Just a few decades ago, online shopping was a novelty, employed by only a few geeks hunting for hidden treasures on eBay. As the early screeching dial-up sounds trickled into our homes, online shopping slowly but invariably took off. First, we shopped in single vendor stores and later – on Amazon-like marketplaces. A real inflection point in ecommerce did not occur until 2017, however, when smartphone penetration hit 80% worldwide, and Americans started to shop online as often as they took out the trash.
Over the past two years, in particular, there’s been unprecedented growth of online marketplaces of various kinds. Predictably, the year 2020 saw the highest annual US ecommerce growth in the last two decades, amounting to an incredible jump of 44%.
As ecommerce continues to thrive, with the total worldwide spending expected to surge to $7T by 2025, it’s becoming hard to ignore the fact that nearly 2/3 of global online sales happen in marketplaces. Considering the sheer volume of traffic and opportunities that marketplaces offer, it’s worth exploring this area in detail.
In the previous post, we looked at horizontal and vertical marketplaces, while here, we’ll explore the differences between single and multi vendor stores.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Definitions of single and multi vendor marketplaces
Differences between single and multi vendor marketplace models
Examples of single and multi vendor marketplace websites
Review and comparison of the best single and multi vendor ecommerce platforms
Definitions of Single Vendor and Multiple Vendor Marketplaces
A single vendor ecommerce store is a marketplace where a single seller sells its products (or services) to multiple customers. Such stand-alone stores typically don’t provide a broad range of products or services.
A multi vendor ecommerce store is a marketplace where many sellers come together to sell their products (or services). Likewise, in multiple vendor marketplaces, customers can buy products from different sellers or brands.
Difference between single vendor & multiple vendor marketplaces
Unlike a single vendor store where business relationships are two-fold (store and customer), a multiple vendor marketplace involves three entities: a website administrator (owner), vendor, and customer.
Single vendor ecommerce website examples
As mentioned, a single vendor ecommerce website is an online store where a single seller sells their products or services to multiple buyers.
Any single entrepreneur store built on the likes of a Shopify platform can be considered a single vendor ecommerce website. For example, Benjamin Hardman Studio is a single vendor marketplace created by the artist Benjamin Hardman to sell his photography prints.
Any store that sells only one seller’s merchandise is a single vendor marketplace. For instance, Piper & Scoot is a business started by an amateur maternity clothes designer on Instagram who has grown her store into a full-fledged single vendor marketplace.
Multi vendor ecommerce website examples
Over the past few years, selling and buying on online marketplaces has become a hot topic for entrepreneurs and customers alike, so it’s no surprise that the number of marketplaces has increased dramatically. There are currently plenty of multi vendor ecommerce websites online: from Amazon to eBay to Etsy to Taobao.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Single vs Multi-Vendor Marketplaces
Operating or doing business with a single or a multiple-vendor ecommerce store has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Single-vendor vs. multi-vendor for the customer
From a customer’s standpoint, when it comes to a single vendor marketplace, creating and maintaining a relationship with only one supplier can be an advantage – it is easier to streamline operations and integrate systems with a single supplier rather than with many.
By placing orders with just one supplier, businesses can also reduce their administrative and other supplementary costs to a minimum and achieve attractive pricing by leveraging volume.
On the other hand, in a multi vendor reality, there are always opportunities to take advantage of competition among suppliers. And if one of them fails, there is always someone else to fall back on.
Single-vendor vs. multi-vendor for owners
From the owner’s perspective, operating a multi vendor store is financially less risky – instead of sticking to just one niche, owners can diversify their offerings by including other parties in the picture.
Also, having multiple sellers means owners don’t store any inventory, which becomes a seller’s responsibility, further reducing financial risk.
Quality of products
It is difficult to supervise each seller in a multi vendor relationship and see if they deliver quality products. However, having an effective vetting process while onboarding can help mediate the risks of working with a fraudulent or unreliable partner.
Choice and alternatives
In a multi vendor marketplace, customers can browse through product offerings from different suppliers and switch between options within the same space without leaving the site.
A single vendor store, on the other hand, implies certain restrictions in terms of choice and available inventory. If a customer doesn’t find the offering to their satisfaction, they are likely to leave and turn to another store.
Vendors on a multi vendor website will essentially drive traffic to the site. On the contrary, an owner of a single vendor store will be solely responsible for the website’s marketing and traffic (on top of maintaining business operations, inventory, and logistics).
