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Start a rental marketplace business today.

Are you thinking about creating a rental platform? With Sharetribe’s marketplace software, you can build a website for renting vacations, cars, homes, cameras, and more. Fast, easy, and affordable.

What is a rental marketplace?

A rental marketplace is a platform where individuals or companies can rent different types of goods from one another. The best-known example of a rental marketplace is Airbnb.

When Airbnb first started, peer-to-peer sharing was a relatively new concept for consumers. Since then, the popularity of sharing websites has skyrocketed. Sharing all kinds of goods from baby gear and cameras to bikes, cars, and homes is replacing ownership for more and more people all around the world.

And why wouldn’t it?

E-commerce, marketplaces, and the sharing economy are huge trends with massive business potential. Renting expensive or infrequently used items instead of buying them is a lot cheaper and much more convenient. At the same time, individuals are more and more willing to list their own items on a rental marketplace platform to earn some money on the side.

Marketplace platforms have another huge business benefit: you can start a marketplace without any initial inventory.

Because providers create your supply, getting started with a rental marketplace doesn’t require a huge investment. Besides, rental marketplace software has become extremely affordable as well as quick and simple to use. For example, with Sharetribe Go, you can launch a fully functional rental marketplace in one day without writing a single line of code!

There truly has never been a better time to become a marketplace entrepreneur.

About the rental marketplace business model

So, if people use a marketplace website to rent items from each other, how does the marketplace entrepreneur build a profitable business?

Most rental marketplaces generate revenue through commissions. Commissions mean the marketplace makes money by taking a cut out of each transaction that takes place on the marketplace. This is the revenue model that Airbnb uses.

The commission model has one additional benefit: it can offer users extra security through functionality called escrow.

Escrow means that when a customer makes a booking to rent something—say, a cool bike—their credit card is already charged when they make the booking. However, the provider who owns the bike doesn’t get the money before the customer actually receives the bike. The marketplace holds the funds in the meantime.

There are other kinds of business models available for rental platforms. For example, some marketplaces charge a fee from users to join or to publish a listing. Other marketplaces make money by selling ads, or with premium services such as insurance or delivery.

However, the commission model is by far the most popular revenue model for rental marketplaces because it’s usually the most lucrative one. The website owner gets a share of all of the value that goes through the platform. The commission model also makes it easier to attract providers as they only need to pay a fee when they make money.

How to start a successful marketplace business

A marketplace can be a fantastic business with low risk and high growth potential. But building a successful business is always a challenge.

As the popularity of rental marketplaces grows, so does the amount of competition. You need to find a business idea that solves a real problem for your users. Then you need to build a platform that both your providers and your customers love to use.

But how do you know your idea solves a real problem? How can you find out what kind of website your users would love? By launching the first version of your rental marketplace website as quickly as possible.

Launching quickly is the best way to validate your business idea and start learning more about your users. No customer research, crowdfunding campaign, or competitor analysis can reliably tell you if people will really use your platform to complete transactions. The only way to know for sure is to build something, get it in front of real users, and start learning.

After you know more about what makes your customers tick, you can start developing your marketplace in the direction that works for your specific audience and niche.

Sharetribe’s products have been designed with this iterative process in mind. You can start a marketplace with Sharetribe Go in one day. You get all the essential features of a rental marketplace without writing a single line of code. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, we’ve also got you covered.

Before you can start developing your marketplace, it’s important to understand what “essential features” actually means for rental marketplaces.

Building a rental platform

If you have an idea for a rental marketplace business, you also likely have thought about how you want your platform to work. How users create user profiles, browse listings, post listings, start and complete transactions. What the website will look like and what kind of user experience it offers.

Many entrepreneurs think their rental marketplace will have to match all of Airbnb’s extremely advanced features. Not to mention it’s stunning visual style.

But trying to build an Airbnb clone has been the death of many great marketplace business ideas.

In fact, Airbnb first started as modest Wordpress website, and the founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, did many things manually. They figured out what the most crucial features for their rental marketplace were, and started their business with that.

This approach is called building a Minimum Viable Platform (MVP). It’s the minimum solution that will allow you to test your business idea without spending months and a fortune on development. In the age of increasing competition, however, it’s not enough that your platform is viable. It will also have to be lovable for your very first customers.

So, what are the most important features that will make the first version of your rental marketplace viable and lovable?

Essential features

All marketplaces need a unique value proposition to thrive.

But, most successful marketplaces also have many features in common.

This makes a lot of sense. Users are accustomed to expecting platforms to work in a certain way. Re-inventing the wheel on the most common functionalities can generate unnecessary challenges because your customers might find your website difficult to use.

Here is a list of the most critical rental marketplace features that almost every rental marketplace will need.

User profiles

When people start using your rental marketplace, they first sign up and create a user profile.User profiles typically have the user’s name and photo, and some additional relevant information.

Both the providers and the customers usually first create a user profile before they do anything else.

Listing

For your platform to be a marketplace, you need a listing functionality. This allows your users to post images and information about the item they are renting on your marketplace.

