provides a gem to help you get a head start if you’re developing your app with Ruby on Rails. You can get the gem, which contains sample code for an app using the Embedded App SDK, on Shopify’s Github page. But, as you can guess, the ready-made platform will not let you customize your Marketplace.
  • Magento Marketplace allows you to customize templates and to develop functionality according to your needs. And the community version is free for small to medium-sized businesses. Magento Enterprise costs $18,000 per year for enterprise business solutions. But this Marketplace needs a dedicated server and normal hosting platforms cannot handle it. Even on having a flexible architecture, customization is hard to make because of its loading speed on different platforms.
  • Woocommerce is the eCommerce plugin for WordPress which has been used and appreciated by 28% of the world’s online stores. Many of its extensions, themes and plugins are free to use and distribute and there are thousands of paid add-ons available for purchase. The main advantage of this platform is data safety and control. And the disadvantage is the need of expert developers as far as the frequency of WordPress updates is high and the plugins and extension cannot adapt very effectively to the pace. Customization might be expensive. Also, it doesn’t offer the hosting so you must get paid hosting and domain.

We can continue the list of open sources and platforms, but if you aim to create something specific, they’re anyway not a very good solution. For building your own marketplace platform that is unique, you need to use a generic web application framework. That was in the first place in the list of your options to create an online marketplace.

Such kind of framework won’t come with any marketplace functionality built-in and you need to develop it yourself (better, of course, with the help of our Ruby on Rails developers). And it will give maximum flexibility for creating what you like. For this purpose we can name at least four frameworks you can use Ruby on Rails, Laravel (PHP), Django (Python), Meteor (JavaScript).

In Syndicode we develop Online Marketplaces with Ruby on Rails framework. Read why we recommend Ruby on Rails for such purpose in our article about Ruby on Rails Marketplace Development

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