eCommerce is the hottest trend right now in the world of online purchasing. As a result, mobile eCommerce has ignited the spawning of marketplace apps left and right that have driven online business transactions forward. But where do these apps come from? How are they made? Find out in this article!
Unless you’ve been living out at sea for the better part of the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of online shopping or eCommerce and its somewhat recent boom at the back of the covid pandemic. Yes, people have been shopping online ever since Amazon and eBay opened their online stores and started selling some products sometime around 1999. The thing is, nowadays, online shopping is hotter than ever before. Thanks, in part, to the proliferation of mobile apps and devices, it has arguably become as relevant and necessary as eating or breathing. We can virtually buy and sell everything online and enjoy a digital haven where buyers and sellers can conduct business without any of the inconveniences of in-person shopping and selling. Think about it, isn’t it way easier to showcase your product on an online store instead of having to rent a space, develop a (costly) marketing campaign, promote your shop, and then struggle to get people to come inside? It is a hassle; that’s why we’re so thankful for marketplace apps.
Marketplace apps, especially the most popular ones like Amazon and eBay, have now become our primary source of commerce, either for buying or selling products and services. As a result, the demand for online platforms to support that need for online shopping is growing, and marketplace apps and sites are booming right now, with around 230.5 million online shoppers in 2021 in the US alone. Imagine the profits! These numbers are extremely attractive, especially for startups and new businesses who want to tackle the marketplace game head-on and develop their own app to get a big chunk of that juicy market. And who are the ones responsible for making marketplace apps a reality? That’s right—app developers.
However, marketplace app development can be tricky and, if not done correctly, can hurt your company, your client’s business and be detrimental to your respiration. So, thinking about marketplace app development, we at Foonkie wanted to outline some of the main concepts and ideas to help you develop your brand new marketplace app. So, let’s get on with it.
What is a Marketplace app?
In short, a marketplace app is a mobile platform that essentially serves as a connection, or intermediary, between buyers and sellers, enabling the trading of goods and services between them. In that sense, we can say it is the online counterpart of an actual physical, traditional marketplace where users can take advantage of discounts, countless listings, and online payment features to carry out business transactions in a smooth, fast, efficient, and secure way. On their part, sellers of goods and services have access to a considerable audience to showcase their products without building expensive websites and launching marketing campaigns. Furthermore, the items or goods purchased are usually delivered straight to the buyer’s door in little time and with all the guarantees of safe returns and exchanges to protect both the buyer’s and the seller’s interests.
As a side note, and for clearness purposes, you should keep in mind that a marketplace app and an app marketplace aren’t the same things. An app marketplace is an online platform that showcases mobile and desktop apps to all kinds of users. In turn, these users, who are usually companies, can browse the many apps and purchase them depending on their needs and the app’s characteristics. And, just like you would find at a physical shopping center, a marketplace app offers users a series of benefits that would be harder to access or achieve in physical marketplaces. Also, as opposed to traditional shops, the advantages mentioned above apply to both sellers and buyers, which is one of the main reasons marketplace apps are becoming so popular. Among some of the other benefits that make marketplace apps so attractive are:
- Greater visibility: Sellers and buyers both have access to all the products they need to sell and buy in one place, with greater access and visibility for them without extra infrastructure or marketing costs for the seller.
- Online sales infrastructure: As mentioned above, an online marketplace annuls the costs of having a physical sales infrastructure.
- Increased sales: With greater visibility and no need to invest in infrastructure, the sales and their profit margins are significantly higher.
- Seamless User Experience (UX): Since everything is one click away, marketplace app development done right translates into mobile experiences that are easy, fast, and user-friendly enough to create a seamless and flawless user experience.
- More direct customer support: Most marketplace apps, namely Amazon, are famous for their flawless customer service, which is easier to provide via an online platform rather than in an in-person scenario.
- Competitive edge: With marketplace apps, small and independent businesses have a leveled playing field that gives them a real chance of competing with big companies using the same tools, platforms, and technologies with no additional or very little investment.
