Online marketplaces are flourishing. Success stories featuring famous B2C examples like Amazon or eBay are a case in point. So it is hardly a surprise that e-commerce platforms pop up all over. Still, very few of them can compete with industry leaders as equals.
In fact, building an online marketplace platform is never smooth sailing. Quite the opposite, it can become a challenging task for rookies.
To help you start a successful marketplace business, we created a detailed guide to building a B2C marketplace. Follow these steps to offer the greatest value to your buyers and sellers.
What is an online B2C marketplace?
Let’s start with the term in question and the latest trends related to the e-commerce domain. When the B2C meaning becomes clearer for you, when you know what this domain has to offer, you get better chances to succeed.
So what exactly is business-to-consumer? In a nutshell, it is the business model where companies sell their products directly to customers.
The most famous examples of B2C marketplaces:
- Facebook Marketplace.
In recent years, marketplaces offering B2C services have been gaining momentum. And it is not just a mere assertion. We have exact figures to prove this fact. Thus the recent report by Grand View Research predicts that the global B2C e-commerce market size will reach $7.65 trillion by 2028.
So what makes marketplaces so sought-after? Why do consumers prefer to go shopping online rather than visit brick-and-mortar stores?
First, shoppers like the sense of convenience and security the B2C websites bring. They can find and purchase any item they like in no time.
Besides, with vast adoption of machine learning, consumers started getting more personalized experiences. They see products tailored to their unique needs or based on their previous purchasing history.
The full list of reasons why customers prefer online shopping looks the following way:
Now let’s proceed to the top ten things you should care about before digging into B2C marketplace development.
1. A validated business idea
It is an ill-advised step to launch an online B2C marketplace without validating your idea first. You can invest lots of money in creating a marketplace that will prove useless to your target audience.
For starters, ponder on the following three questions:
Why? Think carefully: why do you want to build a B2C website in the first place? There are dozens of marketplaces on the web and you should have a really solid reason to build another one.
What? The next question comes directly from the first one. What issues is your future marketplace designed to solve? Are those problems big enough to be worth solving?
How? Finally, define how to differentiate your marketplace from the competitors. To achieve this goal, you need to create a catching unique value proposition (UVP). With a compelling UVP, you will be able to convey the distinctive advantages of your e-commerce platform to your target audience.
It is advisable to test the real demand for your platform providing B2C services by interacting with potential users. To begin with, you may ask your folks, friends, co-workers, or business associates for their honest opinion about your venture.
Why should you start with an idea validation?
Let’s discuss the importance of idea validation with the example from our practice.
Our customer David struggled to keep his children busy after school. After communicating with other parents, David realised that finding activities for kids was a popular problem. So it was definitely worth solving.
To overcome this issue, David came up with the idea of creating an online platform where parents can find, book, and coordinate activities for their kids.
A well-executed business idea was further translated into a successful software project. Check the full case study to see the results our team achieved in the process of building an online marketplace for parents.
We started collaboration with David when he only had an idea of the platform, based on the pain point he wanted to solve. With several discovery sessions, together with David our team worked with the idea and suggested the best way to bring it to life.
A distinctive feature of this project is convenient itinerary management. With its help, program specialists can offer parents the most relevant initiatives based on specific requirements.
Read in detail about the process of creating this platform: How We Delivered MVP for PlanMyKids - Kids Activities Marketplace
2. Comprehensive market research
Market research can help you launch a thriving B2C marketplace in the following ways:
It will provide you with the industry outlook.
The preliminary analysis may help you reveal emerging trends in the digital marketplace industry. These insights will enable you to stay in the loop.
Market research allows you to understand your target audience better. Conduct a survey with your competitors' customers. Ask them what they like or dislike about visiting those online marketplace platforms. Thus, you will have ideas on the unique value you can offer to them.
Competitors and demand research uncover potential challenges related to the marketplace launch. When you know what issues lie ahead, you can adjust the business strategy accordingly. As a result, you can think of the most suitable solution to fix them.
3. Specific niche
What products or services will be available on my B2C marketplace platform? Should I become everything for everyone, or is it better to focus on a specific niche? You will face this dilemma while working on launching a marketplace website.
The first scenario seems more tempting. However, soon you will realize that the all-in-one approach is gradually losing its effectiveness. Niche targeting, on the contrary, becomes a more sensible option.
A clear benefit of niche platforms lies in their ability to bring consumers a personalized experience. The thing is that niche B2C e-commerce websites provide users with a specific solution to a particular issue. For instance, if they need freelance work, they go to Upwork. If users want to obtain certain skills, Udemy or Coursera will be a good help. The list can go on and on.
Finally, the narrower customer base makes it easier to create and execute successful marketing campaigns. As a result, you get better chances to promote your B2C e-commerce marketplace more effectively.
