How to Start a Marketplace Website Using WordPress

Do you dream of becoming the next Jeff Bezos and launching your very own version of Amazon?

Amazon first started out selling books and has become the largest eCommerce brand in the world, generating over $386 billion in 2020.

Now, with the evolution of technology, it’s never been easier to create and launch your own multi-vendor marketplace.

In this post, I’ll show you how to make a marketplace website using WordPress and a few plugins.

Let’s dive in.

How to Make a Marketplace Website Using WordPress

To make your very own marketplace website, these are the steps you’ll need to follow:

  • Choose a niche and domain name

  • Get web hosting and install WordPress

  • Install WooCommerce

  • Choose a multi-vendor marketplace plugin

  • Customize your marketplace settings

  • Invite vendors to sell on your marketplace

The advantage of using tools like WordPress, WooCommerce, and some free plugins is the low startup costs.

Because these tools and plugins are free or have free versions, the only costs incurred are the domain name and web hosting, which can be a little as $20 to get started.

The low startup costs won’t sacrifice the potential of your marketplace, either.

As of the time of writing, 43% of all websites are powered by WordPress. And there are over 1 million websites using WooCommerce, which is double the amount of Shopify powered sites.

The bottom line is that you can start a marketplace website using WordPress for very little cost and increase your budget as your business grows. There’s really no limit to what you can create with WordPress.

Let’s take a closer look at each step when building a successful marketplace website.

1. Choose Your Niche

The last thing you want to do is go head-to-head with stores like Amazon and eBay. For a good chance of success with your marketplace, you’ll want to niche down into a vertical market.

Vertical markets offer a specific range of products that fulfill the needs of a specific market audience.

Where Amazon falls into a horizontal market category, offering every product under the sun, Etsy falls into the vertical market of handmade gifts and personalized craft products.

Finding your own niche among the big players is great for becoming the go to authority in your market.

Further more, if you have expertise in a product category, you have an advantage of offering a better service no generalized store can match.

To get started defining your niche, you can follow these steps:

  1. Browse Amazon’s bestsellers’ list to see which categories have a proven record

  2. Use Google suggest to find obscure and untapped niches that will get you thinking outside the box

  3. See what’s trending with Google Trends

  4. Conduct keyword research with the best keyword research tools

If you’re overwhelmed with choice, the best way to discover the right niche for you is to get involved in online communities to find out what people want.

Searching the most visited Wikipedia pages under hobbies or browsing the most active subreddits is a great place to start.

Niche research can take some time, but the best insights will be gained from those invested in the market who are aware of the pain points and actively seeking solutions.

2. Pick a Domain Name

Branding your marketplace should reflect the niche you’re in and the products you want to offer.

Choosing the right domain name for your new business venture shouldn’t be an oversight, but it doesn’t have to take weeks or months either.

To find a brandable domain name, it’s a good idea to pair two words together that complement each other. Using an adjective with a verb or noun will usually do the trick.

You can use Thesaurus.com to create lists of words that best describe your niche or products, then use tools like Domain Name Soup, Wordoid, or BatName to help you come up with brandable word combinations.

Some of these tools will even show you if the domain is available.

If you want to expand your marketplace website into other niches when your business grows, avoid choosing a domain that’s too specific.

For example, say your niche is “dogs” and you want to sell “dog toys” and help other sellers list similar items. If you struggle with this niche, but your domain name is caninetoys.com, you’re very limited to shift the niche into other products for dogs.

Likewise, if your online marketplace does well and you want to branch out into other products like kennels or dog food (or even other animals), your domain will no longer reflect the products you list, which isn’t ideal for branding.

A better domain name that won’t limit your growth would be something like caninecavern.com or furryfriends.com if you want to expand even further. You can still niche down to begin with and branch into other categories later.

Another option for choosing your domain name that could also give you an SEO boost is to buy an aged domain. A service like ODYS is a great place to find branded domains that already have domain authority and a backlink profile.

When you have the perfect domain name for your marketplace website, you can purchase it at Namecheap for less than $10 per year.

3. Get Web Hosting

Once you’ve chosen your niche and bought a domain name, you’re ready to sign up with a decent web host.

