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How to Make a Peer-to-Peer Mobile Shopping App

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These days all activities shifted online, and shopping is not an exception. Many startupers strive to build an app that allows users to shop smart by connecting directly to merchants. This is a classic example of peer-to-peer marketplaces. Just look at Amazon and Alibaba and see how they leveraged from simple marketplace business model.

Fortunately, now you don’t need to build another Amazon to succeed. You can start from the development of web platforms like Etsy. It will also get you far better results than a usual e-commerce website. Since we know a lot about shopping applications, we decided to share with you some interesting insights. 

This blog post will describe main types of peer-to-peer marketplace apps, must-have features they should offer and some hot trends that you should take into consideration. We will also share our experience and one success story. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

What differs peer-to-peer marketplace app and online store

Sometimes people think that online store and peer-to-peer marketplace app are the same. But in fact these two solutions differ a lot. So to eliminate the confusion we decided to begin with the proper definition of these two solutions:

  • An online store is a multifunctional site which makes sales through the Internet possible. It means that you, as the online store owner, conducts the sale, you bring suppliers and buyers together, you set prices and carry all expenses for the maintenance that your store requires. 
  • A peer-to-peer marketplace app is a solution using which two groups of people meet: the ones looking for particular services or goods, the others wanting to provide these products under particular conditions. Some marketplaces allow monitoring the execution of the transaction and comply with the obligations of suppliers and customers. A person-to-person marketplace owner doesn’t make any sales, you just provide people with a platform for the exchange of things. The main challenge for you is to make this platform user-friendly.

Traditional e-commerce is one of many exchanges of goods and services. But peer-to-peer marketplaces similar to Etsy or Amazon are a many-to-many exchange of goods and services. And that’s where the revolution is happening thanks to stronger social connections and increased volumes of product you can sell through such platform.

Event traditional brands are also powering up peer-to-peer marketplaces strategy in order to close the loop and sell a product without intermediaries. For example, they’re creating certified second-hand marketplaces for their products to be resold, or they’re linking their experts with customers together within a branded marketplace.

Online marketplaces make a profit through commission sales, affiliate programs, and promotional tools. Also we should mention the scalability of projects and geographic coverage that is unlimited indeed.

multi-vendor system

Challenges of Peer-to-Peer Marketplace App

Peer-to-peer app development is hard. After all, you build a platform and hope that people on the supply side and demand side will come together to complete a transaction. But this poses some additional challenges. Especially if you’re aiming at FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) that require flawless logistics.

The reason it’s so challenging is due to the fact you’ve got two sides of the market to figure out. The process is completely different from the situation when you build a normal company with only one type of customers and demand. But with peer-to-peer marketplaces, you’ll have the same concept times two. That’s why you should narrow your proposition to one single use case and only then expand categories.

  • Supply side – restrict the supply side to the very specific products or goods category, that you can easily control and deliver on that promise.
  • Demand side – focus on finding the ideal customer that has the need for specific use case you particular peer-to-peer marketplace app offers.

The product category you choose will directly affect online shopping app design. In particular, it will indicate how wireframes and product description pages should be structured: product-centered, description-centered, rich in pictures or else. For example, if you choose housing market your app will focus on such specificities as apartment size, location, and facilities inside. On the other hand, if your app will sell cars your app design should focus on mileage, vehicle class and terms of the lease.

Ans while everything is quite clear with the aforementioned challenge, there are some other obstacles you may face.  One of them is inefficient searching and matching. When there are many sellers and goods on the peer-to-peer marketplace, the search means a lot. So it is recommended to think beforehand how sellers and buyers will find each other. There are two types of search that can be implemented:

  • Centralized search – helps to narrow the options for sellers and buyers and is perfect for on-demand business model. Centralized search is actively used by Uber and Zeek.
  • Decentralized search – advanced search with multiple filters, personalization and engine generated recommendations.  The well-known peer-to-peer marketplace that uses this type of search is Etsy.

