10 features of the best online marketplaces

Do you want to sell items — along with other companies who share that passion — like home decor, handmade items, collectibles, vintage items? Dreaming of creating your own ecommerce marketplace, either from scratch or by building on the ecommerce-business fire you’re kindling with your ecommerce website? Or strengthening your fledgling retail marketplace site as you’re ramping up to include more stores and generate higher online sales?

Either way, you can’t go wrong by taking a moment to review your site functionality and ensure that you have all the requisite features you need to woo the right online stores and compete among popular marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, Alibaba, Rakuten, Etsy, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace. And remember, the biggest online marketplaces — the celebrated front runners — are only the tip of the online marketplace iceberg that’s submerged in the rising ecommerce-market seas.

Global marketplaces are going places

According to Digital Commerce 360, in 2022, the top 100 online global marketplaces were the source of more than 55% of all global ecommerce spending.

So your marketplace will be in good company; that much we know. You’ll likely have the ability to reach a larger target audience for your online sellers and add incremental revenue to your mix — something a regular ecommerce site can’t duplicate. You’ll be able to add more products while outsourcing your fulfillment and inventory processes.

There’s lots to like about the prospect of growing your marketplace site and customer base.

The question is, will your budding digital marketplace gain market share?

That proposition rests on how well you can provide rewarding customer experiences, plus win over your other contingent — your sellers — with a usable, secure platform and shopping and selling experience.

Here are 10 components of winning marketplace sites that you’ll want to consider integrating in your budding platform to herald strong growth.

Priorities of top online marketplaces

1. A welcoming environment for sellers

Easy onboarding

Sellers have lots of options for online business selling, so you want to make a good impression with them from the first moment they show interest. What’s it like for prospective sellers to come aboard your marketplace and jump through the hoops to set up their storefront and sell products on your platform? 

One way to ward off issues is to create a “home page” of sorts that spells out details for small businesses and large alike. You might also include FAQ, for instance, what are the listing fees, selling fees, transaction fees, commission fees, and final value fees? 

You want to warmly engage your third-party sellers, providing clear direction for all their onboarding steps. Investing effort in creating how-to videos on processes like creating product listings for complicated content can go a long way in helping your newbie sellers figure out how to create their catalog, list products, put together promotional banners, and set up any available automation to help them easily sell online and generate impressive ecommerce sales.

Streamlined order management

Have you assessed how well your marketplace’s order management system rates with sellers? They should be able to interactively track product status and other data in one place, perhaps with a user-friendly dashboard.

2. Well-designed pages

Attractive category pages

If your marketplace site is big enough to amass product categories, you need product category pages that let shoppers survey some of your vendors’ listings and start searching or browsing for items (by type, e.g., “jeans”) or filtering by attributes such as “men’s flip flops”.

Complete product-detail pages

There’s nothing worse than a prospective customer clicking through an ecommerce company’s site to a product-detail page, only to see that needed information, such as clothing measurements, is missing. A shopper should not have to waste time messaging the seller to get item details — everything should be up front, and every possible question should be anticipated. Part of that is obviously the seller’s responsibility, but as a platform owner, you can also provide the operational structure to encourage completeness.  

In that spirit, do your marketplace product-detail pages include these components that make life easy for marketplace sellers, as well as the shoppers who will directly benefit from the painstaking detail?

  • An easy-to-use listing template
  • The ability to save a draft of a listing
  • An area for listing specifications
  • The ability to add how-to videos
  • Reviews and ratings functionality
  • The ability to search within review content
  • The option of showing answers provided to customer questions
  • Item-comparison functionality
  • Upselling recommendations

3. Personalization for shoppers

With personalized content now a digital-marketing phenomenon that’s firmly entrenched in the ecommerce mainstream, it’s no surprise that a majority of customers — 74% — find it frustrating when content has not been tailored to reflect their needs or interests.

What would the potential customers on your marketplace site think of the quality of the personalization — things like intuitive recommendations and search results that reflect interests they’ve revealed earlier?

If they’d rate it as anything less than five stars, you have an opportunity to make up some ground, not just for ensuring their well-being on your site and keeping them engaged in their online shopping journeys but for the improved ROI metrics of your sellers and your overall success as a marketplace. 

4. Smart search

As with stand-alone online retailer sites, with marketplaces, shoppers typically head initially for the search bar. The challenge: helping shoppers quickly find items can be daunting because there’s just soo much data on a marketplace site. There are potentially millions of SKUs (at least on sites like Amazon Marketplace), organized in hundreds of categories, with loads of product descriptions and images; plus the addition of user-generated content such as reviews.