These benefits, and more we may have missed, are inherent to building an online platform to sell or buy goods and services. That’s where their popularity comes from. But, since business transactions are rarely black and white, there are many marketplace apps, and it’s essential to keep them in mind when entering the marketplace app development world. Let’s see.
Types of Marketplace Apps
By target audience
- Business to Business (B2B): A B2B marketplace app serves as an intermediary between two companies; one side acts as the consumer and the other as the seller. In this case, the buyer can be a retailer or manufacturer who needs access to wholesale products. Companies like dial4trade are B2B marketplace apps, although giants like Amazon and Walmart handle this type of sales as well.
- Business to Consumer (B2C): A B2C marketplace app connects sellers of goods and services with individual consumers who have access to a wide range of the seller’s products. The most famous examples of B2C apps are Walmart, Target, Amazon, and Netflix.
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C): Also known as Peer-to-peer (P2P), C2C marketplace apps bring together two or more parties or individuals with similar interests who seek to exchange products and services. The most critical aspect of P2P marketplace apps is that a buyer can simultaneously be a consumer and seller. Furthermore, those roles can keep switching depending on the type of transaction and the participants’ needs. Uber and Etsy are two examples of P2P marketplace apps.
- Vertical marketplace apps: Vertical marketplace apps target a specific audience, sector, category, or niche, meaning that instead of selling a broad range of products to an indiscriminate consumer pool, they offer a particular user segment, a specific field of goods and services. The most famous example of a vertical marketplace app is Etsy.
- Horizontal marketplace apps: A horizontal marketplace app offers a broad, unspecified, multi-industry, multi-category range of products and services to a large and diverse customer pool in several regions. Like a mall or a supermarket, horizontal marketplace apps fulfill various needs in one place, just like you would do on Amazon or AliExpress.
The success of marketplace apps is undeniable. We absolutely love them; there’s no question about it. This love, matched with their convenience and accessibility, is the reason why they are growing at neck-breaking speeds across various sectors, with a total spending of $204 billion in the third quarter of 2021 alone! Food service, textile, automotive, healthcare, FinTech, and cosmetics are some industries that have successfully reaped the benefits of marketplace app development. They are now enjoying a piece of that juicy $204 billion cake that will surely keep getting more prominent and more significant in the coming years. But how to get in on the marketplace app game?
Granted, the most remarkable cases of marketplace app profitability belong to behemoths such as Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress, to name a few. Still, you can quickly enter the marketplace app game by following some simple guidelines to ensure your product targets the proper needs and becomes valuable and relevant to your users. Here are some of the main approaches we consider relevant for successful marketplace app development.
Marketplace App Development Guidelines
Research and planning
If you’ve read our other articles on any type of app development, then you know research and planning are crucial first steps for any development task you decide to take on. No matter what, without conducting proper research and planning your app’s requirements, features, scope, and scalability, among others, you risk making mistakes further along the line of your development process, when they would be more expensive and harder to fix. So, start by assessing who your customers are, their needs, wants socioeconomic characteristics, devices, internet access, and purchasing behaviors, among others, to determine what product you need to develop to meet those needs and target them accurately. Moreover, research will also allow you to establish your app’s technical requirements, project scope, budget, and tech stack. Finally, you can also use your research to map out your user journeys so you can better choose the type of marketplace app that better suits them and their needs and which goods, services, or both you need to sell.
Doing previous research will also help you know and understand your competitors, who they are, what they’re doing, what they’re successful at, their flaws, and the overall feel of the market where you will be releasing your app. This understanding is crucial to get a feeling of the market and helps determine your company’s and your product’s own strengths and weaknesses, so you can take advantage of them and fix any issues early on. You can ask yourself questions such as:
- What makes my product stand out?
- Why is my product unique?
- Where are my users finding pain points?
- How will my app help address and fix those pain points?
- How are my competitors addressing those pain points?
We understand research and planning can be a pain and sometimes a costly, time-consuming pain. However, cutting corners on your initial research will yield the exact opposite result: you’ll spend more time and money fixing issues further down the line that you could’ve spotted and fixed earlier.