A typical example of a vertical online marketplace platform is thredUP. This website sells high-quality secondhand clothes.
4. The chicken & egg issue
To operate a successful multi-vendor B2C marketplace, you need to have many buyers and sellers. Here you will have to put your head to which side you are going to attract first. That is when you face the so-called chicken and egg problem.
Luckily there are effective user acquisition strategies to kick-start your B2C e-commerce website.
Gaining the hardest side first
You can focus on the hardest side and build a partnership with them instead of trying to get both parties at the same time. The golden rule is that the hardest side is the more valuable one. As soon as the valuable users join your B2C e-commerce marketplace, the other party will follow their lead.
This phenomenon is called the “network effect”. The term was introduced by the venture firm NFX. The video below shows how this principle works:
Set the time or demand constraints
Scarcity is another tactic that can yield you some dividends. Setting time or demand constraints helps create the buzz around your B2C marketplace products. You encourage customers to take immediate action.
Also, scarce products serve as status symbols. People like the power they get when they own items that are desirable but unavailable for other users.
Lastly, if you limit the supply of some products on your B2C marketplace platform, buyers consider these goods more popular. They believe that the high demand is the reason for these constraints.
LightInTheBox is an online retailer that delivers products to consumers in nearly 200 countries. On their B2C website, we can see a countdown clock with a limited offer that helps boost sales and define scarcity parameters.
5. The right pricing policy
The next thing you should care about is a B2C business model.
Below you can see the list of the popular revenue models adopted by famous B2C e-commerce brands.
By adopting this strategy, you take a specific percentage of each transaction on your B2C e-commerce platform. For example, Rakuten.com charges commission fees varying from 5% to 14.5% depending on the product type.
You can sell space on your B2C marketplace to other businesses to promote their products or services. However, try not to pitch it strong. Users easily get irritated by graphics and banner ads. Consequently, they can leave your platform. To avoid such a mishap, publish commercials only in certain places of your B2C e-commerce website.
This monetization model means that sellers should pay a certain fee to list their products on your platform. This strategy will work for you if your B2C e-commerce marketplace offers slow-selling items.
Provide your paid members with additional opportunities. But be sure to bring them real value. Otherwise, your clients can cancel their subscriptions.
For example, Bonanza offers sellers different benefits based on the membership plan:
Choose one monetization for a start. Later, when your business-to-consumer marketplace scales, try to adopt other tactics. In the long run, you will find out what monetization methods suit your marketplace perfectly.
6. A minimum viable product
A minimum viable product or an MVP for short is a product, a B2C e-commerce marketplace, to be more precise, with a few basic features. It can help you check the feasibility of your idea without investing in a fully-fledged project.
As soon as you build a marketplace website MVP, you can gather feedback from the early adopters. You will get valuable insights into their needs, wants, and preferences. This information will make it easier for you to understand what should be added/improved/removed on your B2C platform.
Regarding PlanMyKids, David initially focused on building an MVP for his online service marketplace. He knew it was a proven way to go through a project with less risk. With the MVP approach, David was able to satisfy the basic marketplace requirements with minimum investment.
In addition, since a minimum viable product has a limited feature set, it requires less coding. The reduction of code means less room for mistakes in the process of B2C marketplace development.
Besides, it will not take long to build a product with one-two key features. As a result, you will pay less for the software development services.
When speaking about an MVP for your business-to-consumer website, it should include the following features:
- Administration panel;
- Registration form;
- Social sign-in;
- Shopping cart;
- Multiple payment gateways;
- Product page;
- Account page for both buyers and sellers.
7. Functionality for full-featured marketplace
Make the enhanced user experience your top priority. If both merchants and buyers find your B2C marketplace convenient, they will come back for repeat purchases.
We have already discussed the very basic functionality for your marketplace MVP. What about some advanced features that can improve user experience?
When it comes to the B2C marketplace structure, consider the following additional features for your fully-fledged product:
Allow B2C e-commerce vendors to update information about their goods and services. Make sure they can change the description, price, and specification.
They enable visitors to find the desired items quickly and effortlessly.
Give users an opportunity to create a list of items they want to buy.
It would be a good idea to take care of buyers from all over the world and allow them to choose their country, language, and currency.
The system of push notifications keeps buyers updated as to your products and services.
Chat and messengers
Provide both parties with the tools for instant communication.
B2C e-commerce brands take serious measures to safeguard their platforms. Thus, identity verification is a great way to prevent fraud and mitigate risks. Also, you can protect your multi-vendor B2C marketplace with the help of Email or IP blocking, login history, and limited login attempts.
System of rating/reviews
Allow users to leave honest reviews. This way, you will increase the credibility of your business-to-consumer website.
