How to make a bespoke custom marketplace app like Walmart

Developing a custom marketplace app like Walmart can be an intimidating task. It requires careful planning and execution to ensure that the project is successful. In this guide, we will walk you through the process of developing a custom marketplace app from scratch, where to start, how to develop it, what features to include, and how much it can cost. We’ll also give you a pick into Walmart’s marketplace: its customer base, marketing channels, and more. After reading this article, you should have no problem understanding what it takes to develop a great custom marketplace app like Walmart!

What are the advantages of starting a custom marketplace of your own?
You are launched. URLAUNCHED LTD

What are the advantages of starting a custom marketplace of your own?

Starting your own custom marketplace like Walmart offers a variety of advantages. 

Varied revenue streams

The first advantage to consider is the variety of revenue opportunities it can generate. Marketplaces offer a simple, yet reliable source of income that requires little work and upkeep. The most popular methods are commissions for completed sales, listing fees paid by sellers, subscriptions from users, lead generation payments from companies to increase visibility, advertisements, as well as any additional services. These all make for substantial revenue streams for those who put in the effort to develop their own custom marketplace website.

Business flexibility

Then, you have the flexibility to choose products you want to offer to customers. This makes it easier for customers to find the exact item they need, as well as for you to target a specific type of customer or group them into different product categories. And remember, there are no investments in manufacturing and no need to specialize in one product category over the other. Therefore, the business flexibility of the custom marketplace is one of its many attractive features. 

Efficient marketing efforts

Additionally, you can provide exclusive deals and discounts on your items that are not available elsewhere which helps to entice more customers so that your marketing efforts are more efficient than with the individual store. And overall, having a marketplace is often more advantageous compared to having a store. You have two categories of users, sellers, and buyers, and your ads often targeted at one group inevitably lead to attracting the other. 

Lower business risks

Lastly, having a custom marketplace gives you the ability to create a unique shopping experience that caters specifically to your customer needs. You are free to create and customize a shopping experience that will be unique in its variety and shopping options. As an owner of an individual e-shop, you are generally bound by the offering and you try to keep the shopping options according to a standard as well as you are responsible for the quality. But with a custom marketplace, you create a sort of “living and changing adapting organism” that in its own way takes care of itself – and lowers your business risks.

Therefore, developing a custom marketplace like Walmart provides many benefits for both customers and businesses alike.

More on the topic, you can discover here just how profitable a multi-vendor marketplace can be and other things you need to consider for building one.

Overview of Developing a Custom Marketplace App. You are launched. URLAUNCHED LTD

1. Pick the right vendor

When it comes to custom marketplace development, the first and most important step is selecting the right vendor for the development services. Choosing a marketplace development vendor is not a decision that should be taken lightly, especially if you are ambitious enough to aim for a custom marketplace like Walmart, – the success of your custom marketplace operation critically depends on finding a reliable client-focused partner who has both a technical ability and industry know-how to deliver. 

2. Identify Your Audience and Goals

Before starting to develop a custom marketplace website, it is essential to identify the target audience and set a goal for the project. Knowing your customer is instrumental to the success of any venture. You need to be able to questions such as 

  • What type of users would most likely use my app? 
  • What added value will this app provide that existing apps cannot? 
  • Who are they – your customers? 
  • Do they prefer quality over quantity when shopping? 
  • Are convenience and delivery speed more important to them than cost? 
  • Do they pay attention to the return policy?

If you want to develop a custom marketplace app such as Walmart, understanding what drives their business success is essential for duplicating their results. It is also important to understand how these customers prefer to receive communication from businesses, whether by email, text message or through social media outlets. By taking the time to learn about your customers, you can ensure that your business appeals directly to their desires and expectations.

Welmart’s Analytics, as a sample

As for Walmart’s customers, Walmart tracks their preferences and even significant life events which helps to target particular goods. 

