Marketplaces now account for a substantial amount of global online sales, and that number is growing rapidly thanks to the pandemic. For example, Etsy’s stock tripled during COVID-19 as millions of users used the platform to sell custom masks, and 2021 broke the record for total global marketplace investment.
Pair this with the fact that we’re seeing marketplaces expand beyond just products to now include more online service marketplaces, and it’s no surprise that these platforms have exploded in popularity.
Why no-code marketplaces are changing the landscape
No-code tools are making it easier for people to build new marketplaces that serve a vast array of niche product/service/rental markets. Over the last few decades, the big players have captured the more general markets. But now, no-code is going to enable substantial growth for new “long-tail” marketplaces focused on serving a narrow audience over the coming years. Reasons for this include:
- They dramatically lower the cost to create bespoke technology
- Their visual programming interface makes platform building accessible to non-coders
- They speed up the development processes, allowing companies to get their products into market quickly and iterate faster and more frequently over time
4 things to consider before building your no-code marketplace
If you’re worried about the costs and timeline of traditional software development and interested in further exploring no-code for your marketplace idea, we recommend you consider these tips to get started.
1. Decide which features to build into your product:
Each marketplace needs certain platform components. The features they include will vary by the type of marketplace you are building and the specific needs of the user.
Below are the core items every marketplace must include and considerations for deciding which features to incorporate into your platform.
- User onboarding - this is how users can join and engage with your platform. To ensure onboarding is simple for users, you should consider who can access the platform, when buyer signup is required, how users sign up and login, the style of the onboarding experience, etc.
- Supply management - this is the way sellers make whatever they’re selling available to buyers. To ensure sellers can easily manage their profile and availability of offerings, you should consider how the seller creates their profile, the complexity of the products and services being offered on your platform, how to manage quantity and availability, who can post and manage items for sale, how pricing gets set, and more.
- Discovery and matching - this is the process by which your platform connects buyers and sellers. It’s the key value proposition of your marketplace. To ensure this can happen smoothly, you should consider which user side does the searching, at what level buyers browse, how much choice users get, how options are displayed, how users filter and sort options, how additional product details are shown.
- Booking the transaction - these are the steps buyers and sellers take to initiate a transaction. To reduce friction points and ensure positive outcomes, you should consider how users can communicate between each other, how transactions are initiated and confirmed, and how the terms of the transaction are determined.
- Payments - executing payments that go with the transaction is a critical part of any marketplace. There are many things to consider when it comes to payments on your platform, including how the price is determined, when the payment happens, acceptable forms of payment, when sellers get their payouts, how payment delays are handled, payment providers, and more.
- Order/service fulfillment - this is the step in which sellers fulfill their promise. While this process often happens offline, you should consider what fulfillment services to incorporate into your platform, what updates and notifications users need, and how fulfillment completion is confirmed to help ensure buyers receive what they paid for.
- After the transaction - once the transaction has been fulfilled, you should consider a few additional things, including whether users review one another, how you will handle returns, disputes, or other post-transaction problems, and whether users get incentives for activity.
2. Identify which tool(s) best serve your needs
In the world of development tools, there are usually three building approaches to choose from:
- Traditional programming (i.e. traditional coders) - if you need an extremely customized app that scales to millions of daily active users, traditional programming might be your best route. This approach involves using professional software developers to manually code to build your app. While this option provides complete customization and iteration, it also takes a lot of time and money.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) (e.g. Sharetribe) - these are generally one-size-fits-all solutions created for non-developers. They offer templates that allow you to build a minimum viable product (MVP) in as little as 30 minutes. However, building your no-code marketplace with an off-the-shelf builder means you’re entirely constrained by the functionality the service offers.
- Visual development tools (e.g. Bubble) - if your requirements are above average and you’re looking to build something with custom features, visual development tools are your best bet. These are a subset of no-code tools built to allow anyone to build applications to their specification without needing to code. This option will give you the ability to build your no-code marketplace to your specifications in around 4-6 weeks, and continuously iterate.
3. Determine whether to DIY or get help building your no-code marketplace
If the templates provided by off-the-shelf services are too limiting, no-code visual development tools are your best option if you need a lot of custom, unique features built into your marketplace. But there’s a caveat. While you can absolutely DIY your no-code marketplace on a tool like Bubble, there’s a much higher learning curve to using it than the off-the-shelf services.
If you have the time and desire to learn a new skill or want to control every aspect of the product-creation process, go with DIY. This will save you a lot of money. However, if you have the funds and need to launch your app as soon as possible, don’t have an appetite for technical things, or prefer working with a team, choosing a no-code development agency is a great choice.
4. Consider how you’ll support your product over time
No marketplace product is complete after the initial build – it must evolve in response to user feedback. When just starting out, the exact processes for how you’ll handle every need your users might have aren't known. To sustain a successful marketplace, make sure you have a plan to execute follow-on builds and an overall product roadmap over time.
Next steps to start building your no-code marketplace
As you evaluate your options for building your marketplace, just remember: Setting up marketplaces is difficult. But the most difficult part is thinking through the business side and how that will impact the complexity of your feature sets.
To learn more about the core items your no-code marketplace needs and how to decide which features to build, read The Digital Marketplace Guide.
Ready to build with no-code but need help?
If you want complex functionality but can’t spare the time to build and refine your custom no-code marketplace, Airdev can help. We build products for clients using the no-code platform Bubble so that your costs are lower and development timeline is shorter.
If you’re looking for an outside Bubble developer to help you build your custom app fast, check out our guide on how to choose the right Bubble developer or agency.