How to create a digital goods marketplace

One of the greatest things about sites like Amazon or Etsy is the ability to not only purchase products from the retailer (such as Amazon itself), but to also purchase products from third-party vendors. This is an especially great model for sites that sell digital goods, such as music or ebooks. You can provide the ability for authors or artists to upload their own products to your site so that they benefit from your brand recognition and infrastructure, and you gain the ability to sell products to which you wouldn’t otherwise have access.

This tutorial will describe how you can create a digital goods marketplace using Easy Digital Downloads, the Marketify theme, and a few add-ons.

Getting started

We’ll describe the creation of a digital goods marketplace using the Easy Digital Downloads core plugin, the Marketify theme from Astoundify, the Frontend Submissions Extension, Commissions Extension, and the Product Reviews Extension. Using these plugins will allow us to set up an Amazon-style marketplace within an hour. For brevity, I’m going to assume you’ve installed and configured Easy Digital Downloads.

Easy Digital Downloads is free, but the rest of the components of this setup are paid themes and extensions. You could use a different theme, but I really liked Marketify, as it includes some useful widgets specifically for EDD, is from an excellent author, and looks great. The Marketify theme is $60, Frontend Submissions (FES) is $83, Commmissions is $39, and Product Reviews is $32. The total cost (using single-site licenses for everything) is therefore $214.

There are a few other add-ons that would be helpful in creating and running a digital goods marketplace, but this is the bare-bones setup recommended. Rather than purchase these extensions individually, I’d recommend buying the Marketplace bundle, which includes all of these extensions, along with some others like the Recommended Products add-on, for $159. As the price of the other extensions mentioned totals $154 (excluding the theme), this is a huge bargain and gives you access to some other great plugins.

Setting up frontend submissions

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | FES User Roles
FES User Roles

Frontend Submissions allows you to accept product / download submissions from authors or vendors and list them in your Easy Digital Downloads store to create a marketplace. When coupled with the Commissions Extension, you can pay out a percentage of sales of the appropriate products to the vendors that submitted them. A new user role is created that allows vendors to create products and submit the appropriate details and media for their submissions.

Vendors will only have access to media that they’ve uploaded, and can only choose from existing product categories and tags, so it’s important that you have store structure organized before accepting submissions. If not, you’ll have to edit product data following submission (adding tags, etc) to ensure that customers can drill down your products to easily find what they want.

FES allows you to create customized forms for vendor applications, as well as product submissions from vendors. You can choose to automatically approve these applications and submissions, or review them manually (which is what I’d recommend to ensure quality). The interface is easy to use and is similar to Gravity Forms. I would recommend updating the default “Download Category” and “Download Tags” fields in the vendor submission form to a multi-select or checkboxes rather than a drop down menu so that vendors can select all applicable categories or tags.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | FES Product Submission Form
FES Product Submission Form
Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | FES Vendor Application Form
FES Vendor Application Form

Once you’ve set up your forms for vendors, you’re ready to accept submissions from third parties, as the needed pages are automatically created when the plugin is installed. You may want to include these pages in your navigation if you’re encouraging submissions from any vendor.

When a vendor has submitted an application and it has been approved, that vendor will have access to a “Vendors Dashboard”. This is where vendors can manage their own products and view sales for each product they’ve submitted. Vendors can also update their own profiles from this page.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | FES Vendor Dashboard
FES Vendor Dashboard

When a vendor submits a new product, you have the option to approve the product(s) before listing. You can view products in need of approval from the Downloads menu, as they’ll have a “Pending Review” status.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | FES Approve Submissions
FES Approve Submissions

Before approving new submissions, you’ll need to check product details and enable commissions if paying them out to vendors, as commissions are not automatically enabled for products submitted by vendors (Note: This was a bug that has since been patched – see Chris’s comment below). There are also some pricing options, such as the ability to purchase multiple files at the same time, that vendors cannot set themselves.

Setting up commissions

Now that FES has been set up, you’ll want to enable and configure the Commissions Extension to share sales of these products with your vendors. Commissions automatically integrates with FES to assign commissions to the appropriate vendor when they’ve submitted a product, but you’ll need to set a default commission rate, then enable commissions for submissions that you approve. You can set a default rate under Downloads > Settings > Extensions:

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | EDD Commissions Settings
EDD Commissions Settings

Once your default rate is set, you can enable commissions when approving vendor submissions, as this will not be enabled automatically. You’ll have to edit the product, then click to enable commissions. You can adjust the rate if necessary on a per-product basis, and can add multiple user commissions and rates for each product if needed.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | EDD Setting up Commissions
EDD Setting up Commissions

Whenever a product is purchased that requires a commission to be paid out, a new commission is created under Downloads > Commissions, where you can view all commissions and mark them as unpaid or paid. The best part about the Commissions extension is the ability to export all unpaid commissions as a CSV file by clicking “Generate Mass Payment File”, which can then be uploaded to PayPal in order to automatically pay out all commissions to the vendors’ PayPal accounts and marks all ‘unpaid’ commissions as ‘paid’ in your commissions dashboard.