Low traffic is not the only challenge awaiting web stores. As the site’s sole owner, single vendors cannot afford to lower prices below a certain threshold. Customers are likely to shop around and end up at a marketplace where someone else offers a lower price.
In a multi vendor model, the roles and responsibilities of all parties are clearly defined: a marketplace owner maintains the website and infrastructure while vendors sell. On the contrary, single vendor store owners wear multiple hats and oversee every aspect of their business – from website maintenance to logistics.
A basic ecommerce website might be fairly inexpensive and easy to set up, considering there’s a plethora of plug-and-play websites and ecommerce store builders like Shopify. Setting up a multi vendor store is a more complex process that involves custom solutions and numerous integrations.
Single-vendor versus multi-vendor for suppliers
A marketplace also offers numerous opportunities for vendors, as it
minimizes the development and deployment of an ecommerce website,
provides a cost-effective entry into either B2C or B2B ecommerce, and
gives an opportunity to reach new markets and customers.
However, marketplaces charge various commissions and fees, which can make a prolonged partnership challenging.
Moreover, vendor products will always be compared to those of competitors immediately on the website, forcing sellers to drive prices lower or look for other ways to attract customers.
In our previous post, we have summarized the top benefits and limitations of a multi vendor B2B marketplace – check it out for a more in-depth look into the multi vendor model for suppliers.
How to Start Multi or Single Vendor eCommerce Website?
The choice of an ecommerce platform is critical regardless of whether you decide to set up your own ecommerce site from scratch or digitize your existing offline operations.
If you’re operating a small business, it might be worth trying to go with a simpler and more affordable solution that requires minimal setup and practically zero coding skills like Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, Ship4Shop, and others.
However, if your business operations are complex, you’ll need a solid and more customizable solution. Below you’ll find the rundown of marketplace platforms that you can consider for setting up your online store or extending your existing solution to include a multi vendor marketplace model.
Interested in building your own marketplace? Virto Marketplace can help! Virto Marketplace is the most flexible and customizable solution on the market that supports both single and multi vendor models as well as other business scenarios of any complexity.
automates and streamlines all business operations,
opens up new opportunities, and
allows for a faster response to buyer and market demands.
Now, the features that you would have to look out for in a single vendor marketplace platform – as opposed to multi vendor – will certainly differ. With that said, if the platform is flexible, you will be able to develop and add features, thereby converting from one business model to the other with ease.
Here’s the rundown of the most important features you should look for in any marketplace platform:
Simple signup (more detailed user registration for B2B) and convenient checkout processes
User-friendly navigation and custom (intelligent) search
Buyer & vendor portals (and customizable stores) for multi vendor marketplaces with quick and easy vendor onboarding processes for B2C and more vetting procedures for B2B
Catalog and order management modules
Powerful content management system and product pages
Corporate user and account management for B2B ecommerce
Variety of payment options and gateways
Social media sharing
User reviews and testimonials
To learn more about the differences between B2B and B2C online marketplaces, read our article on the topic, where we cover some important processes and functionality that distinguish B2B from B2C platforms.
What is the pricing for multi and single vendor website?
The pricing greatly depends on the platform’s characteristics (revenue volume, number of users or products, and so on) and the amount of customization required.
However, one-time licenses for customizable software can start as low as $700, while a basic Shopify plan starts at $29 per month.
Best Multi Vendor eCommerce Platforms
Virto Marketplace: Best for B2B single and multi vendor marketplaces
Virto Marketplace is a full-fledged standalone solution from Virto Commerce, a leading provider of B2B software.
Virto Marketplace supports both first- and third-party marketplace models and connects to virtually any existing ecommerce solution without replatforming. The resulting solution can be further adapted, extended, or recomposed to accommodate different marketplace requirements and business scenarios.
Virto Marketplace might be your optimal solution if you plan to run a B2B marketplace because it has essential B2B features right out of the box (such as catalog and order management, approval workflows, and access controls) and can be extended to accommodate business scenarios of any complexity. If you need to set up complex seller rules or commission structures, you can do so directly within the application.
Virto Marketplace is an API-first, headless application with pre-built vendor and operator portals. Since you have access to Virto’s source code, you can control your own roadmap and build any specific features yourself or connect to a best-of-breed third-party application. Unlike rigid SaaS applications, Virto Marketplace allows you to participate in the development lifecycle and create a truly bespoke marketplace that suits the needs of your business and customers.