An excellent listing functionality can make or break your rental marketplace business. If providers feel that creating a listing is difficult or time-consuming, they won’t bother to do it. If customers don’t find enough listings, or if the listings they see look uninspiring or low-quality, they won’t make purchases on your website.

Map and location

For traditional e-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay, users’ locations do not matter because products can be shipped anywhere. For rental marketplaces, this is usually not the case. If you’re renting a bike, a car, or a home, you typically need it in a specific location.

Even marketplaces that focus on renting smaller items, like cameras or baby gear, are usually location-based. The need for a rental is often quite sudden, so waiting for the item to be shipped from a faraway location would often be a deal-breaker.

Online payment

Most marketplaces make money by taking a share of each transaction that takes place on a marketplace. To be able to do so, the payment needs to happen through the marketplace website.

This means that customers need to be able to make a payment on your platform using their credit cards or Paypal accounts. The provider who rents the item needs to be able to receive the money to their bank account, but before that, the marketplace needs to be able to take their cut.

Reviews

Renting your personal belongings to strangers can feel scary. Similarly, renting and paying for 2-week holiday accommodation from a complete stranger might not feel as secure as booking a hotel room.

That is why successful marketplaces work hard to create an atmosphere of trust between their users. Reviews is one way to do that. After a successful transaction, both the provider and the customer review each other. This helps both parties feel confident that they are dealing with real people with good intentions.

Availability and booking management

Availability and booking management does three things on your marketplace. First, it allows providers to control when their listings are available to accept bookings. Second, it helps customers browse the listings based on availability information. This is important because customers on a rental marketplace typically want to rent something for a specific period.

Third, booking management makes sure that there won’t be any canceled purchases due to double bookings. All these functionalities need to work without hiccups on your rental business. If they don’t, your users on both sides will let you know.

Delaying payments or holding funds

Similar to reviews, delaying payment is crucial for building trust on your platform. A rental marketplace needs to make sure that providers deliver the product that they have promised and that customers pay the price that was agreed.

Delayed payments allow your platform to charge the customers’ credit card when they make a booking, but pay the provider only after they have delivered the service. This helps both parties rest assured that they can trust each other and the platform.

Admin tools

To run a successful rental marketplace business, you need to know everything that goes on on your platform. How many users you have, how active they are, how many transactions are going on at any given moment, what kinds of reviews your providers get… All this information needs to be easily available whenever you need it.

You also need powerful tools to control the activity on your marketplace. You need to be able to moderate content, block users, edit payments, and keep track of messages. With proper admin tools, you’re equipped to take action whatever happens on your platform.

A word about costs

Costs are one of the biggest business challenges for aspiring marketplace founders.

Building all of the features mentioned above from scratch—and making sure they work extremely smoothly—is difficult, time-consuming, and very expensive.

At the same time, these features have become the bare minimum for marketplaces. Today’s users simply have less and less patience for anything but a premium-quality user experience. As a result, founders might spend several months and thousands of dollars building only the bare essentials—the features that need to be there but that the customers will probably take for granted.

The good news is that there are software solutions that you can use to build a marketplace without any coding. They offer the essential marketplace functionality at a fraction of the cost it would take to build it from scratch.

As an example: Sharetribe Go offers you all of the essential marketplace features listed above.

Sharetribe Go starts at $79 a month, and the pricing only goes up when your user base grows. Instead of spending months and thousands of dollars on dev work, Sharetribe Go gets you launched in one day. No coding skills needed!

This allows you to use those critical first months on building your community and your business—not your tech.

Before you start paying, you can test Sharetribe Go by creating a free 30-day trial. You can check out all the features and see how your rental marketplace could look like. You can already invite users to your platform during your free trial, so you can start validating your idea from day one.

No credit card or business loan required.

Start your free 30-day trial of Sharetribe Go.

We pinky promise that we will never sell your information.

Get started

Peer-to-peer bike sharing? B2C vacation rentals? A B2B marketplace for equipment? Turn your idea into a reality today.

No matter how creative or ambitious your business idea, you can build it with Sharetribe.

With Sharetribe Go, you can successfully build, launch, and grow a rental marketplace, be it peer-to-peer, business-to-business, or business-to-consumer. You never need to write a single line of code!

When you’re ready to take the next step with your marketplace business, Sharetribe has you covered.

Like Sharetribe Go, Sharetribe Flex offers all the essential rental marketplace functionality out of the box. Meanwhile, Flex’s API-based, headless architecture lets you code your own front end and expand your feature set.

Examples of rental marketplaces built with Sharetribe

Logo Cycle.land

An online platform for bike rentals, Cycle.land went from idea to profitability in just a few months!

Cycle.land, built with Sharetribe Go.

Logo Studiotime

The world’s largest marketplace for renting record studios. Launched with Sharetribe Go and developed further with Flex.

Studiotime, built with Sharetribe Flex.

Logo Canon

A peer-to-peer marketplace for photography gear rentals, built by Canon Australia. Kyōyū is Canon’s first-ever marketplace website.

Kyōyū, built with Sharetribe Flex.

No credit card or business loan required.

Start your free 30-day trial of Sharetribe Go.

We pinky promise that we will never sell your information.

Get started