  • One-fifth of the customers in 2021 got themselves a pet and about 24% started purchasing more items to provide care for their home buddies. 
  • Slightly less, 18% of Walmart’s marketplace customers changed workplaces and 11% switched to working from a home office. In both of these cases, the customers ended up spending a lot more money on home office furniture and supplies.
  • Another 18% of Walmart’s customers changed homes and more than half upgraded to spacier ones, and out of those who didn’t move anywhere, 13% did renovations. All of these contributed to the majority of sales in such departments as furniture, décor, and household goods.
  • Lastly, 12% of customers decided to organize a small home gym which was where fitness equipment, goods, and accessories came into play and generated sales. 

This is at this step when extensive research will be conducted for you by your vendor. At ‘You are launched’, the research includes both primary and secondary research. Primary research involves data collection to test the waters of the targeted segment. Buyer personas will be created, segmentation will be done, and users’ pain points will be identified. As for the secondary research, it means hunting for data from industry reports, open-access databases (such as household income for your created Buyer Personas), and, most importantly, checking all the available data on your competition, as there are always ways to gain access to some analytical data such as where customers come from, how customers come to the website (aka marketing channels) and much more. For instance, here is the demographic data for Walmart’s customers below.

Gender and Age Distribution for Walmart’s marketplace. You are launched.
Gender and Age Distribution for Walmart’s Marketplace

Welmart’s research insights

The research step is what helps to determine the customer’s willingness to pay and form a pricing strategy. For instance, Walmart’s slogan is “Save Money. Live Better,” and so the customers at their marketplace value lower prices as the #1 reason to shop at their marketplace. Therefore, this particular step performed by your vendor will help you to see what pricing strategy is best and along with it, features for your project will be determined. 

It’s also at this stage that you might want to consider starting with an MVP first. As lean startup evangelists, ‘You are launched’ – Custom MVP App Development Company understands that it is important to save on everything where possible, without sacrificing quality. That’s where the concept of “minimum viable product” (MVP) comes in: it’s not just a limited version of your product or service but can actually be an entirely different product in its own right. For instance, an MVP version of a marketplace can take the form of an e-commerce site that has many different items and products available. Here you can read more about how to move from an e-commerce site to a full-scale marketplace. Consider promoting it with limited access. Much like Clubhouse, you can maximize your app’s impact by launching invitation-only access or something similar. To put it differently, a great example of MVP can be explained by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. He said: “We are going to build a colony on Mars. But for now we are launching satellites”. By establishing an exclusive hook and an aspirational vision to match it, he’s built remarkable levels of engagement around his projects and established himself as a thought leader in the industry. Can you do likewise with your own venture? It may just be one of the ways to achieve success in the marketplace app industry.

Analyse other’s experience and data to succeed

At this stage, you would want to choose a format for your custom: B2B marketplace or a C2C app startup. In a traditional B2B setup (Business-to-Business), products are frequently bought and sold between organizations or companies. This can create great opportunities for growth, but can also lead to long sales cycles and complex relationships. On the other hand, with a Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) app startup, customers buy from and sell direct to one another. Take a look at the article on creating a custom B2B marketplace versus a C2C app startup for more detailed information. In addition, you might be choosing between vertical and horizontal digital marketplaces and they require different strategies for success. Vertical marketplaces focus on specific products or services centered around a common theme or category. Horizontal marketplaces may involve multiple product types and services dependent on a large demographic of customers having purchasing power. There is a more detailed article about choosing between vertical and horizontal digital marketplace. Considering all these factors can help guide the decision-making process when it comes to choosing between the formats.

When it comes to custom marketplace development, the key is to stay flexible. You need to be open-minded about your strategies and ready to adapt to new ideas. Don’t forget that your e-commerce or custom marketplace option should be at par with current trends as well. Staying willing to entertain changes in decision-making, positioning, and product will enable you not only to stand out from the competition but also give yourself more chances of success. Keep an eye on what’s working and what’s trending in order to make informed decisions regarding your custom marketplace development that will ensure maximum return on investment.

