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How to Create a Digital Product Marketplace With WordPress

Illustration: products being unloaded from multiple trucks

Do you want to create a digital product marketplace on your online store? This is a great way to grow sales and expand your business with passive income.

In this article we’ll show you how to build a marketplace on your own website with WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads.


What Is A Marketplace? 

An online marketplace is a website, or app, where customers can purchase products from multiple sellers. A marketplace has products from many different sources. Amazon and Etsy are examples of marketplaces.

We call these multiple sellers or sources ‘vendors’.

If you build a marketplace site you need:

  1. First, a way to take submissions, screen, and accept products from vendors
  2. Then, ways to list vendor products on your site that are easy to browse
  3. Next, provide a way for customers to purchase
  4. Last, you must pay your vendors a commission (percentage of the purchase)

You may be thinking that it sounds hard to do. It used to be very difficult. In the past this kind of functionality required advanced know how with web development skills or custom coding. But not any more.

WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads makes it possible to make your own marketplace. No coding required! Skip ahead to learn more.


Why Would I Build A Marketplace?

As a digital creator, you’re probably already making digital products and downloads. You may be wondering why you would want to sell other people’s digital products on your website.

There are many reasons to build a marketplace:

  • More products in your store make more sales possible. So you can make more money!
  • You can help more people in more ways because you can provide lots of solutions to lots of problems. Not just one, or a few, because, you can’t build everything!

The Customer Journey

Think about things from the perspective of your customers or potential customers…

You’ve found a segment of the market that has a problem you can solve well (your niche).

🥺 Your customers are busy running their business and looking for solutions to their problems.😀 You provide a valuable solution to their problem, or a few of their problems, with your product or service. Score!
🥺 But your customers have other problems. They trust you. How do you help them solve their other problems, you can’t build a product for every problem they have!😀 You can sell other products that solve their other problems right there on your website. You can become a one-stop-shop for your niche.

That’s the power of a marketplace!

📈 Building a marketplace let’s you continuously add value to your customers (and potential customers)

You know your niche better than anyone. Offer related products (solutions) to your customers’ other problems. The fastest way to add more products to your store is often to sell other creator’s products.


What Kind of Digital Marketplace Can I Build?

Pretty much any kind of digital marketplace! Using WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) you can sell any kind of digital product or download.

Here are just a few examples and ideas:

  • Stock photo websites
  • Stock video
  • Audio or music 
  • Graphics and graphic templates
    • Adobe Photoshop / Illustrator
    • Affinity Designer / Photo
    • Canva
    • VistaCreate
  • Document or document templates
  • Online courses or tutorials
  • Spreadsheets (Excel or Google Sheets)
  • Streaming video or audio
  • Audio books
  • Private podcasts
  • Podcast audio (intros, transitions, background music)
  • Sound effects
  • eBooks
  • Fonts
  • Embroidery patterns or files
  • Laser cut files
  • 3D printing files
  • Cricut Maker ideas or templates
  • Worksheets
  • Social media guides or templates
  • Printables
  • Homeschool supplies, ideas, and templates
  • Religious activities and templates
  • Employee and HR documents/templates
  • Manuals
  • Planners
  • WordPress themes
  • WordPress plugins
  • Website templates
  • Desktop software
  • Video games
  • Gamer resources, hacks, downloadables

If you create your own digital products, imagine how much more you could do by selling other similar products on your site. The sky’s the limit!


How to Build a Marketplace in WordPress

The best way to build a digital marketplace is with WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads (EDD).

WordPress + Easy Digital Downloads Logos

🤷🏻 Don’t Have a WordPress Site Yet?

All you need is a good web host. A reputable web host will make it easy to install WordPress, many hosts install it for you, or they’ll make it as simple as a few clicks.

🟢 Read this guide to choosing a WordPress web host, it includes discount codes!

Why WordPress?

WordPress started out as a tool for bloggers, and it’s still the best blog platform out there. But over the years it’s grown to be a powerhouse for all kinds of sites from membership sites, eCommerce sites, all the way to news sites.

  • WordPress powers more than 43% of the internet. No other web technology has reached 5%.
  • There’s no better mix of powerful and inexpensive available.
  • Its approachable for beginners and satisfies the most advanced users and developers with it’s infinite customization possibilities.
  • It’s future proof and can do anything you need. It has the largest ecosystem of themes (templates), plugins, and professional service providers to customize it however you need (for less money than many other options too!) 

