With the massive success of websites like Etsy and ThemeForest, multi-vendor eCommerce marketplaces have become a popular way to sell both physical and digital products. They provide an easy method for you to host third-party vendors. Customers are happy because they get to choose from a wide selection of products, and you’re happy because you get to charge vendors a commission. But because of the unique functionality multi-vendor marketplaces require, you need specialized software to be able to effectively run one.
We’ve already covered the best eCommerce platforms, so today, let’s look at the best platforms for multi-vendor eCommerce marketplaces as they relate to the essential criteria of a good marketplace store.
A quality marketplace needs, at a minimum, these features:
Easy registration/listing for vendors – third-party vendors need to be able to easily register and create their own product listings. If it’s difficult for vendors to list products, they’ll go somewhere else. They also need their own profile page to showcase these listings.
Quality search feature – search is always essential for eCommerce, but for multi-vendor marketplaces it’s doubly important. Customers need to be able to find what they need in a sea of third-party products (think how crowded ThemeForest search can get!).
Easy reviews – because you’ll have multiple sellers, customers need to be able to easily review sellers and products so that sellers can establish a reputation.
Digital vs physical – some marketplaces are limited to digital or physical products. You’ll need to pick the option that fits your goals.
Ability to charge commission – as the owner of a marketplace, you’ll generate revenue charging a commission. Your platform needs to not only allow this, but also make it simple for you to handle payments so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Price – there are some massive variations in price for multi-vendor marketplaces (for WordPress and otherwise), so you’ll need to carefully weigh the platform’s price vs. its features when choosing one.
Now, let’s take at the 5 best platforms for multi-vendor eCommerce marketplaces (in no particular order):
1. WordPress with Marketify + Easy Digital Downloads
Marketify is a popular WordPress theme which integrates tightly with Easy Digital Downloads to create multi-vendor marketplaces for digital products. It’s affordable price-wise and easy to use thanks to its familiar WordPress interface.
Marketify registration and listing process:
Marketify makes it easy for vendors to register with a simple form. Once registered and approved, vendors can submit their product listings from the front-end – so you don’t need to worry about forcing vendors to use the generic WordPress dashboard.
Vendors will also get their own profile page which lists all of their products and a short biography:
Marketify search functionality:
The basic Marketify search function is fairly bare-bones. Users can search by keyword and then sort by category and date:
But, if you purchase something like Search & Filter Pro, you can greatly extend this functionality.
Marketify review system:
Verified customers can easily review products via a front-end form. Marketify automatically adds schema markup to all reviews and vendors can quickly view all their reviews from their dashboard.
Marketify digital or physical products:
Because it’s based on Easy Digital Downloads, Marketify is exclusively for digital products. If you’d like to sell physical products, you’ll need a different platform.
Marketify lets you set commissions for your entire store, as well as custom commissions for individual vendors. It also generates a .CSV of all unpaid commissions which you can upload to PayPal’s mass payment system to make paying commissions simple.
Marketplace is a popular extension for Magento which turns it into a fully-functioning multi-vendor marketplace. The developer, Webkul, also offers versions of Marketplace for WordPress, Shopify, and other content management systems. I’ve chosen to highlight the Magento version because it seems to be the most robust, but you can view versions for all of the platforms here.
Magento Marketplace registration and listing process:
Vendors can register via a simple front-end form. Once approved, they’ll have access to a detailed dashboard:
The “add product” form is detailed, but not very pretty. It looks like a backend form, which isn’t very user-friendly for vendors trying to create numerous product listings:
Vendors also get their own detailed profile page which displays all of their products and ratings. As you can see, the vendor profile page is significantly more detailed than Marketify:
Magento Marketplace search functionality:
Magento Marketplace has slightly better search functionality than Marketify out-of-the-box. Customers can search by keyword and then sort by category, price, relevance, and name:
Magento Marketplace review system:
Customers can easily review both stores and individual products. The site admin can manage and approve these reviews.
Magento Marketplace digital or physical products:
Magento Marketplace can handle both physical and digital products. Vendors can specify whether their product is physical or digital when they create a product listing.
Magento Marketplace commissions:
You can set a global commission rate as well as an individual commission rate for each store. The Commissions dashboard makes it easy to keep track of all the numbers:
Magento Marketplace pricing:
The Marketplace extension costs $349 by itself. You’ll also need to consider whether you can use the free Community Edition of Magento for your needs or if you’ll need to pay for the Enterprise Edition.