All in all, starting any marketplace without the necessary research and planning can result in a waste of money, time, and effort. It is essential to conduct thorough research of both potential customers and your competitors when starting off. To best determine what products or services will resonate with customers and make you stand out from the competition, researching popular trends and marketing tactics is key. Looking into the technologies or features that other businesses in the same field are utilizing; understanding these elements can give you an edge in the start-up market as well as provide valuable insight into what approaches can work for you. Keep in mind that building a successful marketplace business means being informed of all aspects of it, including marketing research and studying what your competition has implemented.

3. Choose a Technology Stack

To develop a marketplace app, your vendor will prepare technical recommendations about the most viable and scalable options considering your MVP and scalability further into a custom marketplace. Take this step seriously: Choosing the right technology stack for your custom marketplace app plays an important role in the success of the project. At this stage, your vendor will consider which frameworks and languages should be used, such as iOS/Android native development or hybrid app development. You will be presented with a developed specification after you have discussed the expenditures. After that, the team will be assembled.

If you choose to develop a custom marketplace app with ‘You are launched’, you will be advised on a variety of options. For instance, Flutter-like technologies typically don’t work well for scaling, can be difficult to get a great design, and it will cost more over time to maintain. But with a custom MVP solution and tailored technology stack, you get the benefits of being able to pivot as many times as you need without needing to worry about annoying users when transferring your e-commerce app over to a marketplace for example; and none of your analytics parameters will be lost in the process. Knowing that investors love positive analytics, this kind of development strategy allows for those measurements to stay unaltered during the transition. Your vendor will help you determine which route is the most beneficial for you now and in the future. 

Once the technology stack is selected, the team will be assembled to get going with the development stage. The team will likely include the following specialists and the number and specificity of the roles will depend on the size of your project.

Team size requirement

  • Project/Product Manager (1)
  • User Interface/User Experience Designer (1)
  • Server-side developer (1)
  • Front-end developers (2)
  • Quality Assurance tester (1)

When it comes to determining functionality for your MVP, there is a quite particular set of must-have features. Many websites now have tonnes of features that could be postponed. Here is the Top Required feature list from us

Top required features for the MVP version of a marketplace

  • user accounts, profiles, and settings, 
  • authentication & authorization,
  • product pages and landings,
  • search and filter capabilities, 
  • shopping cart,
  • payment systems integration, 
  • ability to share products on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. 

By including these must-have features in your initial iteration, you’re sure to put together an effective MVP to shape the rest of your product launch. And once the basic version of your product has taken off and is generating profits, to build a fuller version of your marketplace app you can consider adding more functionality such as:

  • product comparisons;
  • enabling greater sorting and filtering options;
  • feature wishlist and list of recommended/”often-bought-together” items;
  • smart data collection of the user’s preferences;
  • real-time chat or message functionalities; 
  • reviews and rating capabilities;
  • personalized push notifications.

And you might wonder why you do not need product reviews, chat capabilities, or product comparison functionality in your MVP. So, let’s dig through

Reasons why you need features

– real-time chat or message functionalities are not often used even by users on established marketplaces. Think about your own shopping experience – how often do you contact a seller before making a purchase? This is surely an item to save on at the start;

– reviews & ratings – as your website is only gaining users, it is not an essential item, and can be added once your website is moving towards a fuller marketplace version;

–  product comparisons – the number of sellers will not likely be big at the start of your marketplace, so it is best to keep it simple. Once the number of sellers goes up, then comparing them will contribute to a positive user experience. 

You might be thinking, why, for instance, do you need social media integration in your MVP, and the answer is simple – at You are launched, we rely on vast experience that proves that this feature is essential if you want to save on marketing costs going forward.

There are also features that are essential from an analytics/marketing standpoint, such as in the profile you try to gather more information about the user over time as the first registration should be swift and easy. Tailored push notifications are what result from this collected information: once you know your customers’ preferences and wishes, it’s easy to trigger a purchase by offering a discount or a promotional offer on preferred items.