Choose the right tech stack for your marketplace app
Thanks to your research and planning, you now have the tools and information to choose the right tech stack for your marketplace app. Here are the main elements you need to define:
- Front-end framework: React, React Native, Xamarin.
- Back-end framework: Node.js.
- Language: Swift, Kotlin, Java.
- Database: MySQL, MongoDB.
- Technologies: Artificial intelligence, chatbots, Big Data.
- DevOps: Azure, AWS.
- Other APIs and Integrations: PayPal, Stripe, Plaid. This point is crucial because, in marketplace app development, payment gateways and APIs are essential to ensure a seamless user experience. Without robust payment options and systems, your marketplace app is useless.
There’s no such thing as the perfect tech stack. These are just our suggestions based on our experience with app development frameworks, languages, and technologies. We can’t tell you exactly what tools and frameworks to use on your tech stack because it depends on your company, your budget, your product’s requirements, your users’ needs, which platform your app will run in, and much more. So, once again, as a result of your research phase, you will be able to quickly determine which elements you must include in your tech stack to make sure your marketplace app development process is as smooth, seamless, and efficient as possible.
Choose your marketplace app’s features
Choosing the right and necessary features for your marketplace app is crucial for your product’s long-term success and its future. So, aside from conducting research, planning, and choosing the right tech stack, you need to map out what features you will need to introduce to your marketplace app to make it as easy and straightforward to use as possible. Of course, as with many of the other points in this article, the features you choose will depend primarily on the type of marketplace you’re developing and the specific needs of your product. Still, there are a couple of paths you can take to make this task easier:
- MVP: you can take the most straightforward approach and develop an MVP. Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will help you cut costs and time by delivering your marketplace app with just the right features to attract early adopters. And as your app gains users and popularity, you can scale as you test the market’s waters and your users’ growing needs.
- User journey mapping: This technique allows you to design a representation of your users’ journey to achieve a goal using your app. User journey mapping can help you select which features your users would use the most on each step of the way.
- Research: You can also use good ol’ fashioned research to understand what your users are looking for in a marketplace app and which features will allow you to help them reach their goals.
Whichever approach you decide to follow, and to maintain your product’s user experience seamless, you need to make your marketplace app as easy, smooth, and intuitive as possible—adding fancy and complicated features will not wow anyone and will do your app no good. On the contrary, it will become useless and will indeed become an expensive, heavy piece of unnecessary technology in time. So instead, try to add features that will help your users on their journey to fulfilling their needs and solving their problems. Some of these features are:
- Secure signup and log in: Use multi-factor authentication and password reset options.
- User profile: The chance to input the user’s personal information, payment preferences, and shipping addresses.
- Email and social media integration for faster login.
- Search engine with multiple filters (price, category, color, size, brand, keywords, location, etc.)
- Shopping cart with full product and service information.
- Product and service detail page with ratings and reviews.
- Favorites listing and wishlist.
- Checkout page.
- Information about orders: Include questions, answers, payments, receipts, discounts, shipping and delivery notifications, and order status, history, and tracking.
- Return, refund, and cancellation processing and information.
- 24/7 chat, phone, chatbot, and email customer support.
- Secure signup and login.
- Social media and email integration.
- Seller profile (general information, catalog, picture albums, ratings, and reviews)
- Stock and order management.
- Communication solutions with buyers (email, chat, phone).
- A simple way to provide discounts, promotions, and offers.
- Transaction and payment management tools (orders, cancellations, package tracking, shipping, returns, refunds, and inventory management)
- Sales statistics tracking and analytics tools.
- Feedback, reviews, rating, and seller support systems.
Again, these features are just a broad stroke of what most marketplace apps use. You can obviate some and add others depending on your app’s requirements and characteristics but always with the information from your research at the forefront.