There are several plugins which can add multi-vendor marketplaces to WooCommerce. I’ve chosen to feature the WC Vendors plugin because it’s well-supported and has both free and premium versions, but here are two other quality options you can consider:
Product Vendors – not a huge fan because it forces vendors to use the WordPress backend.
Dokan – very similar functionality to WC Vendors Pro, but a little more expensive.
Compared to the other platforms on this list, WC Vendors has a nice advantage in that you can still tap into the huge number of extensions and support available for WooCommerce.
WC Vendors Pro registration and listing process:
Vendors can register via a simple form and then manage their products from a front-end dashboard like Marketify:
The Add Product options are essentially the same as you’d see when using WooCommerce in the WordPress admin. But, they’re presented in a slightly more user friendly way:
Vendors also get a simple profile page with their logo, social accounts, reviews, and product listings.
WC Vendors Pro search functionality:
You can harness the power of any number of WooCommerce extensions to add search functionality.
WC Vendors Pro review system:
WC Vendors allows customers to review individual products. These individual product reviews are then aggregated into one overall “store rating” for the store profile page. The aggregated store rating gives a nice snapshot of a vendor for potential customers.
WC Vendors Pro digital or physical products:
Again, because it’s built on WooCommerce, WC Vendors Pro lets vendors create both physical and digital products.
WC Vendors Pro commissions:
WC Vendors Pro allows for some neat commission structures. Rather than only a flat percentage, you can charge flat percentage, percentage + fee, or flat fee. Commissions can be paid instantly when using Stripe.
Note – commission payouts work in reverse to the other plugins – rather than the site admin earning the commission, the individual vendor earns the commission. Keep that in mind when setting your commission structure.
Sharetribe is a service aimed exclusively at creating multi-vendor marketplaces. It differentiates itself from the other options on this list in two ways:
It lets you create a marketplace for products, services, or rentals. The other options only allow for products.
It’s focused more on creating peer-to-peer marketplaces rather than multi-vendor marketplaces with organized storefronts.
So, Sharetribe definitely won’t be for everyone. But if you are looking to create a peer-to-peer marketplace, it’s the platform for you.
Sharetribe registration and listing process:
Sharetribe’s registration and listing process is definitely geared more towards individual sellers than organized stores. The interface is slick, but wouldn’t work for uploading large numbers of products:
Sellers get a profile page listing their products, but again, it’s more like a profile for an individual than a profile for a store.
Sharetribe search functionality:
Sharetribe’s search page is functional – users can search by keyword and then filter by price, category, and tags. It should have all the filter options most stores require.
Sharetribe review system:
Users can leave feedback for a seller after their purchase. Other shoppers can see these reviews on the seller’s profile page.
Sharetribe digital or physical products:
You can set up Sharetribe to sell either physical or digital products. It’s very flexible in this department.
Sharetribe lets you set a percentage, minimum fixed fee, or combination. This commission is automatically paid to your PayPal account whenever a customer makes a purchase from a marketplace seller, which is nice. You don’t need to be actively involved in any part of the payment process.
Sharetribe charges a recurring fee based on the number of users in your marketplace. The cheapest plan without Sharetribe branding is $149 per month for up to 1,000 members.
The multi-vendor version of CS-Cart is a feature-rich but pricey multi-vendor marketplace platform. Because the multi-vendor edition has multi-vendor functionality integrated from the ground up, it feels more cohesive than the other options on this list which rely on extensions.
CS-Cart registration and listing process:
Sellers can register via the front-end. Once they’re logged in, they’ll see a very nice dashboard panel:
The Add Product tab isn’t very aesthetic, but it is functional:
Sellers can also easily search and manage all of their products and stock from their dashboard.
CS-Cart search functionality:
CS-Cart definitely has the best default search functionality. Customers can sort and filter by a variety of options.
But even better is that each vendor’s profile page includes an option to search only that vendor. None of the other platforms offer this default functionality.
CS-Cart review system:
You can choose to enable or disable reviews globally or for individual products. Customers can only review individual products, though. There’s no aggregated vendor rating.
CS-Cart digital or physical products:
CS-Cart is for physical products. There’s no option to mark a product as “digital” in the seller interface.
You can set the commission rate for individual sellers. Commissions can be either percentages or flat fees. When customers pay, the money goes directly to you (the site administrator). You then distribute the money according to the commission structure.
At $1,450, CS-Cart Multi-Vendor is by far the most expensive option on this list. It has great functionality but $1,450 is still a lot of money.
* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and then purchase the product, we’ll receive a small fee. No worries though, you’ll still pay the standard amount so there’s no cost on your part.
Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics. You can find him at www.cnewcomer.com