The ratings and reviews on Overstock website help buyers make an informed purchasing decision. They can choose high-quality furniture that will fit in their apartment.
8. Software development approach
Finally, you need to decide how you will build your B2C e-commerce website. Will you turn to a custom software development company to get your marketplace created? Will you charge your in-house team with this task? Do you have reliable co-founders? Or will you build your business-to-consumer website by yourself?
Basically, you have two available options. You can either develop a B2C marketplace from scratch or use ready-made solutions.
Let’s see the core idea behind each approach.
Out-of-the-box solutions are a more cost-effective option than bespoke software. Such B2C e-commerce marketplaces can be launched right after the purchase. They offer a generic set of features and are regularly updated by the vendor. Besides, if you have some questions, manuals, guides, and best practices will be a good help.
However, basic functionality provided out-of-the-box may not be enough. It will not satisfy the specific needs of your B2C e-commerce customers. Besides, the updates can be worthless since the service providers may add features that are not suited for your business.
Custom software development, in its turn, will bring you a unique product tailored to your specific business needs.
The thing is that custom marketplace development companies have great experience in building web solutions for different domains. They will analyze your project idea and provide you with the right B2C marketplace functionality and the most advanced technology stack.
Codica's expert team delivers successful custom web products for our clients from all over the world.
Recently, we helped a customer build a custom recruiting platform for the Netherlands market. The intelligent job search system allows users to find relevant vacancies based on their skill level and preferences.
9. Optimization for mobile devices
The recent findings by Statista state that in 2021 in the USA, almost 54% percent of all retail commerce will be generated via m-commerce.
This data gives a solid reason for making mobile optimization of the B2C marketplace platform your high priority.
Think of a user-friendly mobile design for your B2C platform. Enable users to purchase goods from their smartphones and tablets quickly and conveniently. This way, you will make the buyer's experience smooth and straightforward.
Things that deserve your special attention:
- Easy and intuitive navigation of your B2C e-commerce marketplace;
- Easy checkout process. It is advisable to break it into several steps;
- Digital wallets such as ApplePay and GooglePay;
- Fast-loading cross-platform PWA website, which can work as a great alternative to native mobile apps.
Speaking about Codica’s experience, we always recommend our clients to focus on the mobile-first approach. Therefore, all the web products we deliver are Progressive web apps by default.
For example, one of our recent projects is an insurance progressive web app we have built for Babel Cover. Thanks to the PWA technology, we have helped our customer to launch quickly and save costs on mobile app development.
10. Efficient techniques to promote your B2C marketplace
The work on the online marketplace platform does not stop after its launch. You should constantly invent creative ways to attract users to the marketplace to grow your business.
Here you can find some of the most efficient promotion strategies that will help you to grow your online presence and acquire new customers.
Today B2C brands actively use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to interact with their audience. They publish product promos, hold contests, announce the launch of new goods or services. Businesses build a community of loyal customers this way.
Social media promotion of your B2C e-commerce platform offers an easy way to interact with your customers and grow their engagement.
After launching a B2C marketplace platform, you start looking for simple, efficient, and cost-effective ways to attract more users to your platform. Email marketing satisfies all those requirements.
However, with a brand-new marketplace, you should grow your email list first. For this purpose, you can provide users with some valuable resources (a video course, PDF, guide) in exchange for their email addresses.
Search Engine Optimization
All content on your online B2C marketplace such as product descriptions, titles, images should be SEO optimized. Thus, your platform will rank higher in search results and receive better chances to be spotted by real customers.
How Codica can help you with B2C marketplace development?
Since 2015, Codica has been helping customers grow their B2C marketplace business with stable and powerful web solutions.
We are proud that our hard work and dedication to customers' success are duly appreciated. Thus, Clutch listed us among Top Developers by Clutch in 2019 and 2020.
We understand the importance of mobile-friendly design. For this reason, all the marketplaces our team builds are progressive web applications by default.
Besides, we take care of the security and reliability of the products we create. The most advanced technology stack that includes Ruby, Ruby on Rails, React, and Vue.js allows us to develop solutions that correspond to the latest web standards.
Our works: Multi-vendor vehicle marketplace
Over the years, we have successfully delivered many e-commerce projects for a number of domains.
One of the e-commerce projects our team is proud of is the first vehicle marketplace in Africa. This automotive marketplace allows users to buy and sell cars, motorbikes, and trucks online. The platform consists of 86+ fully customizable websites and is fast-loading and optimized for mobile devices.
We have specified all points that you should consider before building a B2C marketplace. We discussed B2C meaning, defined the common revenue models and features. Equipped with this valuable information, you stand a good chance to launch a successful B2C marketplace.
For inspiration, take a look at examples of marketplace websites that Codica team delivered for clients from all over the world.