Multi-vendor online shops, aka marketplaces, are gold mines when done right. The big dogs are Etsy and Ebay, but you can find popular niche multi-vendor sites such as ThemeForest or ArtPal. The idea behind multi-vendor sites is to allow people, or companies, to create profiles and post their products for sale.
When customers come to your multi-vendor site they can pick one item from John Q web designer and another from Company XYZ and it is all processed through the same shopping cart. The multi-vendor payment processing system divides the payments behind the two vendors and everyone goes home happy. This ecosystem of people creating and selling in one place helps the customer find a more diverse set of products, and you, the site owner can make some big bucks through fees.
Unfortunately some of the more popular ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Squarespace are not able to provide multi-vendor interfaces for you. So, it’s time we put together the ultimate list of multi-vendor online shops for you to create a wonderful community and potentially make some big bucks. Let’s have a look.
Pricing: $1450 (lifetime) or $590/year
CS.Cart is a popular and powerful ecommerce software that allows you to run your site off of your own server, improving security and giving you complete control over your content and maintenance procedures. The standard packages from CS.Cart don’t let you make a multi-vendor site, but luckily the company provides a completely separate package for making this happen.
This is wonderful news since you don’t have to integrate a separate plugin – it’s all packaged into one nice platform. It’s a little more costly compared to the Magento add-on, but it tends to even out when you start thinking about the Magento licensing fees. Overall, the CS.Cart Multi-Vendor platform provides a sleek, single storefront for vendors to make profiles and sell products.
Customers can place products from multiple vendors in their shopping carts, and you can have an unlimited number of vendor accounts. Not to mention, the vendor admin area allows vendor-specific shipping methods, payout recording and powerful product display tools.
WordPress with the Marketify Theme
Pricing: WordPress is free, and Marketify is $63
A somewhat quicker way to implement a multi-vendor system is by using the WordPress platform, paired with the Marketify Theme, which is much easier for beginners since you just setup WordPress, implement the theme and start building the site from there. I like this method, since the theme is affordable, and you receive plenty of support from the theme creator.
The theme integrates well with Easy Digital Downloads (see my EDD review), for selling downloadable products, and your users can login with their social accounts to expedite the entire process. Ratings and review functionality is available for customers, and some beautiful video and audio previews are included for helping customers make decisions. Overall, I’d say this multi-vendor option works well for any type of business, and although it may require a little technical knowledge, it’s not that hard to learn how to upload a theme onto a WordPress site.
Pricing: $349, not including your Magento licensing
Magento is an open source platform, similar to something like WordPress, except it focuses primarily on ecommerce, and it is certainly one of the best ways to build an online store, particularly a multi-vendor one. You can’t simply allow multiple vendors through your website without the help of an extension. That extension is the Marketplace Multi-Vendor Module, which lets you convert a pre-existing Magento site into a multi-vendor marketplace.
With the extension you can offer separate seller profiles for the vendors to login and manage their own content. The sellers can modify various items in their profiles such as logos, images, media, product collections and feedback. I particularly like that the extension lets you provide different commissions to every vendor. This offering requires a little cash upfront, but it’s actually reasonably priced for the amount of features that come along with it. It’s also rather easy to setup compared to some other options like or IXXO.
Pricing: For small-scale startups $250, Go Quick $999, Go Custom $5999
Yo!Kart is one of the lesser known multi-vendor platforms, but it pulls its weight as a viable competitor. The intuitive interface is fully customizable, and it provides easy navigation for vendors and admins alike. Yo!Kart has a nice vendor profile area where people can upload products, modify listings and change pricing. All changes are first sent to you, the moderator, before anything is published on the site.
An interesting feature is where the buyers are not shown the vendor details while shopping. I figure this might have something to do with preventing any unfair treatment of certain vendors. Anonymity could possibly serve some vendors well. Similar to most other options in this article, the Yo!Kart system lets customers place orders from multiple vendors in the shopping cart.
Pricing: $39 per month to $239 per month
Sharetribe is intriguing because the system is built solely to help people create marketplace (multi-vendor) websites. They don’t mess around with standard ecommerce sites, so you can rest easy knowing they focus on this one area.
