How to Create an E-commerce Website Like Amazon: Features, Technologies, and Costs
Digitalization of our lives, cashless payments, the pandemic — all these factors make shopping online more appealing than visiting physical stores. The total value of products sold on leading e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon, reached $3.23 trillion globally and is forecasted to increase ninefold by 2027. The continuous growth of e-commerce popularity presents ample opportunities for new players. Even in the face of heavy competition, an online marketplace with a unique offering and shopping experience is bound to successfully fill a niche and build a loyal audience in a market of such a tremendous size.
With over 10 years of experience creating cutting-edge mobile apps and web solutions for companies in the fields of retail, fintech, media, and m-commerce, Surf knows how to create industry-leading products in line with the market trends and customer demands. In the article, we’ll review how to develop an e-commerce website like Amazon, what stands behind the platform’s resounding success, and how much an online marketplace development might cost.
Why marketplaces like Amazon are so popular
The biggest e-commerce player, Amazon has over 300 million active customer accounts and almost 2 million selling partners. Over the years, the company showed continuous growth at outstanding rates. Let’s take a look at the main factors that make shopping and selling at Amazon so appealing to so many people in over 180 countries around the world.
Diverse range of products
The company started operating internationally as a bookstore in 1999, gradually expanding into other categories, such as clothes and electronics, as well as offering digital content services via Prime Video. Currently, Amazon sells over 12 million products and the figure increases to 350 million if we include the offering of Amazon Marketplace sellers. Such diversity makes Amazon a perfect one-stop-shopping option with convenient delivery and payment (more on this below) and also explains why 9 out of 10 US shoppers price-check products on Amazon.
Focus on customer
Amazon is lauded for its customer-centric approach. As the company’s founder Jeff Bezos puts it, Amazon is not simply selling things but “helping customers make purchase decisions”. First of all, this is achieved by an extensive reviews section where visitors can read feedback and see photos of a product provided by other customers. Another aspect that makes shopping at Amazon so convenient is Prime membership — subscribers get access to free shipping, unlimited video streaming, free ebooks, and members-only deals. Amazon aims to take responsibility for shipping problems and compensates for cases of late deliveries, and damaged or faulty products. All of this together works at turning Amazon’s occasional customers into loyal and regular clients.
Excellent seller’s support
Amazon offers multiple advantages to vendors who want to sell their goods via the platform. First of all, it’s the sheer size of the audience and brand power that makes selling on Amazon beneficial for business: a seller can both increase product exposure and buyers’ trust by stocking products on the marketplace. Secondly, Amazon provides multiple marketing options at a relatively low cost. These include Sponsored Display, Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Lockscreen Ads (for book vendors and Kindle authors). Since millions of people use Amazon as a sort of search engine, paying for a better place in search results can deliver significant benefits.
The platform’s marketing options are also enhanced by Eva — an AI-powered solution that helps sellers optimize pricing, ad spending and increase conversion. Lastly, Amazon offers advantageous Fulfillment by Amazon service (FBA). The service allows sellers to handle inventory management and shipping to Amazon. The company stores goods in its warehouses, packing and shipping them by its own couriers. The FBA makes things especially easier for small-scale businesses that have no resources or infrastructure for fast international shipping but want to reach customers all over the globe.
Convenient payment methods
With Amazon, customers can choose from a variety of payment options, which makes shopping streamlined and convenient. The website accepts cards issued by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, JCB, and other popular companies, as well as Amazon gift cards. Also, the Amazon Pay service provides a safe way to store details of several payment methods and checkout in one click at Amazon and partnership stores. Since entering credit card details at unfamiliar websites is one of the top 5 causes of cart abandonment, such a payment ecosystem further increases the frequency of purchases.
How to create a website like Amazon
Creating an e-commerce marketplace is a complex task. Its success is determined by multiple factors, from the quality of preliminary market analysis to the platform’s stability on the release day. In the article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important aspects and features that you should consider when developing a multi-vendor marketplace like Amazon.
Choosing technologies to build front-end and back-end infrastructure is one of the first steps of the development process. Being a huge digital ecosystem, Amazon uses tens of technologies, including React, Java, AngularJS, and numerous homegrown solutions. However, your marketplace platform is likely to require fewer technologies and from our experience, we at Surf recommend Flutter for developing a client-side app and Golang for server-side development.
Why Flutter? Firstly, this developed by Google cross-platform framework allows developers to create fast and beautiful apps for iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux, and web from a single-code base by a single team. This means simpler team management and coordination, fewer issues, and no worries about synchronizing development processes and releases of all apps. Also, Flutter comes with plenty of tools for speeding up an online marketplace development process, such as an extensive library of ready-to-use widgets that can be fully customized if necessary and the Hot Reload feature that enables developers to see changes to the code right away, without reloading the whole app.
