How to create an online marketplace: The guide

Inspired by the success of online marketplaces like Airbnb, Etsy, or Fiverr? Want to know how to create a marketplace? You've come to the right place.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about creating a marketplace. From developing a marketplace website to launching and growing your business, each article offers lots of practical advice with peer-to-peer, B2C, and B2B marketplaces in mind.


Create a marketplace one step at a time

Welcome to the beginning of your journey as a marketplace entrepreneur!

The purpose of this guide is to help you get started with building a successful marketplace business one step at a time. An iterative approach will help you maximize learning, minimize costs, and make sure your early stages set your idea up for success. The content you find here is the complete, free version of our Amazon bestseller: The Lean Marketplace. A practical guide to building a successful online marketplace business.

Creating an online marketplace is a process. Here are the steps in a nutshell:

  1. Find a great marketplace idea and validate it.
  2. Choose your marketplace business model and pricing level.
  3. Build your Minimum Viable Platform (your marketplace MVP).
  4. Build your initial supply.
  5. Launch your marketplace to the first customers.
  6. Track your key metrics and grow your business.

This guide will take you through the steps and give you 16 articles worth of practical, tactical advice. You’ll learn about both the business strategy side as well as get a deep dive into developing a marketplace website.

To make navigating the guide easier, we’ve divided it into three sections. The first is about getting started and finding and validating a marketplace idea. The second discusses the technology side: marketplace website development. The third is about launching and growing your business: how to build a user base and track your success.

We’ve worked with marketplace founders for over a decade. This guide is a collection of everything we’ve learned from our successes and failures. We sincerely hope it will help you begin your journey and bring your marketplace idea to life.

We also offer a ten-step video course on building a marketplace. The course draws from this marketplace guide and Sharetribe's other content, as well as top expert knowledge. Take the video course on building a successful marketplace business here at Marketplace Academy!

Or find each article below or listen to the complete guide on the Marketplace Academy Podcast!

Let’s get started!

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Part 1

Start your marketplace business

An online marketplace is a platform that brings together sellers and customers – supply and demand. A marketplace lets them find each other, facilitates their transactions, and generates revenue through marketplace fees.

Examples of online marketplaces are Airbnb, Etsy, eBay, and Uber. If you have a business idea that works a bit like them – but don’t know how to start an online marketplace website – part one of the guide is for you. The articles help you understand how online marketplaces work, how to find a great marketplace idea, and how to turn your idea into a successful business.

Part 2

Develop a marketplace website

The trickiest part of starting a marketplace business isn’t marketplace website development. The biggest challenge is finding a business model that works for you, your supply, and your demand. That’s why it’s important not to spend too much time building the first version of your marketplace site.

This chapter guides you through developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The goal is to help you create an online marketplace fast and start learning about your audiences – while still offering them a lovable user experience from day one.

Part 3

Launch and grow your business

The best online marketplace businesses improve over time, so take an iterative approach – both with your marketplace website development and building the marketplace business side – from the start.

Plan your launch in two steps. Starting with a product launch that lets you collect initial feedback from your most important users. Then go for a bigger marketing launch with the help of concrete, low-budget strategies.

Tracking the right marketplace metrics and nurturing your user community should be a priority from early on. As you’ll see, this work will support your marketplace growth also in the long term.

Prefer books?

This guide is also available as an Amazon bestseller, ebook or hardcover.

Part 4

The best way to learn? Build a marketplace!

There are 16 articles in this guide, each written to help you tackle a specific challenge of creating an online marketplace. You’ll learn how to validate your concept, develop a marketplace website, grow your user base, and, most importantly, facilitate transactions between your users. The articles paint a big picture and also dive into the nitty-gritty details.

You can read the articles one by one to get a complete understanding of our thoughts and recommendations. Or you can use the guide as a go-to source to read while you work on your business. If this guide helps you avoid even one of the mistakes we’ve made ourselves developing marketplace websites over the past ten years, we consider it a huge success.

But in the end, there’s only so much you can learn from a book. The best way to learn is to start a marketplace business of your own.

Creating a marketplace is a challenge, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Whatever happens, the things you’ll learn along the way about building a platform, a user base, and a community will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Best of luck with your marketplace business!

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