The initial starter package lets you have up to 300 members, and if you pay for the highest package you can manage up to 100,000 members. What’s cool is that you don’t have to stick to the normal sales strategy. Rather, Sharetribe allows rentals, services and more. The setup only takes a few minutes, and the global payments are good for accepting just about any credit card or online payment system like PayPal.
Users create listings and manage their own profiles, with features for including photos, pricing, location and product information. The white label design is nice for attracting vendors, since they can upload their own logos, and the messaging and order management system is perfect for vendors to keep in contact with customers.
X-cart delivers tools to small and large businesses that require an ecommerce platform. The package we’re focusing on today is called Multi-vendor, and it allows vendors to sell multiple products through your one storefront. All customers are able to place products from multiple vendors in a single shopping cart, and the vendors can view orders, change shipping methods and assign products to different categories.
The website admin can set up shipping protocols, modify any product in the marketplace and register new vendors. the idea behind the admin interface is to give you full control over everything that goes on in your shop. It’s a rather powerful platform, and I can see businesses of any size using this with success.
Drupal is an open source content management system, similar to WordPress, where you can build a blog or website and start publishing your own content to sell items online. Standing alone, Drupal does not give you the functionality to make a multi-vendor site; however the Ubercart Marketplace Module changes that.
The unfortunate part about using Drupal and Ubercart is that it requires some website development knowledge, since it’s not an out-of-the-box product for beginners without design experience. That said, the Ubercart module provides strong tools and profile management centers for both vendors and admins. Sellers are allowed to track and fulfill orders and look at their own sales reports. It even works with PayPal Mass Payments for distributing payments to vendors.
Pricing: $159.90 for the extension
Opencart, the open source shopping cart solution, works wonders for standard online stores, but can it serve you well when designing a marketplace? It sure can, but it requires the Multi-vendor/Drop Shipper extension.
This provides a secure dashboard for all of your vendors, and you can manage the products from every single seller on the marketplace. The quick monthly payment feature is a nice touch, and the vendors even receive automatic email notifications when a buyer pays. As another open source solution, Opencart requires a little technical knowledge, but it works for all business sizes.
WordPress Paired with TheCartPress and Marketplace eCommerce
Pricing: $99 for the Marketplace eCommerce add-on. WordPress and CartPress are free.
WordPress, the open source content management system, provides a free method for people to build a website and start selling products. However, a simple WordPress site is not sufficient for making a multi-vendor marketplace. You also need TheCartPress and the Marketplace eCommerce add-on.
The add-on offers some lightweight marketplace tools, and it strives to make the experience similar to Etsy. That said, this requires three technological components, meaning that it’s more complicated that a more cookie-cutter platform. If you are pressed for cash, this is an ideal option, but you need someone with at least a little development knowledge to make it happen. If you have a team member to help you out, WordPress is wonderful for scaling up your marketplace website.
Pricing: From $295 to $1495
The IXXO Multi-Vendor tool ranges drastically in price, depending on which features you want, but it’s important to know that this system works well on open source platforms like WordPress and Joomla. The system seems fairly powerful, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s an out-of-the-box solution. You have to host the multi-vendor site on your own servers, which is nice for ownership and security reasons, but it requires some tech knowledge.
The cool thing is that you can run the system as a standalone store or integrate it with something like WordPress. Users can buy products from multiple vendors in a single order, and the vendors have tons of cool features such as choosing shipping methods, picking from product templates and creating tax rules based on product classes and location.
Pricing: The module is $144
We’ve talked about PrestaShop in the past, and as a standalone ecommerce solution it isn’t nearly as good as Shopify or Squarespace. However, the company has made drastic changes and you can now run your site from an online interface and play around with some nifty design tools.
In order to make a marketplace website you must integrate your PrestaShop store with the Agile Multiple Seller module, which allows numerous sellers to list their own products, while the admin manages the whole system. This module provides most of the standard features you would expect, but it’s a little watered down compared to options like Sharetribe or Magento. One standout feature is the three payment collection mode, where you can allow sellers to collect payment, have the admin collect payment or have the payments split between admins and sellers.
If you have any questions about the best multi-vendor sites we just outlined above, drop a line in the comments section below. Websites that find a solid niche, and allow artists and business people in that niche to reach customers, is the next big thing in online commerce. Share your stories if you’ve successfully implemented a multi-vendor shop.