If you decide to connect your existing store to a third-party marketplace, Virto Commerce can help, too. Virto Commerce enables seamless integration with marketplaces and ensures your store complies with all marketplace requirements. As a reputable marketplace partner, Virto Commerce will make sure all your product data is structured, optimized, and prepared for integration. As part of its marketplace integration solution, Virto Commerce offers management of your product data, including connecting product data and inventory to marketplaces in real-time, streamlined order management, and integration of sales, tax, and shipping data. Virto Commerce, being API-based, can help you reach new markets literally overnight by automatically fetching, cleaning, preparing, distributing, and synchronizing product content across multiple channels.
Mirakl B2C & B2B multi vendor marketplace
Mirakl is a French cloud-based marketplace software provider for large B2C and B2B businesses. Currently, there are more than 300 Mirakl-powered marketplaces, including H&M Home, Leroy Merlin, Carrefour, La Redoute, and Conrad.
Mirakl is a SaaS marketplace platform which means that you won’t get access to code and will rely on the Mirakl team to configure and customize your solution if you need any specific features that are not present out of the box. With that said, there is a lot of pre-built functionality to start off. Moreover, along with purchasing a Mirakl solution, you’ll also purchase full-scale support services from Mirakl marketplace business and technical experts.
The charges are unavoidable, however, and they can amount to thousands of dollars. The most significant benefit of connecting to Mirakl is additional services, marketplaces, and partners (in short, a huge ecosystem) that you can access.
Spryker multi vendor ecommerce extension for B2B & B2C
Spryker is a modular, headless, and cloud PaaS. The advantages of PaaS software are its obvious reduced complexity, accelerated app development, and availability of infrastructure resources. However, these benefits come at a price of increased expenses for companies at larger scales and reduced control over the overall platform and its infrastructure.
That being said, Spryker is still a wonderful solution that has received ample recognition from such expert agencies as Gartner and Forrester and is best suited for mid-sized to larger businesses that are looking to scale further.
As mentioned, Spryker is a modular, headless, and API-powered ecommerce platform that can extend and accommodate any marketplace model for both B2C and B2B companies.
CS-Cart multi vendor ecommerce software: better for B2C
For those companies that are looking for simpler and cheaper alternatives, CS-Cart Multi Vendor might be a good option to consider.
CS-Cart Multi Vendor is an on-premise PHP software with open source code, which means you can customize the platform if you require additional features that are not present in an out-of-the-box package.
By purchasing CS-Cart, you’re getting a lifetime license with no forced subscriptions, which is a definite bonus.
However, since it’s a standalone niche product, there’s no support out-of-the-box as such, so you will require additional coding knowledge or a developer team to customize the platform and adapt it to your business goals.
Yo!Kart multi vendor ecommerce software: Best for B2C
Yo!Kart Multi Vendor is a self-hosted multi vendor platform that’s specifically designed for startups and SMBs for B2B/B2C/P2P companies.
Yo!Kart offers complete ownership of the purchased solution with a lifetime license, no recurring payments, zero transaction charges, and 12 months of free technical support services.
However, Yo!Kart is not completely open source and has partially encrypted code, which means you will have to rely on Yo!Kart support for some customization. And although it comes with a lot of built-in features, Yo!Kart will still require customization, and those costs can add up quickly.
All of the platforms discussed in the previous section offer single vendor marketplace solutions. However, if you want to consider other platforms, here’s an additional list for your convenience:
Shopify single vendor store builder
Shopify is a proprietary ecommerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems.
Since there’s no access to code, you’ll have to rely on Shopify support for help to customize features or make use of what’s available. Thankfully, there’s a Shopify App store where you can add features and functionality to your business with more than 6,000 apps that integrate directly with Shopify.
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce solutions for entrepreneurs in more than 170 countries, so it’s a fantastic option for any small business.
Squarespace is a good option for those entrepreneurs who value design over anything else.
Known for its sleek design templates, Squarespace is a perfect option for artists or those involved in the art business. With that said, design is not the only thing that Squarespace boasts – the platform offers high-quality site features, an excellent inventory system, and decent analytical tools.
A small app store, however, provides less choice of additional apps to enhance existing functionality than competing platforms like Shopify.
Again, since Squarespace is proprietary software, you won’t have access to code and have to deal with what’s available.
WooCommerce single vendor store builder
If you have a website on WordPress, you can extend its functionality to include a single vendor marketplace by integrating the WooCommerce plugin.