🤷🏾‍♂️ Don’t Have EDD Yet?

The Easy Digital Downloads plugin is the best way to sell digital products on your WordPress website. It allows you to set up your own eCommerce platform.

You may hear the following terms used to describe digital products. Be sure to include them in your research:

Digital Products =Downloadable products
Virtual products
Downloads
Digital goods

EDD is purpose-built for selling digital products, from eBooks, to spreadsheets, to software.

Other solutions, including WooCommerce and Shopify are built for selling physical products. Digital products, for them, are kinda an afterthought. You waste time configuring shipping, logistic, and inventory tools and settings you don’t need. You may find you have to purchase add-on tools (sometimes from third parties).

Why EDD?

  • Like WordPress, EDD is powerful and affordable.
  • Since it runs on WordPress you take advantage of the extensive ecosystem that both WordPress and EDD have, so you can trust that it can grow with you if your needs change. It’s future proof!
  • EDD has a proven 10-year track record. It’s one of the most trusted WordPress eCommerce plugins available.
  • It’s trusted by more than 50,000 entrepreneurs to run their digital stores.

Get started for free!

Using WordPress and want to get Easy Digital Downloads for free?

Enter the URL to your WordPress website to install.

 

EDD has a free version, not a free trial. It includes:

  • Fully customizable branding and customer experience
  • Full control over pricing
  • Shopping cart
  • Flexible checkout options
  • Stripe and/or PayPal payment methods (payment gateways)
    • Use Stripe and/or PayPal for accepting credit cards
    • Use Stripe for Apple Pay and Google Pay express checkout buttons
  • Customer management (basic CRM)
  • eCommerce reports
  • Discount codes

🔴 While EDD is free to use, we recommend purchasing a Professional Pass to get the features needed to easily run a digital marketplace. We’ll show you how below! ⬇️

😁 Also note: a Professional Pass also includes more than 50 other EDD extensions for taking your online store to the next level. This includes email marketing, subscriptions, and software licensing.

Steps to Building a Marketplace with EDD

The focus of this article is setting up a marketplace with EDD. Not setting up a store from scratch. If you are just getting started, check out our quick start guide. Then come back here to get your marketplace started.

🏎 EDD Quick Start Guide – a step by step guide for installing EDD, setting up products (downloads), and configuring payment method/s

Step 1 – Install Marketplace Tools

Your tech stack for digital marketplaces

EDD makes it easy to build a marketplace with two of our powerful Extensions:

  • Frontend submissions (FES) – allows you to set up everything you need to allow vendors to submit products (called a multi-vendor marketplace). You can approve and remove vendors along with their products. FES allows handles all the emails that go along with managing a marketplace.
  • Commissions – for managing the process of paying vendors

To get these two Extensions you need a Professional Pass.

  1. Click here to get a Personal Pass
  2. Learn how to install and activate these Extensions

Step 2 – Configure Frontend Submissions Extension

Once you have Frontend Submissions installed you’ll have a new tab on your EDD settings on your WordPress dashboard. Look under Downloads > Settings > FES.

Under Vendor Announcement you create the messaging you want on the Vendor Dashboard. The Vendor Dashboard is where registered and approved vendors arrive when they log in.

Screenshot: EDD's FES Digital Marketplace settings

I’ve added some sample text to my test site. Here is what a registered vendor will see when they log in and land on the Vendor Dashboard.

Screenshot: EDD's FES Digital Marketplace Vendor Dashboard

Vendor Submission Process

First, when a vendor logs in they can click ‘+ Add Product’ to fill out the Submission Form.  The default fields are a title and body copy.

Screenshot: EDD's FES Digital Marketplace Vendor Dashboard - Add Product

Next, the vendor fills out the form and submits it to you.

Screenshot: EDD's FES Digital Marketplace Vendor Dashboard - Vendor submission process

You’ll get an email that tells you about the submission.

Screenshot: EDD's FES Digital Marketplace Vendor Dashboard - New submission emails

You can approve the products as they come in. Look under Downloads > All Downloads. You’ll see the vendor submitted product/s that are Pending Review. To approve them you can either:

  1. Hover over the product name and click the ‘Approve’ button that appears
  2. Or click the product name to go in and make any tweaks and changes you want, including the price, download image or any other download settings
Screenshot: EDD Download Pending Review

Here’s what the vendor’s download product will look like on your website’s frontend. We’re using our free Themedd theme which is set up and ready to go for marketplaces.

