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.
Essential features of multi-vendor marketplaces
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.
Vendors will also get their own profile page which lists all of their products and a short biography:
But, if you purchase something like Search & Filter Pro, you can greatly extend this functionality.
2. Magento with Marketplace
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.
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:
3. WordPress with WooCommerce + WC Vendors Pro
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 cheaper ($149/year for the Starter plan).
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.
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.
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.
There is a more limited free version of the plugin, but I think you should go with the Pro version if you’re serious about creating multi-vendor marketplaces on WordPress.
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.
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.
5. CS-Cart Multi-Vendor Edition
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.
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.
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.
Which multi-vendor marketplace platform is right for you?
While all are worthwhile options, the multi-vendor marketplaces I listed aren’t interchangeable.
Layout and presentation by Karol K.
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