Starting a marketplace: Build vs Buy decision


Time to market

Having well-functioning marketplace software is an absolute must for achieving success as a platform. In that regard, the “build vs buy” consideration is an important choice when starting a marketplace. Will you build your own platform from scratch or leverage existing SaaS software such as Mirakl or Marketplacer? Below, we outline four essential factors to launch a thriving marketplace.

Indeed, launching a successful marketplace on your own is possible but not an easy task. From the start, you need to ensure that your minimum viable product (MVP) is stable and complete, including all the necessary features. This requires time and expertise that can potentially disrupt your budget or timeline. What if you launch the marketplace too quickly or it doesn’t work properly? Experience shows that momentum is crucial when launching a marketplace as many sellers want to join right from the beginning. If the system performs poorly, sellers may leave, and they often won’t return. As a company, it’s important to make a well-thought-out decision. In any case, the choice between DIY (Do-It-Yourself) or a SaaS solution can have significant consequences for your business, both in the short and long term.

Build vs. Buy 4
Source: Mirakl

Knowledge and expertise

If you want to turn your marketplace into a true success story, you need to have the necessary knowledge and expertise. You see, specific skills and know-how are required. Before you know it, you may face technical challenges for which you have no answer. What about commissions? How does the financial aspect of the sellers work? How do you adapt or implement existing processes and workflows? These are just a few questions that may cross your path. Without experience and knowledge, you will stumble upon these questions after the launch. By utilizing SaaS software, certain decisions have already been standardized or are at least easily adjustable. This allows you to anticipate these obstacles before they become problems. Additionally, by engaging experienced consultants, you can avoid making incorrect choices during the development process. Such a partner can elevate your marketplace to a higher level and ensure flawless integration, both operationally and technically.

Functionality and Scalability

When launching an online marketplace, your product range may grow from a few thousand to millions of items. Don’t panic; this scalability is one of the advantages of a marketplace. However, you need to consider the fact that your data will also exponentially increase. Where will you store that data? How will you manage and analyze it? How do you ensure that systems remain stable and don’t go offline during peak moments? By working with a SaaS partner like Mirakl, these problems are already solved before they arise. The SaaS partner will handle the data and statistics, giving your business time and space to achieve better performance and results. Another aspect to consider is the management of the seller and customer experience. For example, how will you handle returns, taxes, or payments? How will you communicate new insights or adjustments to your sellers? By using SaaS software, all the important modules and insights are already available. If you were to handle all of this yourself, you would waste a significant amount of time and money.

Costs and risks

Once your marketplace is launched, you will need to allocate resources for its maintenance, both in terms of personnel and budget. On the other hand, if you collaborate with a partner, you can outsource the majority of these responsibilities. Take Mirakl as an example. They ensure continuous maintenance and improvements, keeping your marketplace up to date. Additionally, a marketplace can help you manage risks. How so? Well, with more external sellers, there are increased risks to your brand image. Therefore, you will need to establish and uphold clear quality standards. With solutions like Mirakl, you can set parameters yourself, and if these are exceeded, a seller’s assortment can be automatically taken offline. This way, you maintain control over the marketplace.

Build vs. Buy 2
Source: Mirakl

In summary, building an online marketplace from scratch is not a straightforward task. It requires significant resources, both in terms of funding and personnel. Even if you have the necessary expertise in-house, the process can be lengthy, and you risk falling behind the competition in the meantime. Engaging an expert partner, on the other hand, is a sensible choice. For a “standard” B2C marketplace, we see that there are already many well-developed SaaS solutions available, making it rarely worthwhile to embark on a self-built marketplace. However, in certain scenarios, it may still be beneficial, so it’s important to seek proper advice. The experienced marketplace specialists at Operai can assist you in this regard.

More information on starting your own marketplace?