Creating a Marketplace: How To Organize an External and Internal Operations Team

Over the past 2 years, it has become obvious that marketplaces are outperforming traditional online stores. This business model enables you to quickly increase the product range and earn from sales without owning a product. This is why e-commerce businesses are increasingly looking towards transforming into a marketplace. But it is still not completely clear where to start and what is needed to launch such a project.

Prerequisites for creating a marketplace

Over the past 5 years, most of the major e-commerce players globally have become marketplaces. How this business model differs from a classic online store, We'll show you with an example:
Online shop
For example, you are a manufacturer or supplier of wall clocks. You produced or purchased 500 products (SKU), photographed them, created text descriptions for them, stocked the goods in the warehouse, and gradually sell these products in your store.
This is a hybrid model when you find partners who send you price lists (content, prices) with their wall clocks. You list these products on your online storefront, sell them, and take a commission from a supplier on each sale. Partners send goods to buyers themselves, you just give them buyers' contact information.
You have developed an IT platform and given your partners access to it. They add their wall clocks to your showcase on their own, and you only moderate the product cards for mistakes and visibility. You take a commission on each sale and/or a monthly fee from the partners for using your platform.
The marketplace is more competitive because this business model has an endless shelf. In addition, marketplaces are already more popular among buyers - Wunderman Thompson Commerce analytics shows that 48% of all online sales in the world already go through marketplaces, growth is predicted to increase by 75% in 2-3 years. Marketplace dominance is not the future, but the present. In the US, 61% of product searches happen directly on Amazon, not on Google.

A prerequisite for creating a marketplace should be a core business that will enable you to invest in development and create a product. By core business, I mean either a working online storefront or offline retail.

How to understand if the marketplace is successful? We highlight 4 universal metrics which help you to understand the scale and effectiveness of any product marketplace:

  1. GMV (Gross Merchandise Value), turnover of all commodity items.

  2. A number of "active sellers" (Merchants).

  3. A number of goods in stock (Products).

  4. A number of completed orders (Orders).

Three components of the marketplace

There are 3 main components of the marketplace:

An advanced IT platform

A marketplace is not an online store, it is a completely separate complex IT system that includes subsystems like Product Information System (PIM), Merchants Administration System (MAS), Order Management System (OMS), Billing, etc.

The software architecture and IT infrastructure of the marketplace must be able to process large amounts of data. When it concerns updating millions of products every minute, you need the best software solution and powerful servers. There are two options: either recruit a development team and build your product in-house or buy a ready-made solution.

Operational management

These are the main operations for marketplace existence: merchants attraction and onboarding, creating and editing product cards, category management, analytics, quality control, and others.

Sharing resources and outsourcing:

Legal support, accounting, finance, marketing, call center.

When it comes to IT infrastructure and sharing resources, each business has its own needs and its own path. But when it comes to the operating block, there is a certain standard for the minimum and optimal team for a commodity marketplace. This is the standard I would like to share.

Minimal Marketplace Operations Team

We propose the next ''Team line-up" for testing the functionality of the business hypothesis in the marketplace. At the start, one team (Team 1 at the scheme) will be enough. You can scale to second and third teams after reaching the optimal business model for a marketplace.
Let's consider the main roles in the marketplace team and metrics for each of them:

Sales Manager

This specialist searches for and attracts suppliers to the platform. Key metric: the number of new marketplace merchants for a certain period.

From the practice of Scallium clients, one manager can process from 40 to 60 suppliers per month, if there is no high entry threshold in form of a tariff plan and the marketplace works only on commission. If the marketplace works with suppliers on a subscription basis, then there are 20-30 companies per month per manager. And if this is a niche platform, and it selects merchants based on the service quality, then you should focus on 10-15 companies.

Content Manager

This specialist is responsible for moderating product content and creating product cards, and also for digitizing the assortment from merchants in general. The main KPIs are the number of moderated SKUs and the quality of filling in the information inside the card (including the error's absence). According to our projects, the content manager can process from 5,000 to 10,000 SKUs per month.