A new commissions-paid-per-month graph is also added to your main Reports page so that you can see the commissions you’ve paid out over time. You can also check out this commissions video for more information.

Setting up product reviews

The final plugin in this puzzle is the Product Reviews Extension. I’m wary of purchasing products from vendors that I’m unfamiliar with, as are many consumers. For example, if I’m purchasing anything on Amazon that’s not from Amazon itself, I almost never purchase unless there are product reviews or seller reviews available. Research shows that even bad reviews boost sales, as almost all consumers look for reviews before purchasing and the absence of reviews troubles them. Therefore, including product reviews is an important component to your marketplace.

Product Reviews settings are in the same place as commissions settings – under Downloads > Settings > Extensions:

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | EDD Product Reviews  Settings
EDD Product Reviews Settings

You can adjust how reviews are shown, and even disallow reviews unless products have been purchased (similar to Amazon Verified Reviews). Other customers can note which reviews are helpful as well in order to create a full review and recommendation system.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | Sample Product Review
Sample Product Review

Reviews can be embedded in pages, posts, and other custom post types using the [reviews id=""] shortcode (there’s a shortcode generator in the visual editor to make this easy). Widgets are also included to display recent and featured reviews.

Installing the Marketify theme

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | Marketify Customization
Marketify Customization Options

Now that the skeleton of your marketplace has been built, you can put some skin on it. This is where the Marketify theme comes in. This theme fully integrates with all plugins referenced in this article to create a complete marketplace site.

There’s no “theme options” menu with Marketify, as all options based on using widgets and the built-in templates, so I’d recommend reading the documentation for some guidance. There are some awesome tutorial videos for all of the setup possibilities. For example, you can create a customized homepage by installing the theme, creating a page with the “Homepage Template” and setting up widgets for the Homepage Area, or embed sliders on your homepage. There are a lot of setup possibilities, and for the sake of brevity and to avoid redundancy, I would really recommend viewing the documentation.

Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | Marketify Widget Areas
Marketify Widget Areas
Sell with WP Digital Goods Marketplace | Built-in Marketify Widgets
Built-in Marketify Widgets

I was able to set up my homepage, customize theme options, and set up a social footer menu within 10 minutes. There are a lot of other options available with Marketify, but I liked the “Popular Products” and “New Products” widgets for the homepage, and would have added a slider for Featured Products and added testimonials if I were setting up a real store.

You can view the full documentation or the EDD Marketify announcement for setup instructions or more information on setup options and how to customize the theme.

What do I need again?

Good question. Here’s the list of all themes and plugins we used to create our sample digital goods marketplace. Remember, you could replace all extensions we used with the EDD Marketplace bundle instead, which is what I’d recommend since you basically get other great extensions for free. Have questions or other suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Hey guys,
    Love the guide. A couple corrections:

    “as commissions are not automatically enabled for products submitted by vendors”

    They actually are supposed to be enabled automatically. That’s a bug that’s getting patched.

    Another thing we recommend, is setting the vendor dashboard page to be a full width template.

    Other then that, looks great πŸ™‚


    1. Hi Chris, thanks so much for clearing that up; it seemed a bit odd that vendor submissions didn’t automatically enable commissions since the information was pre-populated anyway πŸ™‚ . The only thing I couldn’t find was a way to allow vendors to enable multi-option purchase mode – is that possible? Wasn’t sure if I just missed it. Otherwise FES was really impressive to play with!

      Thanks for the comment!

        1. Ah cool – I was testing by selling music and purchasing multiple tracks from an album is a great use of that option (which is why I think it stuck out). thanks!

  2. Great article!
    But when members publish music for sale for example, where it appears?
    Member is a profile with a music player?
    What I want to do as a site, it will be something like this:
    And that the members have a profile like this:
    I confessed that I’m lost, because I can not find anything to make is the type of site, while the latter, it was entirely created with wordpress!
    Can someone help me?
    Thank you in advance …

    1. Hi, when members / vendors submit a download for approval, it will appear in your store catalog with all other downloads if you approve it. If these files are music files, they can be previewed by visitors.

