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Turnkey solutions have taken over the software market today. Gone are the days of outsourcing your entire development projects and coding everything from scratch. Today, you can build an eCommerce website or an m-commerce app using ready-made solutions, that too within a fraction of the cost. One such name in the market is multi-vendor marketplace software.
What is a multi-vendor marketplace software?
Multi-vendor marketplace software is any ready-made solution that one can use for building a marketplace website or mobile app, without developing the basic functionalities from scratch. By basic functionalities, we mean every feature that makes a fundamental eCommerce website with support for multiple vendors to sell on it. Simply, they are eCommerce platforms for multi-vendor marketplace development.
How are multi-vendor solutions different from eCommerce platforms?
A traditional eCommerce platform is not much different from a marketplace software, except the former supports inventory-based eCommerce operations while a marketplace software, as the name suggests, allows a website owner to let third-party sellers sign-up and sell on his or her website as a vendor on it.
Let’s understand this with an example.
Magento, PrestaShop, WooCommerce, OpenCart, BigCommerce, Shopify, etc. are eCommerce platforms, as they support inventory-based eCommerce models out of the box. You can use any of these solutions to set up a basic eCommerce website, upload your products, and sell them to your customers. For example, Nike.com. They sell their in-house product, that’s why it’s an inventory based eCommerce website. However, Amazon, BestBuy, eBay, Etsy, Alibaba, etc. are also eCommerce websites, but they follow a multi-vendor model or more of a hybrid model, as Amazon also sells its own products on its website. Nevertheless, they also allow anyone to sign-up and set up their storefronts on their website. That's why they are marketplace eCommerce platforms.
Hence, when you are considering building a marketplace website like Amazon, BestBuy, eBay, Etsy, and Alibaba, etc., you go for marketplace solutions, instead of traditional eCommerce software. This brings us to yet another point of discussion, the features of a marketplace solution.
Unique features of a multi-vendor marketplace software
We saw that a marketplace website or mobile app follows a different business model, which also implies that a marketplace solution must offer features unique to this business model. Although, a marketplace platform still is an eCommerce solution and most of its features are derived from traditional eCommerce platforms. Just a small adaptation of these features make them ready-made for setting up marketplace websites or a hybrid of both the business models:
› Vendors: Must support on-boarding of third-party merchants as sellers on the platform
› Dashboard: Must offer sellers with their dedicated dashboard on front-end of the platform
› Products: Must allow sellers to upload and manage their product listings and orders
› Tracking: Must allow the admin to keep a track of every third-party seller on the platform
› Revenue: A commission management system to bring revenue to the marketplace owner
› Analytics: Must allow admin to keep a track of earning-analytics for every seller
› Earning: Every seller must be able to track his or her earning analytics
› Payments: Admin must get easier ways to transfer seller earnings respectively e.g. PayPal
› Communication: A multi-channel communication system for-
• Customer-seller (depends)
› Review: Customers must be able to write reviews of products or share their purchase experience
› Refund: A refund or return management system that goes through admin to sellers from customers
› Subscription model: A subscription management system for the admin to generate extra revenue by offering value-added benefits to the members
› Ultimate control: Admin must have the decisive control of the platform, sellers, and its customers.
› Scalability: Must handle a large number of users, products, sellers, and third-party APIs with ease.
› Economical: The entire purpose of a ready-made marketplace software is to reduce the overall cost of development, deployment, and maintenance of the platform.
Top multi-vendor marketplace software in 2020
Considering the unique and important features, here is a list of top 10 multi-vendor marketplace platforms in 2020. However, before that, I would like to define two crucial concepts that I shall be using in this list:
I will be using this term to indicate that the vendors of the respective solutions are providing source-code. You have the freedom to host the particular solution on a supported web-server of your choice. That means, if you use a solution of this category, you have the sole responsibility to keep your source-code secure by choosing a safe web-hosting provider.
These terms will indicate that vendors of these solutions are not offering source-code access. Instead, they are offering web-based access to a hosted solution, where you can use a graphical user interface (GUI) to set up your marketplace. That means you cannot choose a web hosting provider, cannot access source code, and you have limited options of customizations. However, the software-vendors will take full responsibility for the security of your website.
CS-Cart is a popular name in the eCommerce solutions market. Its multi-vendor is well equipped with all the essential features that you need to build and run a marketplace platform in just a few steps. From a dedicated vendor-dashboard to a robust commission management system, user access control, and multiple monetization channels, you can find most of the essential features out of the box when you purchase a CS-Cart multi-vendor solution.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor? CS-Cart offers a separate eCommerce platform for multi-vendor requirements. However, there is a dedicated eCommerce platform available for inventory-based business as well.
