How to Create An Online Marketplace Like eBay

Updated on:
09.07.2024
4.5
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8 min

What is this? Another article about "10 simple steps on how to create an online marketplace like eBay"? No. You can find tons of such content on Google, but not here.

Our goal is to be objective and honest. Creating something like eBay cannot be simple. But it can be quite realistic if you have a great idea and a strong development team. Let's analyze the phenomenon of eBay's popularity, assess the key success factors, and frankly discuss the challenges.

You will learn the stages of creating a large e-commerce platform and be able to evaluate how relevant this is in the context of the current market situation, high competition, trends, and future prospects.

Why did eBay become so successful?

The story of eBay began in 1995. Initially, the project was called AuctionWeb and was part of the personal website of programmer Pierre Omidyar. He wanted to create a platform where people could exchange goods.

The first item auctioned was a broken laser pointer, which Pierre Omidyar sold for $14.83. When he contacted the buyer to confirm if they were aware of the defect, the buyer replied that he collected broken laser pointers. Whether this is true or just another charming tale, we do not know. However, it is well-documented that by the end of its first year, the platform was facilitating around a thousand transactions daily. The user base grew rapidly, and by 2000, the project began generating billions in revenue.

So what is the secret of eBay? 

In our opinion, it is the combination of several key factors:

The first of these is precisely meeting the needs of the target audience. At the time the project was taking off, internet commerce was just beginning to develop. The auction model allowed users to sell and buy goods online, replacing traditional garage sales. Collectors gained quick and easy access to thousands of items located in other states. Enterprising sellers quickly realized that they could make good money on eBay, including getting rid of old items that were valuable rarities for others.

Sellers set their own prices, and buyers could place bids. This sparked excitement and anticipation, creating a unique and engaging user experience.

Another factor worth mentioning is ease of use. From the very beginning, eBay emphasized convenience for both buyers and sellers. The platform's interface was pleasant and intuitive, making it accessible to a wide audience.

Even now, after so many years, you won’t find complex animations, flying banners, parallax effects, interactive quizzes, an abundance of video ads, and other such features on the platform. These are often overused by modern designers in the race for internet users' attention.

However, eBay has always been at the forefront of technological innovations, constantly implementing new features and capabilities. It has remained adaptive to changing market trends, which has allowed it to stay competitive for many years.

Another interesting feature of the platform, which we also recommend to those looking for how to make a website like eBay, is its strong community. Forums and groups help users feel like part of something bigger. As a result, they spend more time on the site and actively participate in auctions and transactions. The feedback and rating system also builds trust, as buyers are more inclined to purchase from sellers with a good reputation.

Is it easy to replicate eBay's success? 

After analyzing the factors of success, you have probably realized that this won’t be a “one and done” kind of endeavor. Dozens of companies have tried to follow this challenging path. First, let's talk about those who didn't succeed and try to understand why.

uBid 

Founded in 1997 as an auction site for electronics and other goods, uBid was a direct competitor to eBay. However, in 2010, the company filed for involuntary bankruptcy. For several more years, uBid tried to stay afloat but couldn't withstand the competition from eBay and Amazon.

After so many years, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact factors of its failure. However, in our humble opinion, they are as follows:

  1. Lack of Clear Positioning: uBid simply copied eBay, though it could have focused on a specific market niche. This would have allowed the company to become a leader in a narrow segment and compete with larger players.
  2. Lack of New Features and Technologies: Consumer habits changed during uBid’s existence. However, the company failed to keep up with innovations in e-commerce.

The closure of uBid is a sad story, but it is also a valuable lesson for those who want to compete in the e-commerce business. It is crucial to constantly adapt, innovate, and meet customer needs to remain competitive in a rapidly changing world.

Quibids

Founded in 2009, Quibids attempted to carve out a niche in auction platforms with a focus on fast-paced, low-bid auctions. Despite initial success, the business model faced criticism for its resemblance to gambling. As a result, the company couldn't sustain stable growth and significantly scaled back its operations.

In other words, a fundamental error was made in the business model from the start. How could this have been avoided? By starting with a Minimum Viable Product, which means functionally testing the idea and then refining it based on user feedback.

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Key Advice  

However, there are those who succeeded. Let's analyze a few successful cases.

For example, MercadoLibre — a platform launched in 1999 in Latin America — became the largest marketplace in the region.

eBay achieved success by offering a wide range of products, but it also became a leader in several key segments, particularly collectibles and rare cars. However, you can also segment your project based on geographical factors, as happened with MercadoLibre.