Flutter eliminates the trouble of adapting an app’s interface to a platform it runs on, thus reducing development time: each of the framework widgets (think of them as building blocks of an app) fully supports the latest visual styles used by Android and iOS and automatically adapt app’s appearance, animations, and elements. Thanks to the powerful Skia graphic engine and architecture that allows the framework to directly communicate with device components, Flutter apps easily handle heavy animations and maintain a short response time, showing a stable 60 FPS. Learn more about web development with Flutter in our dedicated article.
Golang (or simply Go) is preferred by many development teams for creating the back-end, thanks to its simplicity and maintainability. When compared to Python, Java, or Node.js, Go shows better results when building high-load and distributed systems. Go is also suitable for developing microservices – a highly popular solution in e-commerce that increases the scalability and adaptiveness of a platform. Thanks to advanced concurrency support, Go can run hundreds or even thousands of processes simultaneously, ensuring high page load speed that directly affects customer churn rate. Learn more about developing an e-commerce website with Go in our dedicated article.
How easy it is to find products, learn about them and make a purchase — all of this influences customer satisfaction and marketplace popularity. That is why it is important to properly invest in UX/UI design right from the start.
While Amazon’s UX hardly looks cutting-edge or flashy, every aspect of it is made with a focus on increasing the likelihood of purchase. First of all, the search bar presence on every page makes it easy to search products, autocomplete requests, refine and filter search results. Also, Amazon’s homepage shows products relevant to a user’s previous purchases and search results. In terms of product page design, Amazon aims at showing an item in a clear and readable manner, while highlighting the benefits of shopping on the platform, such as free delivery, transaction security and a flexible return policy.
When designing UX/UI experience for an e-commerce website, always consider aspects that are important for a particular product category. While a PC hardware store needs to highlight items’ specs, which are figures and text, a fashion store’s visitors are more likely to make a decision based on pictures and videos of a garment. For example, when Surf worked on a mobile app for a multi-brand clothing store, we aimed to design a UI that perfectly matches the brand identity, addresses possible customer concerns, and shows items in the best light. In addition to photos, we included video, and a 360-degree view of every item, as well as a review section where customers can share photo reviews of their purchases.
While the exact set of features for a marketplace depends on its niche, concept, and business model, some features are required for any platform. Let’s take a look at them and how they are implemented by Amazon.
Log in & sign up. Both sellers and buyers should be able to easily register and start placing orders and selling items. To streamline the onboarding process, add quick sign-on options via Google, Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social networks, which also comes useful for those who want to quickly share products they like with their friends and family. For merchants, to access money withdrawal it is sensible to set up a two-factor verification with one-time SMS or e-mail code serving as an additional security layer.
Search. As already mentioned before, a search tool plays a key role in Amazon use case scenarios, helping visitors to discover new products and find just what they need based on their budget and preferences. When developing a search feature for an e-commerce platform, it is important to include filter options relevant to every major product category. For example, size and color are useful search criteria for clothing, while height, power output, and lightbulb type are what buyers usually base their decision on when buying a floor lamp. Also, the ability to search by uploading a photo of a similar item can be very helpful, especially for those visiting the marketplace from a smartphone.
Product page is a central component of any marketplace, which includes all product details to help a visitor make a weighted decision. Depending on the type of item, a product page can be more focused on description and specs, or hi-res photos and videos. It is also recommended to clearly show available shipping and payment options right on the product page to prevent cart abandonment cases when a customer learns about extra shipping fees at the last step of checkout.
User dashboard. While this feature provides completely different info for shoppers and merchants, it should be easy to use for both categories of users. For shoppers, the dashboard should include order history with an option to track recent purchases and initiate returns if necessary, as well as an option to manage their delivery addresses and payment options. It is also a good option to provide buyers with a convenient way to wishlist items and share their lists with others to drive the platform’s engagement. Learning from Amazon’s example, an implementation of ‘browsing history’ and ‘recommendations’ sections can additionally increase customer satisfaction and the number of purchases.
In addition to order history where merchants can track shipments and returns, the seller’s dashboard should include report & analytic tools to help monitor sales, identify the most and least selling goods, and learn more about customers’ demography. It should also include promotion tools to launch advertising campaigns and analyze their performance.
Reviews. Today, when there is a great variety of models and manufacturers in almost any product category, marketplace visitors often turn to feedback from others to learn more about an item, its quality and performance. Creating an easy-to-use feedback section with a comprehensible rating system can further boost sales. To make it useful for both parties, those who want to share their experience and those who only think about making a purchase, think thoroughly about the feedback process. In addition to rating stars and a text field, include short questions or scales for the most relevant feedback points. For example, fits small — true to size — fits large for a clothing marketplace.
Mobile apps for your marketplace open new ways of reaching and engaging customers, building long-term relationships with them, and increasing brand loyalty. With extensive e-commerce expertise under its belt, Surf team provides marketplace development services, both for companies who want to build marketplace apps from scratch and those seeking to transfer from an out-of-the-box solution to a custom one. As a result, in 4–6 months you’ll have the first version of a marketplace app to improve the retention rate and lifetime value of your customers.