4. Design a User-Friendly Interface and Smooth User Experience

A user-friendly interface is key to making a custom marketplace app successful. At this stage, your vendor will make sure that the app’s design and UX (user experience) is intuitive and easy to navigate. Nowadays, it is essential to pay special attention to creating an onboarding process that will help users get up and running quickly with minimal effort. Of course, when it comes to starting with an MVP, this means pretty much a stripped-down version of what will be there in the future. Bells and whistles will be added later. The key here is to build a smooth and functional user experience that allows for basic buying and selling transactions just enough to test the business model and gather user feedback to help identify areas for improvement and further development. Once the MVP is validated and feedback is gathered, additional features and improvements will be added to the website in subsequent releases to make your UI/UX more attractive and engaging. And this is when UI/UX will be your website’s bread and butter as the development of these features often takes less coding time than back-end features but get you more customer satisfaction. 

By going all in on UI/UX, businesses can create an enjoyable and straightforward online shopping experience that customers will appreciate. If a business prioritizes UI/UX when developing a customer marketplace app, they are effectively optimizing user engagement which drives more customers to the platform. Not only do you have that, but also UI/UX features directly influence user retention which ultimately translates into earnings for your website. So here are a few reasons why you should value any recommendations on UI/UX improvement from your vendor:

Reasons why you should value any recommendations on UI/UX

  1. User Engagement: The UI/UX features directly boost user engagement and retention. A well-designed user interface and smooth user experience make the time users spend shopping more enjoyable and intuitive, leading to increased user satisfaction and desire to come back again – customer loyalty. The side effects of this are that it helps ultimately reduce churn rates (users who unsubscribe and stop visiting your website) and increase Customer Lifetime Value (how much they end up spending throughout their experience with your marketplace).
  1. Competitive Advantage: The custom marketplace landscape is getting fiercely competitive, and to gain a competitive edge over your competition, user experience is often the key factor. Investing in UI/UX features is what will give your marketplace a good chance of standing out from the crowd and providing users with a unique and memorable experience.
  1. Customer Acquisition: When a user jumps to your website using a link or from the search results, there is a certain time measured in seconds when the user decides to stay or leave your website. The interface of your website is often the only thing that can make a sale for the first-time visitor. A positive first impression is what makes the user want to further navigate around your website and make a purchase down the line.
  1. Revenue Generation: It is often so that your UI/UX will have a direct impact on your revenue generation. For example, have you yourself ever experienced shopping on a website and once you added a product to your cart, it was unclear whether it got there? Or, for example, your product is in your cart and the website is kind of locking you inside the cart so that you have no option to continue your shopping? or go back to the product page where you saw a recommendation you wanted to add? or when you closed a tab by mistake, and go back to the website, all your products are gone? The solution to avoiding these issues: develop a custom marketplace app with a professional vendor.

In the end, focusing on making your marketplace charming and efficient from the front end is essential for any company looking to maximize its profitability. 

5. Develop Security Features 

The security of customer data is a top priority when it comes to app development and especially for the one where users leave their credit card details and payments go through. Your development team will make sure you have adequate security measures in place from the start, including encryption protocols and authentication processes as well as the security of handling payment details data. 

To ensure the successful launch of your custom marketplace, you must organize several resources that build on one another. Securing a domain name (for example, is just the start – a web hosting account is needed to store the files of your website. An SSL Certificate will provide an extra layer of security for payment processing. And you also need reliable payment solutions integrated into your website, and, finally, it’s important to prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) from the get-go, so that your custom marketplace can have greater visibility in search engine results. Each of these steps is essential to making an engaging marketplace for all users.

6. Identify Scalability Options 

You started with an MVP and got a basic version of your desired marketplace to start getting traction and early feedback from users. Then, as your user base grows, your development team will need to make sure that your app can scale accordingly. Consider using cloud computing services such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform to provide the necessary scalability. 