› Ease of use: CS-cart’s admin user interface is instructive. It offers simple interfaces for setting up your website and managing your day-to-day tasks with even better ease.
› Customizability: You can choose from a large number of CS-Cart extensions to customize your platform.
› Software Delivery model: Both hosted and open-source options are available under different plans
› Cost estimation: A 15-day free trial is available. After that, you can select from three major packages with increasing benefits like added m-commerce app, source-code access, customizations, etc.
Yo!Kart is comparatively a new solution in the market, but it is gradually gaining popularity for its convenient multi-vendor solution. Besides basic marketplace features, the solution provides email marketing tools and social media integrations. It boasts of its SEO-friendly architecture.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor? It is a dedicated multi-vendor solution for creating marketplace platforms
› Ease of use: Comparatively easier than most of the open-source eCommerce solutions
› Customizability: Offers pro-level customizability and skilled programmers can modify its source-code with ease.
Software Delivery model: Self-hosted
› Cost estimation: An online demo is available to take a tour of the software. Guided demo options are also available. Besides, you can choose from three premium packages with different benefits:
Shopygen's Genstore is a multi-vendor marketplace script, one of its kind. It has all the essential marketplace features. However, the best aspect is the technology stack of Genstore, which uses the Node.Js eCommerce shopping cart. It's the technology stack of massive eCommerce businesses like Amazon, eBay, and PayPal. It must be something.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor?Offers both multi-vendor and admin-selling features. Additionally, some micro-personalized solutions are also available for creating service-marketplaces like Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Airbnb.
› Ease of use: The deployment is trickier than most of the ready-made solutions in the market. However, the company provides free deployment and training services. Once deployed, its MEAN stack-based interface runs quite smoothly.
› Customizability: Any MEAN or MERN stack developer can customize the source-code with ease.
› Software Delivery model: Self-hosted with open-source code access
› Cost estimation: An online demo is available for the solution. However, to use the solution, you need to purchase its source-code by making a one-time payment. The website shows two major packages:
BigCommerce is a popular name in the eCommerce solutions market, but it does not offer multi-vendor solutions out of the box. Instead, it allows third-party developers to build and sell multi-vendor extensions for its platform. Popular developers like Webkul are selling multi-vendor extensions, which you can use to turn your BigCommerce store into a marketplace platform.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor? The Webkul extension is a dedicated multi-vendor solution for BigCommerce. However, BigCommerce is originally an inventory-based platform.
› Ease of use: BigCommerce is one of the most user-friendly eCommerce solutions in the market.
› Customizability: It offers limited customizability with no source code access.
› Software Delivery model: SaaS
› Cost estimation: A recurring free starting from $10/month + subscription fee of BigCommerce itself.
Like BigCommerce, Magento is not equipped with multi-vendor functionalities out of the box. However, a massive community of developers supports this platform. A large number of the Magento marketplace extensions are available in the market for your purpose. You can use any of these extensions to convert a Magento-based eCommerce website into a multi-vendor marketplace.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor? Dedicated marketplace extensions are available from different community developers.
› Ease of use: Magento is not famous for its ease of use but heavyweight features and scalability to build large-scale stores.
› Customizability: It’s highly customizable. A Magento certified developer can customize your marketplace with much ease.
› Software Delivery model: Magento community edition is a self-hosted solution.
› Cost estimation: Magento community edition is a free eCommerce platform. However, you will need to purchase a Magento marketplace extension to introduce multi-vendor features to it. Different community developers sell their extensions at different prices. The process may range from $200-$500.
PrestaShop is a similar eCommerce platform like Magento and it does not support multi-vendor features out of the box. Following the same methods, you can get a PrestaShop marketplace module to introduce multi-vendor features.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor? Supports the multi-vendor model as an extension of the stock features using a PrestaShop marketplace module.
› Ease of use: PrestaShop is comparatively, easier, and lightweight than Magento, but it’s trickier than most SaaS-based alternatives.
› Customizability: Any skilled PrestaShop-PHP developer can customize a PrestaShop store with ease.
› Software Delivery model: Both Self-hosted and cloud-hosted options are available.
› Cost estimation: PrestaShop is free to use. However, a one-time cost to purchase a PrestaShop marketplace module is applicable. The cost of the good module may range from $200-$500.