Really, any hosting will do in the beginning. For a cheap option, you can go with Bluehost, but if you want to go straight for the best, Kinsta or BigScoots are more premium options.

You can read our article on the best WordPress hosting for a more detailed comparison.

4. Install WordPress

Whichever hosting provider you choose, they make installing WordPress a breeze.

When you sign up with Bluehost, you can launch a WordPress installation with a couple of clicks from within your dashboard:

Bluehost

Kinsta has a similar process. With a few clicks and filling out some details about your site, your WordPress installation will be complete in a few minutes:

Kinsta

And with BigScoots, log into your cPanel and choose WordPress from the App Installer. Select the options on screen and you’re done:

BigScoots

If you need to connect your hosting account to your domain name, you’ll find your nameservers inside your hosting dashboard, which look something like ns1.bigscoots.com and ns2.bigscoots.com, or ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com for Bluehost.

Add these nameservers to your domain registrar and save your settings:

Namecheap

Sometimes it can take an hour before your domain will be live, but most web hosts these days offer a temporary domain name while you wait.

Access your WordPress installation from your hosting account and log into your admin. From here, you’ll be able to configure your WordPress settings, add pages, and choose a marketplace wordpress theme.

To get started with your online marketplace, head over to the plugins section to install WooCommerce.

5. Install WooCommerce Plugin

WooCommerce is a shopping cart plugin for WordPress. It adds functionality for adding products to your site, adding payment processing, user accounts, and all the relevant pages.

Type WooCommerce in the search bar and click install:

Activate the plugin and follow the setup wizard:

 

The setup wizard will ask for your business address, industry type, types of products you want to sell, and a choice of themes.

All the shopping cart pages will be created automatically. As soon as you’ve customized your store settings you can list your own products to sell.

To add marketplace functionality so other people can sell on your platform, continue onto the next step.

6. Choose a Multi-vendor Marketplace Plugin

There are several options to choose from when starting a marketplace site and I have included a list at the end of this article.

In this example, I’ll be using the Dokan Multi-vendor Marketplace plugin for WooCommerce, created by weDevs.

It’s one of the most popular marketplace plugins for WordPress with over 70,000 active users and some impressive features in its free version.

To get started, head over to your plugins inside WordPress and search for Dokan:

Install and activate the plugin and you’ll see another setup wizard to guide you through creating your marketplace:

7. Your Marketplace Settings

Fill out your marketplace store settings by following the steps in the wizard. Chose your commission structure between a flat rate or based on percentage:

The next step lets you select vendor withdrawal methods between PayPal or bank transfer, set a minimum withdrawal limit, and when withdrawals can be made:

Once the setup wizard is complete, you can look at further settings from the left-hand menu in the WordPress dashboard:

It’s recommended to go through each of the settings thoroughly to set up how your vendors stores will work, how they can best serve their customers and how you can provide your sellers the best experience.

8. Choose a WooCommerce Theme

Most WooCommerce themes work great with Dokan. I’m going to use Store Front by WooCommerce because it’s an easy WordPress theme to set up, and it’s free.

Install and activate Store Front from the theme directory, click Store Front from the options, then select the two check boxes and click Let’s Go to configure the theme:

This will set up your shop home page and import some example products, which helps you get an idea of what your site will look like when products are added.

You can configure more settings, such as adding a logo, choose an accent color, and button color in the theme customizer:

Next, you’ll need to add a custom navigation menu for customers to browse products and so your vendors can access their store.

Go to Appearance > Menus and add a new menu. You’ll want to add a link to the three pages; Shop that lists all the products; Store List for visitors to browse different vendors’ stores; and Dashboard for vendors to manage their store:

I’ve renamed the Dashboard link to My Shop, so it makes more sense to everyone visiting the site. Now when someone clicks on the My Shop link, they can either login to their dashboard or create their own store:

9. Vendor Registration and Dashboard

Let’s register as a vendor now and set up a store so you can see the process. On the Account page, I’ve selected “I am a vendor” to see all the fields required to create a store:

 

Each seller who creates a store with your marketplace will then go through a setup wizard to complete the sign up process:

They will need to add their business address and PayPal address to receive payments. Once complete, they will be redirected to their sellers’ dashboard:

If you as the marketplace owner, browse to your Dokan Dashboard, you’ll see that a new vendor has signed up:

10. Vendor Product Creation

Now I’ll show you how your sellers can add their own products to their store.