Another challenge you may face while peer-to-peer app development is payment mechanism. We all are aware of well-known payment service providers, but in case with P2P apps it is crucial to choose the pricing model – auction, price adjustment in real-time or automated pricing algorithm.

And last but not least, prioritize peer-to-per marketplace security. It is better to take care about it in advance, then deal with data breach, money loss, and other unpleasant consequences later. You can implement:

  • payment protection,
  • transactions checks,
  • verification of users identity,
  • verification of devices,
  • licensing of service providers,
  • photo and description verification, etc.
Additional information
Peer-to-peer app development is tricky, so it is always better to delegate it to real professionals who are aware of all possible challenges and risks. Our experts have written a post about the most common risks here, and it is highly recommended to read it.

Popular Types of Marketplaces

Choosing the right marketplace approach is vital for business success. This is very challenging subject, and unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs try to figure out their strategy after the app is created. But as you would see, each of types needs a specific set of feature in order to perform well.

types of marketplaces


Free-for-all
eBay, Craigslist, OLX. These are basic marketplaces where everyone can place their products and sell them directly to customers. All the in-details here, like shipping and payments, are settled whatever way users want. The quality of offerings and reliability of sellers was based on the user’s ratings.
Curated marketplaces
apps similar to Etsy, Airbnb. These are very focused platforms, with identity, privacy and trust users demand nowadays. Such marketplaces leverage their social trust and convert this trust into liquidity of offerings. The more trust they gain – the more attractive sellers’ offering is. Thus the more transactions are made through those online shopping platforms.
Fixed supply side
Uber, Fiverr, Homejoy. Such marketplaces are usually built on top of the existing curated platform. They usually have fixed offerings for a specified price range and proved value consistency. The supply side in such online shopping sites is locked to specific list of contractors that is strictly curated and refined by price and value.
Type of marketplace  Must-have features 
Free-for-all – straightforward user rating,
– ability to add new product categories,
– clear layout that displays many offers at once.
Curated marketplaces – strict layout for offerings,
– advanced admin panel for pre-moderation,
– clear and trustful design,
– specific set of delivery/payment services.
Fixed supply side – closed ecosystem for a specific product category,
– inner payment system and mass pay gateway,
– client support panel.

Those are basic approaches on how to build the liquidity of your mobile shopping app similar to Etsy, Amazon, or ASOS. Choosing specific approach is vital for successful business development.

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How to develop an online shopping app: GBKSOFT Tips

For more than 10 years in business we helped numerous startupers and business owners launch their mobile shopping applications. Although we do not develop online marketplaces from scratch now, we have enough experience to provide you with some valuable advice. Also at the moment we help numerous clients to spice up their existing solutions and make them more up-to-date. For example, we can easily implement advanced analytics, AI-powered features, live streaming option and many more.

So let’s say you’ve made a decision to build your own online shopping app. The first thing you should do is shape your idea a little bit and find a company that has all necessary technical specialists. You will definitely need services of:

  • Business analyst;
  • Project manager;
  • Front and back-end coders;
  • Designers;
  • QA engineers. 

In some cases you may also need DevOps and marketing team to help you with the server side of the app and its further promotion. The development itself includes several main steps – writing of all technical documentation; creation of wireframes and design concept; coding; quality checks; release and further maintenance.

The cost of mobile shopping app development

Speaking about the budget that you should have to develop your online shopping app, in most cases you need to be ready to pay $50,000 or more depending on the type of marketplace, its complexity and feature set. However, there is a number of features and development tasks that are needed to be  added regardless of the type of marketplace you’ll choose. They are the following:

There are also must-have integrations that you definitely need to implement in your mobile shopping app if you want it to be competitive, user-friendly and highly-functioning. Those integrations include but are not limited to:

  • Admin Panel
  • Chatting System
  • Search Engine Integration
  • Payment Gateway
  • Shipping System

To execute all those integrations and make your app visually pleasing and user friendly, you need a bunch of technical specialists starting with Business analyst and designer, and ending with high class coders and quality assurance engineers. They all have their hourly rates, so depending on your app complexity you will need a certain amount of their working hours.