Or Rakuten, founded in Japan in 1997. You probably know this company not just as one of the largest players in the global e-commerce market, but also as the owner of the messenger Viber.

Initially, Rakuten, like eBay, evolved as a marketplace, expanding its range of products. However, over time, it diversified its services into digital content distribution. Investing in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality to stay afloat is a prudent decision.

Conclusion: A new platform that focuses on a specific niche or geo, provides excellent customer service, builds a strong community, invests in technology, and combats fraud, has the potential to become a leader in e-commerce.

Stages of creating large e-commerce projects  

In general, it's a multi-stage process that includes detailed planning, development, testing, and promotion. Let's not delve into the details right now; instead, let's go through the 4 main points, the significance of which we would like to emphasize.

1. Choosing an idea 

The idea and concept are everything. Sometimes it seems that coming up with a new product to compete with market giants is simply impossible. The creator of eBay just happened to start in 1995, not in 2024 or later.

However, even in a saturated market, it's possible to create something unique. Our case study with LYNQ: a new-generation dating app, proves this. We managed to break into the dating app niche, attract a large audience, and garner many positive reviews on Google Play and the App Store. This new app was able to compete with market giants due to its innovative functionality.

Returning to the topic of eBay, you can turn its weaknesses into your unique selling proposition.

For example, in the community section, many sellers complain about unfair decisions against them (for instance, when a buyer damages a product and then returns it with support siding with the buyer without compensating the seller for losses). You can also address complaints from buyers who encounter fraudsters, a persistent issue that eBay has struggled to fully resolve and protect users from.

So, perhaps the question shouldn't be "How to create an app like eBay?" but rather "How to create a platform BETTER than eBay."

2. Looking for a developers team

Your idea may be brilliant, but if its implementation suffers, there can be no talk of success. Therefore, pay special attention to this process and dedicate as much time as necessary.

  • First and foremost, evaluate the portfolio. This will immediately answer many questions: does the team have relevant experience with projects in your industry, and what competencies in e-commerce can they offer you?
  • Pay attention to the scale of projects: are there well-known brands in the portfolio, and are comprehensive ecosystem development solutions represented?
  • Review feedback from previous clients. This will give you an idea of how reliable the team is, whether they meet deadlines, and how they interact with clients.

Conduct detailed interviews with key members to ensure their competence, understanding of modern technologies, and approach to problem-solving. Evaluate how easy it is to communicate with potential developers, their readiness to collaborate, and their openness to dialogue. Wezom's clients often admit that they chose us precisely because of these qualities.

3. Creating MVP

Having a strong team you can rely on and an incredible idea, you'll surely want to create something monumental right away. We know this from personal experience. When clients learn about Wezom's technical capabilities and our expertise, their eyes light up with excitement and a desire to realize their boldest visions. We regret having to hold them back in those moments, but we adhere to strategic rather than impulsive decisions.

If you're wondering how to create an online marketplace like eBay, here's the best advice: start with an MVP — Minimum Viable Product, which will allow you to:

  • verify if the product idea is truly in demand on the market; 
  • start with minimal investments, reducing financial risks;
  • use an iterative approach to development, adding and improving features based on real data and user feedback;
  • attract investors and strategic partners who can assist in further development and scaling.

Interesting fact. It is said that eBay was created to help Pierre Omidyar's fiancée collect PEZ dispensers. While this legend has been debunked by company representatives and was used for marketing purposes, you can still take a page from this playbook if you want to replicate the success of one of the world's largest auctions. Come up with a vibrant and captivating story behind the creation of your brand. Make it something relatable to everyone, something that resonates with your target audience.

By the way, at the time of writing this article, the most expensive collectible PEZ dispenser is selling on eBay for $50,000.

4. Gradual growth

After a successful MVP launch, you can begin work aimed at adding new features, expanding product range, enhancing application performance and functionality, strengthening market positions, establishing trusting customer relationships, and so on. 

From a development team perspective, we typically follow a scenario like this:

  • Implementation of inventory and order management systems;
  • Use of CRM systems for customer relationship management;
  • Automation of marketing campaigns and analytics;
  • Platform adaptation for international markets (localization, currencies, logistics);
  • Integration of new technologies (artificial intelligence, machine learning);
  • Development of mobile applications and other sales channels;
  • Ensuring uninterrupted operation;
  • Regular updates and security improvements.

Certainly, the order and list may vary depending on the project's tasks and goals. What remains unchanged is our passion for innovative and non-trivial solutions, deep immersion into each task, and its implementation with maximum efficiency, using best practices to ensure impeccable results.

Victoria
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