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Online service marketplace platform: to build vs buy | MarketBox

Build versus Buy: 3 Options for Starting An Online Service Marketplace

Thinking about starting an online service marketplace business

Then, the next step is deciding whether you’ll build the software you need to run your service business or buy it. 

In other words, are you going to

A. Build your own online service marketplace platform in-house?

B. Use a web development agency to build your service marketplace software?

C. Or buy a ready-to-use Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution to run your online service business? 

Factors such as cost, time, customization requirements, maintenance, and more must be carefully considered. In this post, we’ll review the pros and cons of building versus buying an online service marketplace so you can make the right decision for your business.

Build vs. Buy Option A: Build Your Online Service Marketplace Platform In-House

Build vs Buy: The pros and cons of building an online marketplace platform in-house. 

You could technically DIY your own online platform by Googling “how to build an online service marketplace” if you’re prepared to put a lot of time into it. But the fastest way to build your own online service marketplace platform is to hire an in-house developer. Of course, a good developer doesn’t come cheap, so be prepared to allocate some serious budget towards the project. 

Pro: Building an online service marketplace platform allows you to completely customize it ‍

When you build your own online marketplace platform in-house, you can build something that suits your needs perfectly. You have the luxury of choosing everything on your dream list of features to fulfill the exact vision you want. You won’t have to make concessions based on what PaaS (platform as a service) solutions offer, but that also means you have to figure out a way to build all of those features and fast if you want to get your business off the ground quickly. 

Pro: Building a service marketplace software allows you to easily add additional features

Once you have your online service marketplace platform up and running with the basics, you control future feature releases and can decide which features you want to work on next. Adding additional features is harder if you opt for the development agency route. They will likely require a large project or try to batch multiple features together for efficiency, resulting in unknown timelines.

Con: Building an online marketplace platform is time-consuming and requires constant attention 

It can take months to develop the ‘minimum viable product’ for your online service marketplace platform. Web development is full of surprises (usually not good ones) as unforeseen issues arise as you build and test features. This can delay the launch of your service business and result in large amounts of money going out and nothing coming in. 

Building a multi-vendor service marketplace platform is a massive undertaking, and many underestimate the full scope of the project until it’s too late, i.e., you’re six months in and have sunk thousands of dollars into it. 

Another vital thing to keep in mind is whether your team has the skills to deal with issues that arise as your online service business platform is used. If you only plan to hire a developer to create the project, who will fix the bugs or troubleshoot software issues that inevitably appear?

‍Con: Building an e-commerce marketplace platform is expensive

When you develop an online service marketplace platform in-house, additional ongoing costs tend to be forgotten about when initially budgeting for the project.

For example:

  • hosting costs
  • developer retainer fees to handle bugs that pop up or to add new features to your marketplace as the need arises
  • Ongoing maintenance costs

It can cost just as much (or more) to maintain a platform than to build it 

 “The more complex the software, the more maintenance it will likely need to ensure continued use.” 

It’s not enough to simply build a platform. You need to consider what it’ll take to maintain and upgrade it continually. Unfortunately for aspiring DIYers, it’s hard to predict the ongoing maintenance costs, as each software product is different. 

Con: Most people don’t know what to build to create an effective online service marketplace platform 

The idea of building your own software might sound easy, but when you start thinking about what features to include and how those features should look, it becomes a whole lot more complex. 

Your online service marketplace platform must work seamlessly for administrators, service providers, and perhaps most importantly, your customers. 

It takes about 50 milliseconds for a user to decide whether they’ll stay or leave, so not only does your software have to function well, it needs to look great. It should be visually appealing and designed in a way that converts leads into sales. Without market research, in-depth knowledge of consumer habits, and an eye for design, this is hard to achieve independently. 

It’s not as easy as checking out a competitors' software and seeing what features they have, either. So much of service business software’s functionality happens behind the scenes and can’t be deciphered by just looking at the front end of a system. 

For existing businesses, developing and building a marketplace platform in-house can also detract focus from the day-to-day running of the business in the first place. This can result in service quality issues and declining customer satisfaction and provider performance, all of which negatively affect the business's health.

Build vs. Buy Option B: Outsource To An Agency

Build vs Buy: The pros and cons of outsourcing the building of your online marketplace platform to an agency. 

If you don’t feel like scouring through “how to build a marketplace” articles and videos or spending hours figuring out coding language, outsourcing the building of a service marketplace e-commerce platform to a website design development agency is an option. 

Pro: You can completely customize your online service marketplace platform

Similar to building an online service marketplace platform in-house, outsourcing the project to an agency means you have complete control over the platform’s functionality. You can have the software built to your specifications and avoid the potential limitations of a PaaS solution. 

Outsourcing your service business software also means you can also focus on running your business, and let the professionals take care of the technical development. 

Pro: Outsourcing development means you can launch your marketplace software faster

A web development agency can build your online service marketplace platform faster than if you were to build it in-house — even if you hired an in-house developer — due to the resources they can devote to your project. However, it’s still slower than if you opted for a ready-to-use PaaS solution, like MarketBox. That’s because agencies have other clients and projects they’re working on simultaneously, which impacts timelines. 

Con: Marketplace software can become obsolete VERY quickly‍

Consumer preferences evolve, and new technologies change how we run businesses. Without constant innovation, service marketplace software can become obsolete very quickly.

If you opt for a ready-built PaaS solution, the software company continually invests in R&D to ensure it keeps up with changing industry demands. If you build it yourself or outsource it to an agency, you need to constantly monitor the market and make changes, which is both expensive and time-consuming. 