      Users can click on a vendor name from the catalog, which will let them view the bio for the vendor and all downloadable products from that vendor. It isn’t exactly the same as your example, but you can achieve something similar with this setup.

  3. Hello Beka, You made it sound so easy which I’m sure it is πŸ˜‰ I dig the theme and the features and want to purchase it for a project I have been thinking about for a while. The question is , do you offer installation and configuration services, or know someone who does?

    1. Hi Hawkins, glad you’ve found this useful! I’d check out WP Site Care, who can set up with the theme and necessary plugins once you’ve purchased them. Since you’d like to have the theme configured as well, I’d probably just drop a line on their contact form to get a quote.

  4. Hi, thank you for great info about EDD & marketify theme !, i need help :

    do you have any recommendation for AUCTION plugin that can integrated with EDD ??, i have planing to create digital download marketplace on art niche , But the buyer also has ability to OFFER their own price or make BID , just like ebay auction,..

    need recomendation to the plugin , may be ” AUCTION PLUGIN for Easy Digital downlaod”, i can’t find AUCTION plugin on EDD addon marketplace ??

    any help please…please reply to my email (you got’it),.. if you can help me, i’m ready to buy the plugin using your Aff Id, thx

  5. Thank you Beka for producing one of the most most well written, well produced and extensively researched ecommerce related articles that I have seen in a very long time.

    In fact, every article on your superb website is a joy to read and always balanced and informative.
    It is not often that I am compelled towrite a comment simply to praise the author, in fact this is a first for me.

    Whilst I undertake me quest for the best digital download option for my own website, may I wish you the very best for the future with yours.
    I beleive that sellwithwp will soon become a major player within the WP-Ecommerce-Community and I sincerely hope that more readers will take the time to comment on more of your articles than they currently do.

    Thank you once agan for your time and effort, which certainly has not gone to waste.



    1. Hey Marc, you have no idea how nice it is to hear that! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment – it makes the work involved in writing worthwhile when I know people have found it helpful πŸ™‚ . I appreciate it!

  6. Man – how did I miss this? Another excellent article Beka – super informative and pretty inspiring too (I’ve had a couple of marketplace ideas and no really good way to do it – until now!). Is it possible to do something like a listing fee + commission? And does the site owner handle all the payment fees?

    1. Hey Arp, so glad it was helpful! The site owner does handle all payment processing and fees. As for listing fees, I’m afraid there’s no easy way to charge a fee for a vendor. I’d recommend building this into your commission schedule, so rather than taking 20% as the marketplace owner, maybe you take 25% to cover listings and payment fees.

      That said, all things are possible through custom code πŸ™‚ . I’d imagine you could tie an EDD Recurring payments profile to the product status, so if the vendor doesn’t pay his / her listing fee each month, products are set to “draft” instead of “published”. Probably a complex project and one I’d just build into my commissions to simplify things, but possible.

  7. Beka, I was looking for a designer to customize the theme marketify when I came across this post. Thanks for sharing!
    Can you recommend me a good professional who can help me with this?

  8. We use EDD and Frontend submissions and after a lot of setup work using a solid theme for it, we found that even though tons of people queried EDD for a logout shortcode which would mean a small piece of code added to their login-register.php page to make it very easy to have this functionality, they keep directing customers to 3rd party plugins which are outdated, not compatible with WP4.2.2. and required a whole lot of research and trial time and redirect them to the WordPress How to use wplogout so you can program it into your theme yourself. Very userfriendly indeed!

    I finally had to settle for a simple plugin which does the trick, but it’s yet another plugin which only adds more instability to the whole system, and it does not logout immediately but needs a page which then redirects after the user clicks a button.

    And to make the login and logout buttons show or not depending on logged in status, I had to install yet another plugin to handle this.

    This is BASIC functionality that should be in EDD itself already, let alone FrontEnd Submissions which boasts superior multi-vendor marketplace functionality. Woooah!

    Very disappointing!


  9. Will the EDD / Front End Submission bundle allow the individuals stores to function as membership sites. I am creating a multisite network that lets people create their own membership sites, but the products on the sites are downloads. A membership allows full access, but non-members can buy the files ala carte. So is there an extension to allow stores created within an EDD marketplace to be membership sites? Or could I use other membership site plugins in combination with EDD stores to do this?

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