Must read
In case you are still wondering how software companies estimate shopping app development, you can check out our detailed guide covering all aspects of this topic.

Features to boost KPI of your online shopping app

As an owner of a mobile shopping app, you can earn money only from the successful transactions made through your platform. Meaning the more transactions are completed – the more money you gain. By now you wondering if there is any efficient way to boost productivity of your mobile shopping app. Well, consider these features in order to increase the conversion rate and earn more:


Style boards
a flexible styling system will allow merchants to design their stores in a unique eye-catching way and make products more appealing to users.
Badges
this feature will help merchants highlight special offers and get additional sales. It may suggest items based on previous searches. For example, if users click through Gucci scarves, there will be shown closets that it thinks users will also like.
Virtual try-ons
this system is especially useful if you’re thinking about development of something similar to ASOS shopping app. Virtual try-ons and fitting rooms will definitely reduce the number of returns and thus your profit margins.
Login via socials
this is a must-have feature. Integrating you online shopping app with social platforms will speed up the registration process, improve user conversion rate, and offer users more personalized experience.
Analytics
a straightforward sales statistics inside the app will make your app more appealing to merchants because they won’t need any kind of additional software to calculate expenses and marketing efforts.
Loyalty program
the app can recommend things to users they may like and offer your customers personalized rewards, so they shop at your store more often. You can even reward user for being a frequent shopper and build loyalty programs starting from a certain sum of money spent in your store.
Selection options
it allows the users to trade items with a swap feature. Users can list an item and make it available for selling and/or swapping.

Smart navigation
your online shopping app should provide easy search of the desired product for the user and don’t forget about smart filters.
User-friendly design
the intuitive clean design is half of the success and your online peer-to-peer marketplace platform is no exception. Therefore, it is important to hire a competent UI/UX experts to create an interface of your mobile resource.
Engaging elements
the majority of popular trading platforms use a typical and boring approach to business that reduce user engagement. Therefore, any conceptual innovations can attract the target audience and help to stand out from the competition. Say, you can diversify the process of selecting and buying goods with the game component and thereby increase the involvement of users.

Live streaming – a game-changing technology for mobile shopping apps 

The world of technologies changes fast and shapes many businesses. These days live streaming became one of the leading technologies that is able to change even shopping industry. Real-time streams demonstrate the goods and let people click on proposals and be redirected to the website selling them. What can be more convenient and fast than that? Can you imagine how fast you can seal the deal using live streaming sessions? Can you realize how many new clients you can attract? Live streaming technology is powerful and it grants mobile shopping apps that use it a huge competitive advantage.

Here at GBKSOFT we have recently implemented live streaming into one successful online shopping platform. The main idea of our client was to perform online streams, demonstrate the products an online shop offers and let people navigate quickly to the products and add them to cart. Live streaming was supposed to be a tool able to attract new clients, increase their engagement and encourage them to purchase more items. The plan of a client was genius and worked like a charm. After we finished our job and released the solution, the sales of the client increased and the client base expanded.

All you need is a great app idea, certain budget for its development, and a team of developers to help you turn your idea into a real project. We would also recommend you complete the Discovery stage to find your unique selling point, select right mobile shopping app type and the best feature set for it.
The price range is $50,000-$120,000 and more. Everything depends on the app type, desired feature set and complexity of the solution. The price tag is high indeed, but you always can choose MVP development that is more affordable. Moreover it lets you test your idea and get a real feedback.
In general you will need to wait 3-6 months until your app is all set and ready. There are some cases when the development takes longer.

Bottom Line

We live in the era of technologies where all businesses go online and even go mobile. And while some businesses find this stressful, others like retail and resale are glad about this turn of events. The possibilities for making shopping smarter and more profitable are endless. And the firs important step you can take today to ensure your bright business future is to invest in custom online shopping app development.

There are many popular types of marketplaces but the most prosperous ones are peer-to-peer. By developing a great shopping application and spicing it up with the advanced technologies like live streaming or AI, you can attract a lot of new satisfied clients and turn your business to a whole new level.

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