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Marketplace Best Practices
July 19, 2022

How To Build a Multi-Vendor Marketplace MVP

Lindy Singer
Lindy Singer
Head of Marketing

So, you have a great idea for a multi-vendor marketplace, but it's only an idea. How do you prove your idea can turn into a successful business? You need to develop a marketplace minimum viable product (MVP).

Building a marketplace MVP allows you to validate your idea, receive user feedback, and make improvements through an initial marketplace offering with enough features to attract early adopters.

There are a lot of choices to make for building version 0.1 of your marketplace.

Do you reach out to developers to code it? Do you use low or no-code tools? Do you use a platform?

How do you decide what's best for you?

We'll walk you through options on what works best to get your multi-vendor MVP up and running.

What is a Marketplace MVP?

First things first—what's an MVP? The marketplace MVP is a stripped-down version of your marketplace that focuses on the core functionality

It has the essential features customers need, but with the bare minimum of bells and whistles. 

A marketplace MVP can help you determine whether there's a market for your product or service and assess what features are most important to your customers. In most cases, an MVP actually saves you money by avoiding the costs of developing unnecessary features

Whether starting a new marketplace or expanding an existing one, an MVP is necessary for your startup process.

What Do You Want to Achieve with Your Marketplace MVP?

Building a successful marketplace is no easy feat. There are many moving parts, and it can be challenging to know where to start. 

But before you start building, you need to identify your goals for this MVP: What do you hope to achieve by launching a minimum viable product? 

  • Do you want to validate your concept? 
  • Demonstrate traction to raise capital?
  • Find gaps where you need to build out a team? 

Whatever your goals may be, settling on them before you start to build will help you create a focused and successful marketplace MVP.

How Do You Build a Marketplace MVP?

As a marketplace founder, you have to decide how to launch your marketplace. Should you hire a contract developer to build your marketplace MVP? Learn how to use a low or no-code tool?

Hiring a Contract Developer or Custom Development Firm

Contracting a developer or a custom development company might be your initial gut reaction when building your marketplace MVP.

While working with a dev shop will get you the custom features you need, that's the only upside to launching an MVP custom. Additionally, isn't the point of an MVP to figure out which features are most important? If you already knew what those features were, you wouldn't need to do an MVP!

You have to understand how a marketplace functions well enough to share your needs with the firm. If the custom dev shop doesn't have years of experience building marketplaces, you'll spend time explaining the basic functionality needed for a marketplace before even getting to your specific requirements.

Contract developers and custom development firms are expensive. Are you ready to spend hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to see if you have a viable marketplace idea on your hands?

It's very unlikely that an investor will give you millions of dollars to validate your marketplace idea.

Bottom line: Building a custom MVP is expensive, time-consuming, and is not the fastest way to validate your business model.

Launching Using a Low-Code or No-Code Marketplace Tool

Your idea is so special that there can't be a turnkey platform out there to support it, right?

While it isn't likely a platform can give you 100% of the things you need for your marketplace, they can give you an incredible head start on your build with built-in marketplace best practices. When you're building a marketplace MVP, a head start and best practices are exactly what you need.

Using a low-code or no-code tool will save you money on development costs and allow you to quickly validate your business model. The learnings you get from just getting started are invaluable.

Bottom line: Launching on a no-code or low-code marketplace tool will help you validate your marketplace idea faster.

Before Deciding to Build, Learn about Low-Code & No-Code Tools

Looking into some of the most popular no-code tools and platforms for your marketplace MVP will demonstrate their capabilities and limitations. This will allow you to define your marketplace further, make tradeoffs for “nice-to-have" vs. core requirements, discover how you'll operate it, etc.

You'll probably find that no single marketplace tool will provide all of the features and functions you could want "out of the box." Some will have more, some less, but the no-code tool you choose must have sufficient features to test your marketplace concept. 

There are many "no-code marketplace platforms" or "no-code marketplace builders" on the market that aren't self-sufficient no-code platforms or tools at all. They may lack usability, support, or necessary features.

Low-code or no-code tools should only be used to launch your MVP because you'll hit hard scaling limits once your marketplace starts to take off.

Launching a Marketplace MVP Alongside Existing Business

If you're already running a business and have a large network of buyers and suppliers around your company, validating your marketplace using a multi-vendor marketplace platform is your best option.

Low-code and no-code tools are great for validation, but aren't going to be able to handle the type of scale you'll be bringing from the onset as an established business.

For new marketplaces launching without a large network, the low-code or no-code options will allow you to quickly validate with a small number of buyers and sellers. But scaling beyond MVP will be difficult.

Prepare for Scale with a Configurable Multi-Vendor Marketplace Platform

Once you've validated your marketplace and are ready to scale, it's time to invest in a multi-vendor marketplace platform.

Unlike marketplace tools that bolt on to other systems or platforms that enable simple listing marketplaces, a multi-vendor marketplace platform can power your entire marketplace from product discovery to fulfillment and returns.

You won't want to hack together a system when you've found product-market fit. Creating a messy marketplace technology stack will require you to fill gaps by hiring additional headcount, slow down your customer experience, and ultimately throttle your growth.

Use a multi-vendor marketplace platform like Nautical to get your multi-vendor platform up and running in days instead of reinventing the wheel with a custom build or backing into a marketplace on top of an ecommerce platform.

Key Takeaways

Creating a marketplace starts by building a marketplace MVP. While there are multiple ways to get going, make sure your MVP strategy aligns with your marketplace goals.

And remember, a custom-built marketplace MVP, while offering to build all the features and functionally you think that you need, is expensive and time-consuming.

Instead, validate your marketplace idea in a low-risk way using low-code or no-code tools. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

As you begin to scale out of your MVP phase, look for a multi-vendor marketplace platform like Nautical Commerce that'll allow you to focus on finding suppliers and customers for your marketplace rather than worrying about the underlying marketplace technology.

Ready to Get Started?

Nautical Commerce dashboard graphic