From their Dashboard, they click on the Products menu item and click the Add New Product button:

Then, they’ll see a popup where they can give the product a title and description and add a product image:

Vendors can then view the product settings page, where they can choose a product category, tags, long description, control inventory details like SKU and stock quantity:

11. Approving Vendors Products

Before a seller’s product can show up on your marketplace, you’ll have to approve them from the products page:

Visitors to your marketplace can then view and add the product to their checkout:

 

Before customers can purchase products, you’ll need to set up shipping and a payment gateway. Let’s do that now.

12. Vendor Shipping

In WooCommerce > Settings > Shipping, I’ve added two shipping methods. Free when customer orders total over $20 and a Flat Rate of $1.80 below that price:

Now customers can get free shipping when their order is over $20 or pay a small fee when less:

13. Payment Gateway

In the free version of Dokan, you’ll need to use the standard Stripe and PayPal gateways, which require sending vendors their store sales manually.

That’s because all payments arrive in the Stripe and PayPal account of the marketplace owner when using the standard plugins. To set things up so all vendors’ money arrives in their own accounts automatically, it might be worth upgrading to the pro version. More on that soon.

To use the standard Stripe plugin, search for Stripe on the plugins page and activate the plugin:

You’ll need to create a Stripe account and then add your API keys from Stripe into the plugin settings:

Once you have a payment gateway set up, customers can then make purchases on your marketplace.

Then a vendor can check their orders, prepare the products they sell, and ship them to the customer:

14. Vendor Payments

Once sellers have sent the product and the customer is satisfied, they can mark the order as complete:

Then sellers can make a withdrawal request from their sellers’ dashboard and click on withdraw:

Their withdrawal amount will show at the top and they can request money whenever they want, as long as it meets the minimum withdrawal amount set by the marketplace owner.

After a vendor makes a withdrawal request, you can view all the requests from the Dokan dashboard and send their money to the PayPal account they have on file:

Once you send a vendors payment, you can click on Approve to let them know it has been paid.

That covers the entire process of making a marketplace website with WordPress and the free version of Dokan.

As mentioned, Dokan offers a lot more premium features in their pro versions. Read on to learn more.

15. Dokan Pro Features

With Dokan Lite, it is possible to make a marketplace website and offer your sellers a platform for them to sell their products.

The only major cons with the free version are:

  • Manual only payments – The marketplace owner has to manually pay each vendor with every request
  • Shipping – Vendors might want to set their own shipping rates as the products they sell differ from other sellers. Shipping can only be set by the marketplace owner at a fixed price for all vendors in the free version

These are the biggest drawbacks in the free version, which Dokan Pro solves with this set of features:

  • Stripe Connect – Vendors connect their store to their own Stripe account and payments are sent directly to them

  • Vendor Shipping Management – Vendors can set their own shipping prices for their customers

  • Subscriptions – Charge vendors a subscription fee to sell on your marketplace

  • Multiple Commission Types – You can charge a percentage of each sale and a fixed fee for every transaction

  • Vendor Coupons – Allow your sellers to offer their own coupons

  • Social Login & Registration – Users can sign up or login with their social media account

  • Vendor Reviews – Customers can leave vendor reviews

As you can see, Dokan offers a lot more when you upgrade. You can start out with the free version and upgrade when you’re ready.

Get Dokan Here

3 More WordPress Marketplace Plugins to Consider

So far, I showed you how to build your marketplace site with Dokan, but there are other options available.

Each of these plugins works with WooCommerce and offers similar features to build and grow a successful marketplace site.

1. WC Vendors Marketplace

WC Vendors Marketplace is another popular plugin to power your marketplace website with WordPress.

Like others on this list, it turns your WooCommerce store into a multi-vendor platform for other online retailers to sell their products on your website.

It allows you to build any kind of marketplace website you like, similar to Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, or Envato.

Specifically, WC Vendors have been used for:

You can offer your sellers a subscription based membership where they pay a recurring fee to sell on your platform, a commission based structure so you earn a percentage of each sale, or both models together.