What is moderation? It's a process when the content manager opens a product card, sees if it meets the requirements, gives feedback to the supplier, if necessary. This is true if the entire necessary IT infrastructure works properly, and the supplier downloads the catalog to the marketplace and does not send it to the content manager in Excel docs.

Account Manager

They are responsible for the recruitment, adaptation, development, and control of suppliers. Key KPIs are turnover and profitability for the target market and category. The account is also responsible for the relevance of prices, the width, and depth of the range, commercial conditions, margin. This is an important position for marketplace development. We recommend taking 2-3 specialists at the start.

Quality Control Manager

The main functions are to check the suppliers' work quality, eliminate violations and scams in relation to the marketplace or the end buyer, create and verify Service Level Agreement (SLA) for suppliers, as well as constantly monitor the activities of all participants in the platform. Key KPIs can be the order processes speed, level of communication with a client, goods returning percentage. An important indicator is the percentage of successfully completed orders in general.

Additional team roles in the marketplace can be performed by external teams, or often they are borrowed from an existing retail business:

Call Center

This is the team that handles inquiries and complaints from both suppliers and buyers of the showcase. Key metrics are the number of incoming/outgoing calls, average queue on the phone line, ticket resolve satisfaction index.

Data Analyst

A marketplace has a huge data flow, so it is important to aggregate information in the BI system like Power BI and others. System's tasks are deploying a data warehouse, organizing the metrics collection from all systems (including external ones), organizing dynamic data updates, creating dashboards and reports necessary for business and others. All these functions are crucial for making the right management decisions in real-time.

The analyst determines the range expansion vector, verifies that the required categories are established, and works with external reporting and monitoring agencies (eg Nielsen). It also determines the possibility of expanding categories and closing the buyers' needs through the product range.

The main task of analysts is to say what to sell and when to sell on the marketplace to maximize turnover and profit.


It is important to create a legal framework for the marketplace, that includes contracts, agreements, and rules and will ensure the security of the platform and provides guarantees for its participants. A lawyer oversees the main business processes for working in the market, namely the interaction of the end client and the supplier. The goal is transferring responsibility from the platform to the merchant's side and providing a liability mechanism for the supplier's failure to fulfill obligations to the end client.


This specialist organizes and conducts all financial transactions between suppliers and the marketplace. They also control the replenishment of personal accounts of suppliers and form a financial reporting system for the marketplace.

Product Marketing Specialist

The role of marketing in some cases is so big that it is worth making it a separate division on a par with the IT platform. But in this article, we propose to consider marketing as a part of the operations team. This specialist is engaged in driving traffic to suppliers' products, works in conjunction with an analyst to focus on high-converting products and categories. He or she also optimizes advertising campaigns and the customer journey map on the online storefront. Marketing specialist's task is to provide the optimal ratio of traffic volume and traffic cost in the goods' price.

Required Marketplace Operations Team

To create the optimal team for the marketplace, you need to focus on business goals. Traditionally, for a marketplace, it is important to grow quickly in terms of basic metrics — Gross Merchandise Value GMV, the number of active merchants, the active assortment, and completed orders. It is best to group employees into fully-functional teams. One team may include a sales manager, a content manager, an account manager, a quality control manager, and a category analyst.

For example, we assume the Next Team composition is optimal to ensure a product offering of 135,000 SKUs, to grow to 1350 suppliers, and to provide the traffic of 3 million per month. The point is to keep the conversion in the acceptable range without significant blurring.
By grouping marketplace employees into cross-functional teams, you create space for scaling. You can build these groups in different ways. We advise you to divide groups of employees by product categories:
One group is responsible for household appliances
The second is responsible for DIY and home improvement products
The third is for clothing apparel etc
In this way, you will not have confusion in the organization, and you can easily analyze and control the growth of each specific category. Moreover, in such a management model, it is easy to calculate Profit and loss statements P&L, not at the level of the entire marketplace, but the level of a product category. Thus, your team will become more efficient as well as the marketplace platform as a whole.
Would you like to find out more about Scallium? Please fill in the form and our team will respond to you shortly.