Thanks to recent developments in artificial intelligence for search applications, marketplace site owners can make it easier for their shoppers to zero in on what they need fast. AI search not only increases conversion and improves ROI, it gives you a competitive advantage by fending off shopper frustration and thereby helping vendors sell more items. As the leading contender in this area, Algolia utilizes a new technology called NeuralSearch for marketplace-site applications; it combines AI and traditional keyword search in a single API.

Search options: voice and image

Are you allowing your marketplace shoppers to search in every possible way they might want to use? The convenience of speaking search queries has been catching on lately. An estimated 25% of people voice search using their mobile devices, and much of what they’re doing on their mobiles is, of course, shopping. Another recently streamlined search method is pasting an image in a search box to match up with a similar item for sale. 

5. “Thoughtful” product recommendations

Never underestimate the power of personalized recommendations generated by data about your marketplace user behavior and purchase history. Marketplace websites, with their many, many items, can appear voluminous, which brings us to the importance of recommendations.

With the right machine-learning-generated recommendations, shoppers often discover new items they want to add to their existing purchases. In fact, product recommendations function as the key driver of a higher average order value, according to 54% of retailers in one survey. So whether your marketplace revenue goals specifically target higher cart values, higher conversion, or better retention, you can put your best platform forward and get impressive results with smart recommendations. 

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6. Business-team autonomy

Is your merchandising team continually tied up with managing the nuts and bolts of ongoing promotions? You can free them to spend more time launching promotional campaigns and reacting to the latest marketplace trends. You can let them merchandise specific keywords or category pages in just a few clicks, without the need to involve IT. How? With an intuitive merchandising studio that lets you track how shoppers are reacting to strategies in real time, as well as easily evaluate A/B tests and monitor critical KPIs.

7. Easy shopper checkout

You’re probably aware that your marketplace needs first-rate electronic checkout. That means  offering shoppers a variety of services, such as different payment options, secure authentication, the ability to instantly cancel a purchase, straightforward shipping costs, and no-hassle refunds. Beyond that, things get complicated. There’s the requirement to expediently pay all your sellers, and with each seller payment, simultaneously collect your marketplace use fee. And payments, especially those that cross the borders of different countries, may be subject to a slew of regulations.

How can you guarantee seamless checkout functionality for your vendors, as well? Some marketplace software has the payment-processing piece already covered. If that’s not your first choice, then you can select a third-party provider that caters to marketplace platforms.

8. Optimization for mobile

Are your marketplace app features ready for viewing in shoppers’ mobile browsers? As Android smartphone and Apple iOS models keep grabbing more global market share, mobiles are becoming our primary computing devices, accounting for 61% of marketplace sales. One component to perfect on mobile is search; for instance, how will your mobile marketplace shoppers’ search results appear on their tiny screens?

9. Opportunities to review and rate

When it comes to online selling, consumers’ trust of sellers is a commodity that vendors must establish and continually strive to cultivate. One way to garner trust is by being transparent: allowing buyers to share all their opinions and ratings, positive or negative. If nothing else, an abundance of active users’ reviews indicates a flurry of buying activity. Of course, your revenue is likely to skyrocket with an abundance of glowing 5-star reviews — one of the most comforting forms of social proof. Added bonus: user reviews supply plenty of positive content for search engines to pull up and show to additional prospective buyers.

10. A strong social-media presence

Looking for a way to get the word to the masses about your marketplace site? The proven and obvious method for ecommerce sites ranging from small individual companies to multivendor conglomerates is, of course, social media.

People love to show off things they’ve bought and converse (sometimes at length) about them with other people in their voluminous online social circles. And then there are heavy-hitting influencers. With the right ones reaching their fan bases with genuinely glowing endorsements of your marketplace sellers’ items, the big winners will be them and you.

One way to start is by including social-media posting buttons for networking websites like LinkedIn and Reddit on your marketplace pages.

Is your marketplace going places?

Consider yourself hereby armed with the power of knowledge that can duly transform your marketplace site. If you could do just one thing on this top-ten list, which one would it be? 

Better search functionality arguably has the best potential to upgrade your marketplace user experience and impact your selling platform’s bottom line. 

How can you quickly upgrade the search functionality for your marketplace ecommerce platform? Algolia’s AI-powered solution can help your business maximize the speed of search and discovery while sidestepping the pain of relevance tuning through AI. With Algolia, the process of shoppers accessing the right content and products on marketplace websites has never been faster or more intuitive.

Contact our team today about how we can equip you with these proven tools to take your marketplace nowhere but up!

About the authorCatherine Dee

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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