In addition, there is a matter of when to include the CMS system in your custom marketplace. A CMS (Content Management System) system becomes a must-have option once the number of product pages and content for them reaches a certain level when it becomes difficult to handle and aids your marketplace in the following ways:

  1. Simplifying Content Management: At some point, there will be a large amount of content to be reviewed and published such as product descriptions, seller profiles, and other content that may need to be updated frequently. A CMS system streamlines all these processes;
  2. Simplifying Workflow: Once your marketplace is so big that you have a variety of teams working on it (developers, sales reps, and whatnot), you will need a centralized place where you can manage the content, assign tasks, track progress, and give access to the required features and data for each team;
  3. Enhancing User Experience: This relates to data architecture and categorizing, labeling, and cross-linking data for ease of user navigation. This feature will make sure that each user gets easy access to the most relevant content for them;
  4. Improving SEO: When you have thousands and thousands of products, this is a must-have for your SEO optimization. Users will not come only through searching for your specific marketplace, they will come through searching for a certain product and each product page must be optimized to grab that user and lead your marketplace to a product page. A CMS is exactly the thing that will provide tools for optimizing content for search engines.

So how do you know when it is the time to include CMS in your marketplace? If you are starting out as an e-commerce website and sellers are added by invitation-only feature, you might have a time window before implementing this. But if your project changes a lot, updates a lot, and is featuring a lot of personalization, you might need this from the get-go because with the functionality you also get an analytics tool with it. Ultimately, the decision should be based on a careful assessment of the marketplace’s needs and priorities.

7. Test, Monitor, and Optimize

Your development team will also always test your app before releasing it and monitor its performance after launch. Regular checks for any bugs or issues that may be causing problems for users will be conducted as well as making sure the app is running at optimal performance. A/B testing will be used to compare different versions of the app and determine which features are the most successful as no successful apps function without them. Additionally, the use analytics tools will be put into place to monitor user engagement and retention rates along with feedback surveys to determine what improvements should be made. This will help you continually improve the user experience as your marketplace grows. 

Distribution of traffic to Walmart’s marketplace.
Distribution of traffic to Walmart’s marketplace

8. Promote and Market your Marketplace app

Even before your app is ready, you need to promote it to ensure that people are aware of it. There is a variety of strategies such as creating a landing to invite users to join a beta version or creating social media groups on Facebook, Telegram, Whatsapp, and others. To read more about why you need this even before the development of your MVP is finished, you can read our article on the classic chicken and egg problem in the context of a marketplace start-up. In general, only by having an initial base of customers and sellers, you can ensure the success of your venture and analytics data to guide you.

Further, when your app is ready, with your vendor, you will develop an effective digital marketing strategy that includes SEO, content marketing, influencer outreach, and social media campaigns. Advertise the app on various platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to reach a wider audience. Leverage the power of influencers to generate more awareness about your app and attract more users. Additionally, you can also use other strategies like email and push notifications to keep your existing customers engaged with your app. 

As for Walmart’s marketplace, it is already an established marketplace so they have a large portion of direct traffic to its marketplace, and its churns are mitigated by the convenient return policy to its physical stores. However, their current marketing effort is mainly directed at organic search while social media channel is surely underutilized (see the graph below). So when it looks like the market is oversaturated, in truth the opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition abound, opportunities to do things better than the competition are vast, and the professional thorough approach we take at ‘You are launched’ will help you to achieve just that.

The cost of developing a custom marketplace app.

The costs of developing a custom marketplace app

With the ever-evolving world of e-commerce and marketplaces, it can be difficult to pin down exactly how much starting a marketplace will cost in 2023. Rough estimates of the overall cost for an MVP range from $37,000 to $89,000 depending on what type of functionality your project requires. Ultimately, the development cost must take into account both development and non-development elements that are then used to estimate the total number of hours required to implement all product features. This estimation will normally be provided to you with min and max number of hours for each feature at ‘You are launched’. For example, in the table below you can check what it may look like for your MVP project for the must-have basic functions mentioned in step 3.