Business challenges for websites like Amazon
By uniting multiple vendors under one roof, a marketplace like Amazon can offer an outstanding diversity of products which drives higher visitor traffic and engagement. Not owning any stock makes marketplaces more flexible and adaptable to ever-changing consumer trends. However, even this business model has its challenges.
Lack of personalization
Among current shopping trends, personalization belongs to the key ones. Today, 72% of customers expect stores they shopto know their preferences. Setting up personalized discounts and communication, along with precise recommendations can be a daunting task for a marketplace with a wide range of products and shoppers with different lifestyles and income levels. It requires advanced analytics, multiple A/B tests, and complex business logic, including AI implementation for improving response to customer shopping patterns in real-time. For digitally native companies, the toll of missing the opportunity to personalize shopping experience can equal 15–25% of their revenue.
Attracting both customers and sellers
Both parts of an audience of a multi-vendor marketplace depend on each other: suppliers of quality goods attract buyers with money and vice versa. To become successful, it is important to not only attract sellers and buyers via ads or discounts but build lasting relationships with both parties. While such factors as available payment methods, personalization, and a wide range of products are important for buyers, making the platform appealing to sellers often requires its own strategy. For example, giving a degree of creative freedom over how merchants can present their goods can be your marketplace’s competitive advantage, since many platforms provide limited capabilities in showcasing products for the sake of a unified look. Also, enabling buyers to connect directly with sellers can be an option worth consideration — while shoppers can quickly learn more about items firsthand, sellers can quickly resolve shipping or other issues without involving the marketplace as an intermediary.
Competing with such e-commerce leaders as Amazon or AliExpress as well as other, smaller but still formidable challengers, is not easy. However, the stable and increasing popularity of e-commerce means there are always more customers to come. Perform thorough competitors analysis, formulate a unique offering, and work continuously on improving the quality of services, customer experience, and brand awareness. A holistic approach is likely to bear fruits and establish your marketplace as a leading platform in the chosen niche.
How much does it cost to create a website like Amazon?
The price of online marketplace development depends highly on project specifications and includes market analysis that determines platform’s concept, its business model, and audience; work of UI/UX designers who create a unique visual style and website’s wireframes; coding and testing of the marketplace’s front and back, as well expenses on project management.
In general, an online marketplace development cost can be estimated in the range of $80,000 — 200,000. There are two main approaches to cost estimation: the fixed-price model, which provides an accurate breakdown and total figure prior to development but requires a lengthy agreement process to make alterations if business or technological requirements change in the process; and the time & material model when a development team gives an approximate initial estimation, splits development and payment into stages (sprints) — the client pays only for features implemented during a sprint. The Surf team usually uses the time & material model, since it provides flexibility that makes it easy to adapt the final product to constantly changing market demands.
Marketplace development cost optimization tips
It is only natural to seek ways to optimize online marketplace development expenses, without compromising the final product’s functionality and quality, and we have a few tips on this.
Development outsourcing. When looking for developers for an online marketplace, expanding the area of search offers ways to trim down the final cost of development. This is especially true for companies located in the US and Western Europe. For example, web developers in the US have rates in the range of $80-110 per hour, which is almost two times higher than the hourly rates of engineers from Eastern European countries. Since their code and work approach are not inferior to the teams on the other side of the ocean, outsourcing developers from Europe can effectively save a significant part of the project’s budget.
Go cross-platform. Cross-platform technologies provide numerous benefits for marketplace development when it is important to make the website easily accessible from all major categories of devices. As mentioned earlier, Flutter is among the best solutions to build web, mobile, PC, Mac, and Linux apps from a single codebase. The framework’s benefits include outstanding performance, code simplicity, and native appearance of app elements. In terms of cost, cross-platform development can significantly decrease development expenses because it requires only one team of developers and one set of code for all platforms. For example, Surf’s choice of Flutter for developing a set of healthcare marketplace apps (an iOS and Android app for each of the client’s 3 brands) allowed the client to cut the development cost by almost 40%.
Use automation.Cutting down the time required to write routine code and conduct standard tests can effectively decrease the total number of development hours, and as a result, the final price of app development. An early adopter of Flutter, Surf uses a number of solutions created by our team and made openly available for Flutter’s community. For example, SurfGen helps generate routine parts of code and speeds up the development of the service layer of code by 3-4 times. Surf Gear is a set of libraries and tools dedicated to optimizing the development process and Elementary library helps developers adhere to Clean Architecture principles, dividing apps’ modules into blocks, which reduces resources required for app maintenance.
The growing popularity of Amazon and other digital marketplaces clearly shows how e-commerce transforms shopping patterns, helping people to order everything from the comfort of their homes or on the go. To attract visitors to a marketplace and turn them into long-term customers, you should aim at perfecting every aspect of the platform, from product diversity to mobile-friendly user experience. All of this can be achieved by partnering with a reliable development company.
With extensive expertise in mobile and web development, as well as many successful projects in e-commerce, banking, healthcare, and other industries, Surf team can ensure your marketplace is built in line with the latest digital trends, aligns with your vision, and meets business goals.