Since it’s free and open source, you’ll be able to customize your site for your convenience, provided you have sufficient technical knowledge to do so (including knowledge of application development, PHP code implementation, and web hosting management). With that said, even experienced users admit that WooCommerce has a somewhat steep learning curve and requires time to get used to. As such, it’s best to keep in mind that WooCommerce is not a pre-configured plugin, so all categories, tax rates, and so on have to be created manually.
Although the plugin itself is free, some extensions and integrations are not.
Apply For Demo for Single or Multi Vendor eCommerce Platform
Whether you decide to operate a single or multi vendor store or a single store integrated into someone else’s marketplace, Virto Commerce has a solution for you: Virto Marketplace.
Virto Marketplace is one of the most affordable solutions on the market that is also the most customizable and extensible. With direct access to source code, you can create truly memorable experiences that really scale.
Talk to us to learn more about Virto Marketplace and how it can change your business.
Conclusion on Choosing the Right Single or Multi Vendor eCommerce Platform
The most important thing to remember when choosing a solution, whether single- or multi vendor, is its flexibility: you should be able to customize the platform to accommodate your specific business needs. There would be no use in a platform if it cannot scale as you grow or be adapted when new features are required.
It’s also important to keep in mind that most B2C platforms are not suitable for B2B. Therefore, careful attention should be taken in finding out the capabilities and limitations of any prospective solution.
Moreover, a good solution should be capable of integrating with different services, including your internal systems and third-party applications.
Thankfully, with solutions like Virto Commerce and Virto Marketplace, you can access the source code and integrate it with virtually any external system for a fraction of the market price.
The bottom line is multi vendor marketplace vs single vendor marketplace – Virto Marketplace is an optimal solution for both.
What is a multi vendor ecommerce website?
A multi vendor ecommerce website is a platform where multiple sellers can sell their products or services. This type of marketplace is also sometimes called a "marketplace model" or "online marketplace". Some of the most popular examples of Multi Vendor ecommerce marketplaces are Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.
What is a single vendor ecommerce website?
A single vendor ecommerce website is a platform where only one seller can sell their products or services. The most popular example of a Single Vendor ecommerce website is Shopify.
Is it good to have multiple vendors?
Having multiple vendors on your store has several key advantages. Multi vendor stores offer a wider variety of products or services from different sellers, while the competition among those sellers can keep the prices low. However, the multi vendor marketplace model is more difficult to set up and control seller/product quality control across the board.
Can I build a multi vendor marketplace?
Yes, you can. There are, in fact, a few options to build a multi vendor marketplace. You can use your own developer resources and build a marketplace from scratch, extend an existing ecommerce solution to accommodate a multivendor business model, or purchase a ready-made multi vendor marketplace platform.
What are the possible risks of working with a single vendor?
The single vendor model can limit the number and variety of products and services that are available to buyers. Since there is only one seller, buyers may not be able to find the best deal on the products they want and switch to another supplier. Relying on one supplier is also a risky business: if a vendor unexpectedly folds up operations, you’ll be required to find a substitute immediately which might not be always possible.
What are the benefits of having multiple suppliers?
Having multiple suppliers on a marketplace provides your customers with a wider choice of products and services. Speaking of sourcing, having multiple vendors allows for more flexibility to cope with unexpected events, such as a supplier bankruptcy, that could potentially jeopardise your business operations.
What is a multi vendor strategy?
A strategy to hire multiple vendors is a common sourcing strategy that reduces the risk of single vendor dependence, minimises capacity limitations, and allows for more flexibility that leads to better outcomes for all involved parties.
How do you know if the price is fair if we buy from a single vendor?
There are several methods to ensure the fairness and rationality of supplier pricing. One of them is to seek a similar item online or in catalogues of other suppliers and compare prices. Another one is to contact other purchasers who have recently transacted with the supplier and ensure they paid the same price.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of single and multi sourcing?
Although single sourcing can be a powerful strategy during economic stability, it can greatly amplify a business's exposure to risk in times of political or economic uncertainty. Multiple sourcing, on the other hand, while reducing risk, can become a rather complex and expensive strategy.
Is it better to purchase from a single vendor or multiple vendors?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the type of products or services you're purchasing, your budget, and your overall business goals. Sometimes it might be difficult to find a single reliable contractor, in which case it’s best to diversify your purchasing portfolio to include multiple vendors before settling on an optimal contractor.