Online marketplace series: Launching your online marketplace
That’s it, folks – we’ve come to the last article in our online marketplace series. In this article, we’ll talk more about launching the online marketplace after you’ve got everything ready for online marketplace development.
To be precise, you’ll learn more about actually building the platform, launching the online marketplace, and finally – implementing growth strategies.
Be sure to check them out before reading through this article!
And now – let’s jump in.
Building the online marketplace
Now is the time to actually build the online marketplace.
If you’ve followed all of the steps from the previous articles in the online marketplace series, we’ve got everything you need to start building the platform.
This process can take some time, and to make this process faster and easier, there are some things you’ll want to get done first.
Now, let’s get down to specifics.
Create a specification for your platform
We can all agree that online marketplaces tend to get complex. As far as eCommerce goes, online marketplaces are the most complex.
So, to avoid the troubles of running out of time and money and prepare yourself.
You’ll want to prepare some rough specifications that will contain more information about the project itself – its goals, requirements, and some kind of timeline.
A good rule of thumb is – the more work needs to be done, the more details you’ll want to have in your specifications.
To have a better overview of the implementation process, be sure to split the whole project into small steps. Set several milestones and keep track of it on a regular basis.
And when you’re defining the specifications, you’ll want to include your defined MVP in there.
In short, MVP stands for – minimum viable product.
We can define the minimum viable product as the version of a product with just enough features to satisfy first customers and provide you with needed feedback for further development.
So, we want to launch fast!
To launch the online marketplace fast, you’ll need to include some features that you need to have in your MVP, and an approximate launch date.
The more specific you get, the better.
After you’ve defined the specifications, there are more things you’ll want to master to build an online marketplace.
Obtain basic project management skills
To turn your idea into reality, you’ll want to have some basic project management skills at your disposal.
You don’t necessarily need to be a project manager, but you’ll want to know your way around.
If you’re working with an agency (such as us), you’ll have a project manager assigned to your project who’ll keep track of everything needed to finish the project successfully.
If you still decide to do it on your own, brace yourself for some unexpected situations.
Always have a backup plan for your project in case something goes wrong – and the chances are that something unexpected will happen during the project implementation.
For instance, if you’re dealing with freelancers, they could go unresponsive and leave you for quite some time without any proper answer.
Or some estimate on a specific feature may turn out wrong and you realize it’s going to take much longer to implement everything you planned.
Launch at the right time
There are two mistakes you can make – launch too soon or launch too late.
Launching the online marketplace too late is the one mistake you’ll most definitely want to avoid.
So, as soon as your essential features are all set and you see the launch date drawing near, prepare for early user feedback and continuous testing.
It will take a while until you hit the right spot with your online marketplace, but you know the saying – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
And now comes the most exciting part of this whole process – launching the online marketplace!
Launching the online marketplace
Now, creating a website isn’t even remotely enough.
There are a few things to consider when launching the online marketplace.
First, be sure to launch the marketplace in 2 phases – soft launch and hard launch.
But before you’ve done that, you’ll want to set some plans.
Plan out your launch
The sooner you start planning, the better.
This means that you’ll have more time to spread the word about your upcoming launch and ensure a list of early users.
Your launch plan will consist of a launch timeline, your marketing efforts and messaging, and the list of all of the communication channels you’re going to use.
This largely depends on what country you’re launching in and what market you’re entering.
So, while your website is still under construction, build some excitement in your target market and ensure that you have a number of buyers and sellers right after you launch the online marketplace.
By building excitement, we mean using marketing strategies to reach out to your target users. You could use paid ads, or even reach out to them on social media.
When talking about acquiring sellers, be sure to get in touch with them directly.
By the time you’re doing a soft launch, you’ll need to already have some users who are willing to use your platform, either for selling or buying.
It’s time for a soft launch!
In the beginning, you’ll face many challenges such as numerous bugs and usability issues.
That’s why you don’t yet want your online marketplace to go public.
It’s a good idea to do a soft launch with your early users as soon as your MVP is ready.
If you’ve planned out everything right, you’ll already have a mailing list of potential users.
First, reach out to your new sellers and help them set up their stores on the marketplace.
Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Invite all of your potential buyers to check out the platform and see how they’re doing.
Test everything and shiny up your online marketplace
After your users have settled in your online marketplace, you’ll want to gather as much feedback as possible.
Contact the users directly and ask them a few questions about their experience on the platform.
Now’s the time to listen. Every bit of feedback is crucial and you’ll see what your users want to experience on your platform – and you’ll see what they don’t want to.
After the initial feedback from your soft launch, take your time to improve your online marketplace as much as possible.
An important note to make – make sure to create real relationships with your users. In the early days of your online marketplace, those loyal users will be your best promoters.
Once you’ve polished your online marketplace – it’s time to go public!
It’s time for a hard launch!
Before you go public, be sure to test everything once again.
If everything seems to work great, here you are – at the most exciting part of your online marketplace journey.