WC Vendors Marketplace has a free and paid version so you can test it out and upgrade to more pro features when the time is right.

Premium addons can be purchased as separate plugins or as bundles to save you money. Plugins start from $89 and bundles from $200+ per yearly subscription.

Try WC Vendors Here

2. WCFM Marketplace

WCFM Marketplace by WC Lovers is another free marketplace plugin for WooCommerce with over 30,000 active users.

With extensive features offered in their free version, you can set up and run your marketplace website and upgrade to their premium addons when required.

WCFM offers a powerful search feature for shoppers looking for a specific product or seller, a wide range of commission structures for paying vendors, flexible shipping options, and tons of compatible payment gateways.

What’s good about WCFM is that they have a lot of free addon plugins that extend the basic features.

If you want something simple or advanced, you can choose which features you need by plugin, instead of having unused features in one plugin.

For the ultimate setup, you can grab these premium addons for $168:

  • Ultimate upgrade

  • Group & Staff addons

  • Affiliate addon

  • Delivery addon

  • Product HUB addon

  • Analytics addon

You can purchase these as a bundle for a big discount or individually if you want to enhance your marketplace capabilities.

Try WCFM Marketplace

3. WooCommerce Product Vendors

If you’d prefer a plugin made by the same developers of WooCommerce themselves, then WooCommerce Product Vendors might be the best option for you.

Vendors can sign up to your marketplace, manage their public profile, create and set product prices, provide notes or order tracking for customers, monitor sales performance, and receive commission payouts.

For marketplace owners, you can approve new vendors, define your commission structure and payout schedule, choose commission based on percentage or a set amount, and make payments to vendors instantly, manually, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.

As with any multi-vendor marketplace plugin, you can sell your own products and display what you sell alongside other sellers on your own platform.

WooCommerce Product Vendors is a premium only plugin sold on the WooCommerce website. For $79, you get yearly support, compatibility with other WooCommerce plugins, and a 30-day refund policy for peace of mind.

Get WooCommerce Product Vendors

How to Sell Vendor Subscriptions

Now that I’ve shown you how to make a marketplace website using WordPress, it’s time to market your site so vendors can sign up and start selling on your platform.

Start a Facebook Group

Building a community on Facebook is an excellent way to engage potential customers.

For example, if your marketplace sells personalized gifts, you could start a Facebook group where you share advice on best practices, tools to use, and how to sell more items.

Many of your community members will already sell on other platforms, but if you build their trust and your platform offers better features, they will be inclined to sell on your marketplace.

Run Google Ads

If you type “where to sell…” in Google, you’ll see a list of suggested keywords show up:

These are keyword that people are typing into Google to find the best places to sell their products. Then if I choose “books” from the list, you’ll see ads at the top of the results:

If you want to attract potential sellers to your platform, using Google ads is a great way to do so if you have the budget.

You can use the Google Keyword Planner to find relevant terms that people are searching for who would be a good fit to sell on your marketplace.

It doesn’t have to cost much either. You could start off with limiting your daily ad spend to just $5 per day and then bump it up once you optimize the list of keywords you’re targeting.

Using any ads platform will take some time to use effectively, but with some patience and a good strategy, it could be a great way to get your first batch of sellers.

Blog About Your Marketplace

Using Google ads, suggested in the previous step, is a great way to attract potential sellers in a relatively short period. The only problem here is that as soon as you turn your ads off, you’ll stop gaining new subscriptions.

This is where creating blog content can help you in the long run.

Remember the keywords we looked before? You can use these keywords to create articles for your website.

“Where to sell… books, furniture, Pokemon cards, beanie babies, etc,” are all suitable topics for creating content on your site.

When your site ranks for these terms over time, you’ll start getting organic traffic specifically from the people who want to sell stuff online.

Offering these visitors a discount or collecting their email can be another great way to further nurture your audience and sell more subscriptions.

Conclusion

That concludes how to make a marketplace website using WordPress and the best plugins to use.

I showed you the exact steps using the free version of Dokan, but there are other options to consider, such as WC Vendors Marketplace and WCFM Marketplace.

Starting a marketplace doesn’t have to be hard, with the right strategy, choosing a good niche, and building a community of enthusiastic sellers, your ecommerce business can be a tremendous success.

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