Screenshot: EDD's Vendor Product on Frontend

What Your Vendor Sees

Your vendor can log in to their Vendor Dashboard at any time. They’ll be able to view their product/s on the Products screen.

Screenshot: EDD's Vendor Dashboard Product Lists

Under Earnings they can see the money they are bringing in. They can check more details about each individual order under the Orders tab. They can also edit their profile settings under Profile.

Screenshot: EDD's Vendor Dashboard Earnings
Vendor Earnings Tab

📖 Learn more about FES setup on our Docs

How do your vendors get paid? With the Commissions Extension.

Step 3 – Configure Commissions Extension

When you have Commissions installed there will be a new menu area under the Extensions menu. Look for it at Downloads > Settings > Extensions.

Screenshot: EDD Digital Marketplace Commissions Settings

Here you can set the percentage (cut) your vendor gets when your website makes a sale. The default is 60%. Leave the other settings to default, unless you have a specific need. Click here to learn about each of these settings.

Viewing Commissions Status

Anytime a vendor’s product is sold on your website, you can track the commissions you’ll need to pay at Downloads > Commissions.

Screenshot: EDD's Commissions Listing

📖 Learn more about Commissions setup on our Docs

📨 Marketplace sites involve a lot of emails. Good news! EDD + Frontend Submissions and Commissions has you totally covered. ⬇️

Step 4 – Configure Emails

After you have installed FES and Commissions you’ll have new menu items for emails in the EDD settings.

On your WordPress dashboard look for Downloads > Emails. There you’ll see a new tab for Commission Notifications (emails) and Frontend Submissions

Screenshot: EDD Digital Marketplace Settings

There are many automated emails that need to happen when running a marketplace.

Here is a short list:

  • Vendor Application – Notifying you (the site owner) of new vendors hoping to sell on the website
  • New Product – A notification for new vendor products submitted by vendors
  • Application Received – Letting the vendor know you got their application
  • Application Approved / Declined – Letting the vendor know yes or no on when you decide whether they can sell on your store
  • Submission Approved / Declined – Letting the vendor know yes or no on their products submitted
  • + 8 more…

You get the general idea. There’s a lot of communication that needs to happen between you and your vendors. If you were doing it all manually, you’d quickly have dozens of emails to write and send everyday.

😰 It’s complicated. But don’t worry, we’ve made it super simple!

We have all the emails built, with sensible default copy written. They are good to go! And EDD + FES send the automatically as needed!

You can, of course, edit them however you want. 

Frontend Submissions Emails

Under Downloads > Emails > Frontend Submissions you’ll find a beautiful listing interface for enabling/disabling and editing all the marketplace emails.

Screenshot: EDD Digital Marketplace FES Emails List

Click on the title to edit each email. You’ll see the current sensible default text. You can edit as desired.

Screenshot: EDD Digital Marketplace Edit FES Email

See all those words between curly brackets? {Like this?} We provide a system of Template Tags to automate your emails. Template tags are similar to WordPress shortcodes.

These will automatically swap in names, product titles, and so on. To customize them, there is a link to the email documentation on each screen (or click below).

📖 Click here for the Email and Template Tags Doc

Commission Notifications

You can edit the email that goes out to the vendor whenever their product is purchased at Downloads > Emails > Commission Notifications. You can also disable the email.

Note: if the Email Body is blank, that means the default text is configured. If you write in your own text there (and hit save) it will override the default text.

Screenshot: EDD Digital Marketplace Commissions Settings

This is what the default email a vendor gets looks like:

Screenshot: Sample Commissions Email

More Details

This article gives you an overview of how to set up a marketplace with EDD, using the Frontend Submissions extension and Commissions extension. 

For more details and advanced settings check out our Docs:

⚙️ Frontend Submissions Docs

⚙️ Commissions Docs


Conclusion

Good stuff! You’ve learned how to create a digital product marketplace. We hope this helps you scale up a profitable online business that empowers others!

We have a lot more resources for digital creators like you. What do you want to learn about next?

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Joe Wells

About Joe Wells

Joe is a Marketing Specialist at Awesome Motive. For years he’s been helping people and organizations succeed with WordPress. He is also the founder of an alternative accounting solution for your side hustle called HustleBooks (powered by Easy Digital Downloads). He and his family live and play just outside Detroit. A busy dad, he enjoys running, watching and creating films.

@thisisjoewells

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