Get your whole team ready for the launch. Some unexpected issues might happen when you want it the least.
Try to make your launch an event. Get people talking about it, bring them in through webinars, Q&As, and various different activities. You’ll want your users to be excited to be one of the first ones on the platform.
And after everything starts going and users start flowing in, you’ve hit another milestone – the journey is far from over.
Go big with your online marketplace
Now’s the time to grow your online marketplace.
You’ll need the new users flowing in and the current users to keep using your platform.
Growing an online marketplace will be a bit different than growing a traditional eCommerce business.
Here, you’ll need to focus on both buyers and sellers, while the traditional eCommerce business tends to focus on buyers only.
As soon as you launch the online marketplace, you’ll want to have as many sellers as possible – and you’ll want them to keep doing business on your platform.
Finding the first sellers for your online marketplace
You surely don’t want your buyers to visit your marketplace and find out there are 30 empty categories and just a few products in the marketplace altogether.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, you’ll want to have a number of sellers as soon as possible.
Thanks to your thorough market research, you know exactly who your sellers are and where you can find them.
Contact each seller that may be interested in offering their products on your online marketplace. The more sellers you have from the start, the better.
And be prepared to get rejected quite a few times.
But a great number of sellers will agree to join you. Try building real relationships with them from the start and offer them something of value.
Make sure their onboarding process is free and that they don’t need to pay any fees when just starting out.
Fees will surely come along the way, but first, make sure that your sellers have a great experience doing business on your platform and that they’re here to stay.
Focus on bringing in more buyers
When your sellers get settled and they’ve already set up their stores, it’s time to invite more buyers.
Now, this part will work the same as it does in the traditional eCommerce business. And still, you’ll have more categories, products, and features to offer your buyers that you couldn’t possibly offer them handling it all by yourself.
Just take Amazon for example. You can find almost anything there. There are so many sellers that you can always see new groups of Amazon seller groups popping up and discussing the best strategies.
Paid advertising and social media channels are the way to go when focusing on acquiring more buyers.
As with anything you’ve done by now, you’ll need to test each channel you’re going to use to find out which channels work best for you.
And while you’ve been building your online marketplace, you made sure it’s optimized for the search engines. The platform you picked is SEO-friendly and you’re focused on winning in the long run.
After your sellers start flocking in and setting up their stores, your website’s SEO ranking will start growing and attracting more new users, both buyers and sellers.
To make it clear – you’ll want to analyze how your marketing campaigns are doing and how does your website analytics look like.
Using tools such as SEMrush and Google Analytics is going to be crucial for identifying some bottlenecks in your marketing campaigns.
Keep the users happy – focus on retention
Once the users are flowing in, you’ll want to keep them on your platform.
When acquiring new users, there’s always a risk of them leaving your online marketplace and never coming back.
So, make sure that your users are happy with your platform and that they’ll keep using it.
And you’ll still want to gather feedback continuously to improve your eCommerce features (or even add some new ones).
To make your platform easy-to-use, create an FAQ page. And make it pretty detailed because – online marketplaces tend to get a bit complex, right?
Also, you definitely want your sellers to be successful. So, create a guide for them that will help them sell more of their products.
The more product your sellers can sell, the more fees you can charge. It’s a win-win situation!
If some of your sellers tend to stand out with their successful store on your platform – why not feature them?
Create a case study of their business or cover their success story in your blog section. This will certainly make them happy, while also boosting your SEO ranking.
As time goes, try to get a hold on conversion rate optimization and advanced analytics. This will help ensure your online marketplace is doing a good job of converting more users.
And if it isn’t – you’ll know exactly what you need to do to make it happen.
P.S. Always keep your software up to date! You want your platform to be highly-secure at all times.
Experiment with new features and partnerships
If you’re new to the market and you’re aiming to beat your competitors, think about relying on some new and experimental strategies.
To beat your competitors, you’ll certainly need more than a regular growth strategy.
Try offering some new and unexpected features and benefits to your users by bringing in some new tools, services and partnerships.
Check out your competitors and find out what kind of tools and features they aren’t still using.
You could partner up with local businesses, reach out to industry-specific magazines and engage in trade shows.
Whatever your strategy may be, always keep experimenting with new features and – test, test, test!
This was a really long ride!
We’ve come to the end of our online marketplace series!
Just to recap what we talked about today:
- Creating a specification for your project
- Managing the project team
- Planning out the launch
- Soft launch
- Hard launch
- Finding the first sellers
- Retention strategy
If starting and running an online marketplace seems less scary for you than before, our goal is complete! 🙂
And if you’re in need of service of online marketplace development, we’re here to help.
We’ve been building successful online businesses for 8 years and we’ve got tons of hands-on experience behind us.
If you’re ready to start your online marketplace, reach out to us – we’d like to hear more about your idea.
And don’t forget to stay tuned for more awesome articles every week! 🙂