UX/UI design for marketplace app development
All of the previous points may indicate the development of a very robust, feature-heavy app. And while that may be true depending on your app, the reality is that, no matter what features and requirements your marketplace app needs, its UX/UI design should be flawless. Yes, it also has to be technically feasible, easily implemented, and sustainable, but always flawless. Implementing fancy graphics, heavy videos, and a million colors will not help you. Also, designing a sloppy or too simple interface will deliver the same outcome: failure. So, above all, even at the MVP stage, the best suggestion we can give you is to keep your marketplace app’s UX/UI design simple enough that your users won’t feel overwhelmed when trying to access its features and functionality but robust enough to ensure a seamless navigational flow.
You can use your research (yes, once again) and your user journey maps to try and pinpoint the best UX/UI design approach for your app. Still, we advise you to opt for soothing color schemes and visuals that represent a pleasant experience for your users and ensure an easy and smooth navigation. Remember, marketplace app users usually look to purchase stuff quickly, without too much hassle, so make sure they have things like product, stock, and price information readily available within the app. Additionally, you can check out what your competitors are doing to get some inspiration and make sure your app always remains competitive. Finally, if you’re careful to make your marketplace app as user-friendly, simple, and easy to use as possible, you’re bound to deliver a product that has high engagement rates, and your users will love it!
Marketplace App Development and Execution
Now it’s time to take all the previous points and many more we may not have included in this article and that depend on your own research and join them in your marketplace app development and execution phase. Depending on your app type and your team’s methodology and structure, the main aspects to consider in the development phase are:
- Choose the type of marketplace app and select the appropriate programming language for it.
- After defining the scope of your project, doing your research, and developing your business model, you can start prototyping your app. Prototyping will help you visualize how it will function and how the features and functionalities that your team has mapped out will look, feel like, and work.
- Make sure you choose the appropriate etch stack to start developing your app.
- If you’re working with a framework like Ruby on Rails, you can work on both the frontend and the backend at the same time to save time and resources.
- If your goal is to reach as many users as possible, consider making your app available on various platforms via cross-platform app development. To ensure your marketplace app works everywhere, you can choose React Native, Xamarin, Ionic, and other frameworks.
- Always make sure to use secure and trusted APIs and SDKs.
- Consistently enforce secure coding practices and promote in-team code reviews to ensure your developers have accountability.
- Before releasing your marketplace app, ensure you have a QA (quality assurance) strategy already in place and ready to go.
- Since your app will be dealing with personal information and online payments, check to see if your marketplace needs to comply with any regulations such as the FRTB, AML/KYC, GDPR, and FATCA, among others.
- Follow the necessary steps to get your app into app stores.
Again, all of these recommendations and guidelines depend on your app and its requirements, specifications, budget, functionalities, and research.
Release and maintenance
As you may already know, your marketplace app development process doesn’t abruptly end at the development stage. Now, like you would a child, you need to take care of your app throughout its life. You must make sure your marketplace app always works seamlessly and continuously improves as you gather user feedback. Also, this part of your marketplace app development process depends mainly on how good you are at testing and analyzing what your users want, like, and dislike about your app. They would also give you hints into which features are useless, which work, and which are missing, so pay close attention.
Moreover, always be on the lookout for bugs, safety threats, and glitches so you can fix them rapidly without jeopardizing your users’ data safety. And lastly, you must be on top of the latest libraries, operating system releases, and technology advancements so you can update your app accordingly and keep it at the forefront of the world’s advances.
Marketplace App Development: The Takeaway
Developing a marketplace app is no easy feat. It is a huge undertaking that requires lots of dedication, expertise, and attention to detail before and during, and after the app is already on app store shelves. Much like with any other type of app, you can’t cut corners on any of the crucial parts of the development process and expect your product to excel just because eCommerce is the hot trend right now. So, when choosing to develop a marketplace app for the first time, it is always a good idea to conduct thorough research and prepare yourself and your staff to make the best out of the process and your budget. Remember, competition in the marketplace app environment is getting fierce and, if you’re determined to enter it successfully, you must have the right vision, the right tools, and the right team. These things will, in turn, translate into a marketplace app that effectively meets users’ needs and remains relevant for a long, long time.
We hope that we have given you some great insights and information about what marketplace app development entails. Still, if you feel you need more information or have any questions, don’t think twice about getting in touch! We’re here to help.