5 Tools for Building a Community Marketplace

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small_townAs hyperlocal publishers search for sources of revenue outside of traditional banner ads, one strategy that frequently pops up is that of creating a local marketplace. In addition to serving as a portal where loyal readers can exchange goods and services, an online marketplace can generate page views and become a source of incremental income for publishers who charge visitors to sell or swap items through their sites.

With their built-in audiences already in place, hyperlocal publications are able to easily overcome one of the biggest obstacles to getting a community marketplace off the ground. However, technical challenges still remain, and building a marketplace from scratch can be extraordinarily time consuming and expensive. Now, a handful of vendors are offering a solution, providing publishers with the tools they need to create custom marketplaces that can be up and running in a matter of days. Here are five of those solutions.

1. Sharetribe: Collect a fee on each marketplace transaction.
Sharetribe provides publishers with a way to create marketplaces without having to bring on an outside developer. Publishers select their own domains, and Sharetribe handles the setup process. Marketplace visitors can then sell, rent, swap, or share goods and services with other people in their local communities. They can also filter and sort listings, rate other users, and send messages to each other through the platform. Publishers are able to charge for this service, and they can take a fee from each transaction that occurs inside their marketplaces. Sharetribe utilizes SaaS-style pricing, with plans that range from free to $150 per month.

2. Blankslate: Give marketplace buyers an opportunity to engage.
Why have a single community marketplace, when you could have several hubs focused on individual products or themes? Publishers that use Blankslate can build local marketplaces focused on topics like real estate, local services, and general classified listings. These marketplaces serve as a place where community members can buy and sell goods and services. Blankslate differentiates itself from competitors by offering tools for creating “user pages,” where buyers and sellers can save their favorite listings, leave comments, and write longer posts. Readers can follow specific sellers to find out when they’ve listed new items for sale. Blankslate operates on a revenue sharing basis with local publishers.

3. Wave2 Media: Locate sellers by integrating with Google maps.
Larger publishers looking for ways to expand the ad products they have available to small business advertisers can use Wave2 Media to create searchable marketplaces. The vendor’s iPublish Marketplace product enables publishers to build local marketplaces where private parties can buy and sell items. Marketplace listings can be filtered from multiple sources, and they can be set up to accept feeds from a publisher’s existing ad system (along with XML or RSS). Seller listings can be “simple” or “enhanced,” and searches can be integrated with Google maps to help buyers locate sellers in their areas. Marketplaces built with Wave2 Media’s tools integrate with “most leading credit card merchant systems.” Wave2 offers a variable pricing structure.

4. DirectoryPress: Create a marketplace using a directory script for WordPress.
DirectoryPress uses a directory script for WordPress to build marketplaces, directories, and classifieds websites for publishers. DirectoryPress says publishers can have their marketplaces up and running in “less than 60 seconds,” choosing from dozens of themes and add-on options for customization and branding purposes. Publishers can charge sellers for creating new listings, and they can accept payments through more than 20 payment gateways. DirectoryPress charges $79 for an unlimited user license, allowing publishers to build their marketplaces and add an unlimited amount of content for a flat fee.

5. Superior Media Solutions: Remind sellers when it’s time to renew their listings.
Superior Media Solutions offers publishers a custom solution for creating digital directories and marketplaces. Loyal readers become advertisers when they purchase listings on a publisher’s self-serve directory. Publishers then have the option to manually approve and publish all new listings before they go live. They can also send out email blasts to ask sellers to renew any listings that have gone unsold or unfulfilled. SMS offers analytics and reporting tools that allow publishers to view the income their directories are generating. SMS offers variable pricing options.

Know of other tools publishers can use to create their own online marketplaces? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.