An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Local Buy and Sell App Like Offerup Volumetree (2022)

I used to classify myself as a hoarder, and I still have parts from my first PC, an old school diary, and many other things my parents called junk. My problem was letting go of old stuff while I still wanted newer ones—causing storage issues. Although my dad would happily give off those things for recycling, I knew that a lot of stuff I had was in a perfectly usable state—and could quickly sell to someone who needs it.

When I couldn’t find buyers in people I knew, I turned to the internet—with websites like Craigslist and mobile-friendly options such as Offerup and Letgo apps. I sold a lot of my stuff in the first week itself—including my old CRT TV that someone wanted to use as a security monitor! I understood how much space these things were hogging after I had sold most of my old stuff off!

Are local buy and sell apps popular?

Entrepreneurs love finding solutions to common problems, which often leads them to create apps like OfferUp, LetGo, OLX, and Quikr. Operating in the US$3,284,927M e-commerce market space, the customer-to-customer or C2C vertical is showing solid signs of growth at a healthy CAGR of 5.3%. Additionally, C2C buy and sell apps benefit from rising user penetration rates of nearly 50%. The user traffic of top US-based C2C or buy and sell apps crossed 28 million in Q3 2020, showcasing a healthy growth trend that continues to grow.

How do buy and sell apps work?

Buy and sell apps like OfferUp and Letgo owe their popularity to their simplicity and the capability to help people buy and sell things they want quickly. Here’s how these two-way apps work:

  • Sellers take pictures of things they wish to sell along with a description of the product. This adds the listing to the product’s appropriate category using filters.
  • Buyers looking for those items can see them in their search, where they use similar filters to search for products.
  • Once they have seen the sellers ad, they can ask boilerplate (pre-set) questions, negotiate the price and purchase the product directly from the seller.

A list of some popular buy-sell apps

There are dozens of buy-sell apps in the world today; however, not all have found favour with customers. Here’s a list of the top 5 buy-sell apps today:

    • eBay
    • Everyone knows eBay—the largest online marketplace founded in 1995 as AuctionWeb. The app has nearly 200 million users worldwide and offers users the option of selling by auctions and fixed-price listings. This allows sellers to get the highest possible price for their product and buyers to get a bargain when they see it, as sellers are contractually obligated to sell the item if there is a winning bid. eBay is immensely popular worldwide and made news when a gigayacht designed by Frank Mudler was sold for $168 million, making it the most expensive item ever sold on eBay.
    • Craigslist
    • What started as a hobby project where the founder, Craig Newmark, would describe upcoming events in the bay area through emails grew into a multi-million dollar company called Craigslist. People have been selling and buying products on Craigslist since 1998, making it one of the oldest and most iconic C2C sites around today. With over 20 billion page views per month in 2010, Craigslist is immensely popular and earns revenue through paid listings where buyers and sellers meet to sell, buy and post job listings.
    • Vestiaire Collective
    • Vestiaire Collective is the world’s most well-known pre-owned luxury fashion C2C portal. Growing at an immense 530% YoY, this app is exceedingly popular with those wishing to buy used luxury goods at low prices. With nearly 10 million active users and over 30,000 items submitted each week, Vestiaire Collective is exceedingly popular and made headlines when Dello Russo used their
      services to sell off her personal fashion collection at rock-bottom prices. The site makes money by charging up to 25% in commissions per sale. Items sold are first shipped to the company for inspection before being shipped out to the buyer.
    • Letgo
      Letgo started in 2015 as an app that made selling and buying things easier for the world. With over 400 million listings, 100 million+ app downloads and nearly $1B in funding, Letgo’s popularity caught the eye of their competitor—Offerup. OLX-owned OfferUp purchased LetGo in March 2020 for $120M. Letgo (now Offerup) makes it easy to buy, sell and look for items through their highly intuitive interface.
    • Offerup
    • Launched in 2015, OfferUp is a wildly popular buy-sell app and website duo with more than 24m visits every month. With a highly intuitive interface and a large user base, OfferUp is a part of the $1.21B OLX group. Offerup has designated community meetup spots that are unique to the app. Any long-distance transaction that involves shipping incurs a shipping fee and a 12.9% charge from offerup. The app acquired Letgo in March 2020 for $120M. Both companies access each other’s customers and bring nationwide shipping to Letgo users as a combined entity.

What tech stack should I choose to build apps like Letgo and OfferUp?

Although the options in the app world are nearly infinite, here is our pick on what you can use to create apps like Letgo and Offerup. Note that these are not the only technologies we work in, and decide the final tech stack during consultations with our tech team. We’ve sorted the tech stack according to the requirements of an app like OfferUp:

  • Development platform: This depends on whether you wish to launch the app on both the Play Store (Android) and the App Store (Apple iOS) or on one store to begin with.
  • Technologies for server-side development: You can choose between Express.js and Node.js to build server-side components of your app. Most of the background processing occurs at the server end, also known as backend development.
  • Front-end or client-side development: You use technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Bootstrap to develop the front end of your app. This interface is what your users will see when they open the app.
  • Web Frameworks: You can pick between Angular.js, Backbone.js or React.js.
  • Programming Languages: You can choose between Swift/Objective-C for iOS apps and Kotlin/Java for Android apps.
  • Database: Databases store persistent data such as videos, images, user profiles and more. You can choose from MongoDB or MySQL.
  • Cloud architecture: AWS
  • Payment integration: Payment integration services facilitate online payments. You can pick from Braintree, Stripe and PayPal.
  • Web server: Web servers serve web pages and applications to your users. Popular servers include Nginx and Apache.
  • Other tools: You can pick from AWS S3, Confluence, Swagger and many more depending on the features you choose for your app.