Rough Estimate of Efforts to develop MVP version of Custom Marketplace App like Walmart. You are launched. urlaunched. URLAUNCHED LTD
Rough Estimate of Efforts to develop MVP version of Custom Marketplace App like Walmart

When developing a custom MVP, it is also important to realize that the initial estimates will often be altered as there could be additional features needed in order to properly build the MVP at hand. It is commonly acknowledged that you first have to build the initial version, test it, see feedback, and see what it will take to move further. It is thus necessary to factor in discrepancies and changes along with the overall cost. We also recommend using as many 3d party service integrations as possible in order to downgrade the price of development services.

When you are choosing a vendor, be sure not to just pay attention to it, but make a decision based on factors like proper process implementation and clear communication as this would prove to actually save more money over time. When you search for a vendor, you should find a company that has the experience and specializes in what you need to build – if you put on the scales price versus a company that works like a well-oiled machine, you should prefer the latter; because the effective, coordinated and capable team will surely bring your project to fruition much more reliably and sooner. Check how to develop a Custom Marketplace App for Nannies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the advantages of starting a custom marketplace of your own?

Starting a custom marketplace offers several advantages, including:
– Varied revenue streams, including commissions, listing fees, subscriptions, lead generation payments, and advertisements.
– Business flexibility, allowing you to choose the products you want to offer and target specific customer groups.
– Efficient marketing efforts through exclusive deals and discounts.
– Lower business risks as you create a unique shopping experience.

How do I pick the right vendor for custom marketplace development?

Selecting the right vendor is crucial. Look for a reliable partner with technical expertise and industry knowledge. Consider their ability to deliver a custom marketplace like Walmart.

What should I consider when identifying my audience and goals for the marketplace app?

Understand your target audience’s preferences, needs, and communication preferences. Define your app’s unique value proposition and ensure it aligns with customer expectations.

What technology stack should I choose for my custom marketplace app?

Your vendor will recommend a technology stack based on your MVP and scalability needs. Consider factors like frameworks, languages, and development approaches.

What are the top required features for the MVP version of a marketplace app?

Essential MVP features include user accounts, authentication, product pages, search and filter capabilities, a shopping cart, payment systems integration, and social media sharing.

When should I consider adding additional features like product reviews and chat capabilities?

Features like product reviews and chat capabilities can be added in later versions of your app once it gains users. Start with the essential features to validate your MVP.

Why is UI/UX design important for my custom marketplace app?

A user-friendly interface and smooth user experience are essential for customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Good UI/UX design can set you apart from the competition.

How can I ensure the security of customer data in my marketplace app?

Your development team will implement security measures, including encryption protocols and authentication processes, to protect customer data and payment details.

When should I consider implementing a CMS system in my custom marketplace?

Implement a CMS (Content Management System) when managing content becomes challenging due to growth. It simplifies content management, workflow, user experience, and SEO.

How can I estimate the costs of developing a custom marketplace app?

The cost varies based on functionality but typically ranges from $37,000 to $89,000 for an MVP. Consider both development and non-development elements in your cost estimation.

How can I promote and market my marketplace app effectively?

Promote your app even before it’s ready to build an initial user base. Develop a digital marketing strategy, including SEO, content marketing, social media, and influencer outreach.

What should I focus on when optimizing my marketplace app after launch?

Continuously test your app for bugs and issues, monitor performance, conduct A/B testing, gather user feedback, and use analytics tools to improve user engagement and retention.

What are the key factors for success when developing a custom marketplace app like Walmart?

Focus on delivering an efficient customer experience with user-friendly interfaces, secure payment options, and streamlined processes. Understand customer needs and adapt your app accordingly.

Final thoughts

Final Thoughts 

When developing a custom marketplace app like Walmart, it is important to focus on delivering an efficient customer experience. This means providing easy-to-use storefronts with clear product descriptions and up-to-date prices, as well as a checkout process that is streamlined and secure. Additionally, integrating payment options and delivery systems can be a great way to give customers convenience and control over their purchasing decisions. Understanding the needs of customers can also provide useful insights into how your app can best serve them. As long as these factors are taken into consideration when designing the marketplace, it should be successful.

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