You must have heard of WooCommerce, which is a shopping cart plugin for WordPress. Dokan is a similar WordPress plugin, except it specializes in converting any WordPress site into a marketplace website. If you have a WordPress website, you can install this plugin like any other WordPress plugin on your website.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor solution? This is a dedicated plugin to create multi-vendor stores. However, it does support product listing from the admin as well. Yet, if your aim to function only as an inventory-based store, I would recommend that you go for the WooCommerce stock edition.
› Ease of Use: Anyone with basic WordPress administration skills can use this user-friendly multi-vendor solution without any hassle. It is one of the most admin-friendly solutions in my list here.
› Customizability: Dokan supports Hundreds of WooCommerce themes and stock WordPress plugins. If you want to customize your store, you can install any of these plugins in no time. Besides, dozens of Dokan Modules are also available with advanced multi-vendor features.
› Software Delivery model: It is a self-hosted solution. You can download and install the source code on your WordPress site.
› Cost estimation: A basic free version of Dokan is available with lifetime access. However, the premium versions, in different pricing structures, are available with many useful features. You can choose from annual and lifetime licenses.
OpenCart is a popular eCommerce platform with one of the biggest communities of website owners and OpenCart developers. This PHP-based eCommerce platform has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build their dream eCommerce websites. Unfortunately, OpenCart does not come with multi-vendor-features out of the box. However, tons of OpenCart multi-vendor plugins are available to covert a basic OpenCart Store into a full-fledged multi-vendor marketplace.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor solution? OpenCart is a shopping cart solution, which acts as a base for multi-vendor plugins. To add the new features without breaking the stock source code, you need these plugins on your website.
› Ease of Use: OpenCart is lightweight and suitable for small and medium-scale multi-vendor needs. Anyone with basic website administration skills can manage an OpenCart website like a pro.
› Customizability: Tons of OpenCart plugins make this platform versatile and laden with advanced features. You just need to purchase and install an OpenCart plugin add features to your website.
› Software Delivery model: OpenCart is an open-source and self-hosted solution.
› Cost estimation: The stock version of the OpenCart is available free of cost on the official website. However, you will need to purchase a multi-vendor plugin to add marketplace functionalities. Just search for ‘OpenCart multi-vendor plugin’ and you will see tons of options.
X-Cart is a dedicated marketplace solution with ready-made features out of the box. It provides a dedicated interface for vendors on the front-end, while the admin has full access to the website. The multi-vendor software supports all the features in its stock version that we discussed in the beginning
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor solution? X-Cart is a dedicated multi-vendor marketplace software
› Ease of Use: The user interface is easier than most of the open-source solutions, but a bit complex when we compare with SaaS solutions. Nevertheless, I recommend that you acquire some basic technical skills to make the best use of X-Cart.
› Customizability: Since an open-source version is also available, any full-stack developer can customize your X-Cart score with ease.
› Software Delivery model: Both cloud and self-hosted options are accessible.
› Cost estimation: Although a basic hosted plan starts at $29.95/month, the actual pricing may vary as per your needs. You need to contact their sales team to get an exact quote.
Spree Commerce is an open-source multi-vendor platform with its own ecosystem of modules and extensions for superior customizability. It supports advanced features like the ability to place orders from multiple vendors in a single cart. Besides, it also provides dedicated storefronts and dashboard to the vendors.
› Hybrid or Dedicated multi-vendor solution? Spree Commerce offers a dedicated multi-vendor solution.
› Ease of Use: The admin interface of spree commerce is not the best in my list, but one can get the hang of it after a little training. Comprehensive documentations make sure that you get everything that you need for learning about this platform.
› Customizability: Spree Commerce's open-source model makes sure that you get the best experience in terms of customizability. The React.js based front end provides a smooth user-interface for customers and loads of options for customization using modules and extensions.
› Software Delivery model: It’s a self-hosted solution. You will need some skills to deploy your marketplace using Spree Commerce. I recommend getting help from a developer.
› Cost estimation: The stock solution is free to use. However, you will need premium modules and extensions for personalizing your website and adding new features.
Be advised that all the solutions in this list offer essential features to build a stand-alone multi-vendor marketplace. The only difference is in their software delivery model, which affects their usability and cost largely. For example, a self-hosted solution is trickier to use than a SaaS or managed solution, but it offers a better class of customizability and control over the platform. In the same way, a SaaS-based solution demands monthly recurring payments, but they offer loads of managed services in return. It's up to you to know your priorities and requirements better before choosing a software delivery model, and then the solutions that fall under respective models.