As your platform is used, customer data and feedback highlight updates that need to be made to improve the user experience. Again, these changes are up to you to implement, which means more cost. 

Con: The project can easily expand past the initial scope of work as you update online service marketplace platform features

Another thing to take into consideration is that there’s no such thing as a “one and done” cost when hiring agencies to develop your online marketplace platform. This isn’t a permanent solution that will suit your needs forever. You will need to continually spend money in order to update the marketplace software, and most agencies don’t work on retainers (if they do, the cost can be out of reach for many small businesses).

PaaS options release new updates, bug fixes, and feature enhancements multiple times a month. As a user, these updates are automatically applied at no extra cost, but if you’ve built your own marketplace platform, you have to pay each time something needs fixing or updating. 

Also, if things go outside the scope of work initially outlined at the beginning of the project, you risk going way over budget. This happens a lot and can leave business owners feeling frustrated, stressed, and powerless.

Con: Launching your online service marketplace platform will be slower than with PaaS solutions

While an agency of developers can build an online service marketplace platform faster than in-house, it’s still slower than using a pre-built PaaS solution. You’re at the mercy of the agency’s timeline, and critical issues don’t always get solved in a timely manner, causing frustration for you, your customers, and your service providers. 

Build vs Buy Option C: Buy a ready-made PaaS solution

Build vs Buy: The pros and cons of buying a PaaS solution for your online marketplace platform. 

Using a PaaS (platform as a service) solution to run your service business allows you to take advantage of the company's developers, R&D, product testers, and market analysis, all for a small monthly fee. PaaS solutions have numerous benefits and are becoming increasingly common in the software industry, but it’s important to remember that not all PaaS solutions are created equal.

Pro: PaaS solutions are the fastest way to launch your service business

As a ready-made software, PaaS options have the fastest ramp-up time of any online marketplace platform solution. In some cases, you can be up and running in minutes. 

Depending on the PaaS solution you choose, it shouldn’t take long to learn the software. A good PaaS solution will provide onboarding support to help you set up, and have an intuitive interface that makes it easy for your whole team — and your customers — to use. Many also let you customize the look and feel of the design and features, allowing you to customize it to suit your service business’s specific needs. 

Pro: It’s less expensive than building your own online service marketplace platform

Another reason a PaaS solution is the best option for most businesses looking for an online service marketplace is the price transparency. The only price you’ll ever have to pay is the cost of the monthly subscription. There’s no risk of surprise fees when a developer has to work overtime to fix a bug or any costs involved with researching market trends and identifying new features. 

Typically, PaaS solutions bill monthly, with many offering discounts for annual memberships. There are no large upfront fees, and you don’t have to worry about hosting fees either. 

Many offer different plans depending on the size of your business and the features you’re looking for, so you can pick the option that offers the most value for your money. 

Pro: PaaS solutions are less risky than building your own online service marketplace platform

Another appealing aspect of using a PaaS solution is its low-risk option. Many software options offer a free trial; even if it doesn’t, they don’t typically require a long-term commitment. This lets you try it out and see how it fits your business.

If the PaaS solution isn’t working well for your service business, you can simply cancel your subscription and try a different company’s solution.

Pro: Software maintenance is taken care of for you

If you’re using software to handle your client bookings, payments, and provider scheduling, the last thing you want is for it to develop bugs, start glitching, or go down. Proper software maintenance is essential to keep the software, and your business, running smoothly and includes things like

When you opt for a PaaS solution, all the software maintenance is taken care of for you, so you don’t have to worry about (or pay for) it. 

Pro: PaaS solutions research, develop, and release updates to your online service marketplace platform software

Given how quickly software can become obsolete without constant innovation, purchasing a PaaS solution is beneficial because the innovation (and cost) fall to the PaaS company and not your business. You can also put in feature requests, allowing you some control over what’s released with none of the responsibility.

Do your research to determine which PaaS companies heavily invest in new features and system improvements, as this will vary by company. Ask them to give examples of features they’ve released in the last six months — there’s a difference between saying you invest in new features and actually doing it!

Pro: You can customize the software to suit your business 

While a PaaS solution may not have the same level of customization as building your own online marketplace platform, there are still multiple ways you can personalize it. Again, do your research and choose a software that lets you change the colors and fonts to match your branding, customize customer messaging, and turn features on or off depending on your needs. 

Cons: PaaS solutions may not fit your business perfectly‍

Not all PaaS solutions on the market today will perfectly suit your business’s needs. That being said, there are industry-specific solutions or options purpose-built for different operating models, like mobile appointments, that make it easier to find something that will work for you.

Identify the features that are most important to you, read reviews and book demos, or speak to sales reps before committing to an option. 

Cons: Not all PaaS solutions are user-friendly 

Not all online service marketplace platforms are built with the end-user in mind and can be difficult for your customers or your team to use. 

For example: 

  • The software can be difficult for clients to navigate 
  • It’s not designed to capture sales
  • There might be multiple steps that elongate simple tasks like viewing a provider’s schedule, causing frustration for your admin team

If possible, take advantage of free trials, and try the software as both an administrator and a customer to test the whole experience before making your decision.

Final thoughts

When it comes to starting an online service marketplace, deciding whether you should build vs buy your online marketplace platform is an important decision. For complete customizability, building in-house or outsourcing to an agency is best. But for speed, better value for money, and innovation, a ready-made PaaS solution is the way to go. 

It’s a decision only you can make, so weigh your options carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

If you’re ready to learn more about a PaaS solution that’s built specifically for in-home and mobile appointments, book a demo to see how MarketBox can handle your service business’s bookings, scheduling, and payments

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