Choosing the right marketplace software could be a difficult job, there are so many ready to use solutions available and making a choice out of could be a difficult one. You could even imagine to custom develop. Developing your custom-developed marketplace could be expensive and time taking and may not be a feasible solution especially for startups. However, if your idea has been validated and you are trying to create your tech ecosystem, custom development is the right choice.
Factors to consider before choosing an existing software:
E-commerce vs Marketplace: Many people get confused and understand one or the other same thing. Be clear with what you need if you are an online retail company dealing in multi-brands, managing, and monitoring procurement to delivery you probably need an e-commerce platform. There are many open-source platforms that are available like Magneto, Shopify, etc. If you have an open platform for multiple vendors selling directly to the users (B2C, B2B) then you need a marketplace software.
Industry Focus: Analyse he software if it is focussed to your industry type. Every software has a strong focus on the specific types of businesses or business models, see if it is focussed on your business model. If the software is not focused on your business model you are probably going to struggle with it. For example if you are selling digital products or services the software that is more targeted to tangible products or delivery systems may not be the best for and vice versa.
Extendibility & Road map of the software: Many startups think software development as one of the thing and maintenance after that but to be honest it is not. Not only the marketplace but any tech-based startup needs to understand that it is an ongoing process. You launch your product, get feedback, create opportunities to establish your business & your application, and during the process, you make changes accordingly. Adapting to changing needs is not easy, the pressure of retaining customers based on the feedback received or with changing market trends in no time is very challenging and then you realize the needs of good software that can be extended/scaled easily. Open-source softwares are great but the amount of effort to customize as per your need is important. Even if your software is open source that may not guarantees that it could be scaled easily due to many technical reasons /limitations. If your software is open to extending or it is continuously improvising as if the industry needs you can easily get the changes otherwise developing your own platform will then be the only option left with. Look for a software that either open source or at least open to extend, has a clear roadmap, and continuously improvising.
Support: Either the software has wider community support or has support from the provider. You may need support at some point in time. Time is imperative in business if you can't find a solution at the time you may lose customers.
Build your Airbnb type marketplace with Sharetribe
Sharetribe offers a great marketplace option. The Finnish company started early somewhere in 2011 and has given a good time to build an awesome product. The promoters have thought of investing time to build a product with a clear vision. It has two different products each for different offerings to suit the business needs:
Sharetribe Go: The ready to use built-in web application for startups developed on SAAS based platform. However, this is limited to customization and doesn't offer any mobile application. I think this is best for startups looking to validate their idea, with the minimum cost you can get a ready-made solution with confidence to extend the software with the flex model. There's also a community edition available for those who want to install it to their own server.
Sharetribe Flex: This offers greater flexibility as the name suggests. It provides the headless product with client SDK to develop your own frontend. Flex tech stack and architecture look like a better-built product with a clear vision to the extension. It offers some tools which are vital for extending the software:
Marketplace API & Flex SDK: The Marketplace API is the core services to communicate with marketplace data and its core features. Flex offers a fully developed SDK with a great documentation that can be used to develop your own custom branded application. You can develop your own web or mobile application.
Web Templates: It also offers two web templates to develop web applications for different industry needs. FTW-daily and FTW-hourly are the two templates designed for service-based marketplaces offering per day booking like Airbnb and time based booking for the businesses dealing in time-boxed bookings. Its doesn't provide any template for mobile application. The templates are built-in ReactJs and is a great help to start.
Flex console: The web-based console provides a ready to use admin console. Although it has minimal features and doesn't have a reporting tool but its a great tool to start with.
Flex-CLI: The CLI (Command-line interface) tool for changing your marketplace's advanced configurations such as transaction processes and email templates
Integration API: The platform provides full access to the marketplace's data. It can be used to build applications that integrate different own or 3rd party systems with the Flex marketplace.
Support: Sharetribe offers support from their support desk and has a slack community of flex developers which is a great help for beginners.
You can find more about sharetribe products here
My recommendation of sharetribe is based on the technology stack, the architecture, and tools available to extend the application in the flex version, and the support it provides makes a good choice for startups & small & medium enterprises....