Must-have features for your buy-sell app

Here are the most important features that your buy-sell app must include to be a hit with users:

  • Creating a profile

Creating profiles is essential to both buy and sell items. Additionally, you can keep track of your favourites and active posts through your profile.

  • Filters and categories

Filters and categorization help buyers search for items easily. Sellers require categories to place their products effectively so buyers can find them easily.

  • Camera

Access to the camera is vital for sellers to put up images of products they are trying to sell. Sellers can take a picture, add a description and post the ad!

  • Chat

Chat allows buyers and sellers to interact with each other, exchange quick notes and item pickup locations.

  • Advanced Search

The advanced search capability offers buyers a way to fine-tune their listing so they can narrow down the available results to their liking.

  • Geolocation

Geolocation is important for hyperlocal buy and sell apps such as Offerup. Users will see local listings that help them pick sellers from areas close to them, avoiding travel and shipping expenses.

  • Rating and feedback

Seller and buyer ratings are an excellent way to ensure that users stay away from fraudulent buyers and sellers.

  • Push notifications

Push notifications are essential for messages, price changes and other important updates from users and the app.

  • Delivery and shipping

Integrating logistics services such as delivery, shipping, and pickup allows users to send their product to the buyer in remote locations.

  • Payment integration

Offering a payment system completes your app by ensuring that buyers can easily search, negotiate, pay for, and deliver the item to their home with minimal effort.

Although the list of features in such apps can be endless, it is good to ensure that you include the must-haves so that your users love what you’ve made!

How to create an app like Offerup and Letgo?

Creating an app has many prerequisites. Here’s what you must do before you start developing your buy-sell local app:

1. Do a market analysis and a feasibility study

Understand what you’re trying to achieve and see if the market is ready for your app. If you have created something that has no need, it might not find favour with your prospective users. It is best to create an app that is both feasible and needed by the market. Your app must fulfil the underserved need of your customers.

2. Analyze your competition

If you are a first-mover in your vertical, you may need to work harder than the others to find takers for your app. With no one to turn to for inspiration, you must develop a truly innovative idea to make it big in the app world. Analyzing your competition is a great way to see what is lacking and how your app can fill those gaps, making it a win-win situation for you and your target group.

3. Think of monetization options

Figure out how your app can make money. An app is only viable if it can make money and sustain itself in the long run. A solid, sustainable business model will help you stay in business and keep your customers happy.

4. Finalize the initial feature set for your app

Finalizing features helps you to prioritize your development needs and find a team that can build them for you.

5. Find a suitable development partner or hire a development team

Hiring the talent you need is essential to creating the app of your dreams. With an experienced development company such as Volumetree by your side, you can rest assured that your app will be all that you wanted and much, much more!

6. Choose a tech stack

Choosing the right tech stack is essential. If you do not know where to begin, it is better to use the services of a world-class development company such as Volumetree so you can choose the best tech stack for the job.

7. Finalize metrics and business intelligence

Setting up data points and business intelligence channels for your app is essential to gather valuable insights about how your users are using the app.

8. Set up marketing channels

Setting up information and marketing channels is vital so that your stakeholders can stay in the know. These channels will help you build traction and find a community of your first users.

9. Customer service/ Support

Set up support systems so your users can contact you in case they run into a problem. You can have phone support, mail support or live chat within the app. You can also use this channel to figure out what your customers need the most from the app.

10. Maintenance/updates

Building an app is not the end of the game. Ensure that you proactively set up updates and maintenance cycles so that you can address any issues your quality team did not find in their tests.

How much does it cost to build a buy/sell app?

Analyzing the development cost of a buy/sell app like Letgo is difficult as the requirements for your app may change throughout its development process. However, we’ve put together the development timelines for some basic standard features of a local buy/sell mobile app. You can use this to estimate the number of hours required to develop your application and use the going development rate to get a ballpark figure of your app development cost.

  • User registration

Today, most apps require user registration and profile management to provide better analytics, track their activity, and curate offerings tailored to the user’s needs.

Design time: 10 hours
Backend development: 20 hours
Front-end development: 40 hours

  • Vendor registration

If your app has third-party vendors, it is essential to create vendor profiles and vendor registration pages to facilitate Job listings and other such services.

Design time: 10 hours
Backend development: 15 hours
Front-end development: 30 hours

  • eStore and shopping carts

It is crucial to add an eStore and shopping cart functionality for customers to pay for what they purchase online.

Design time: 7 hours
Backend development: 15 hours
Front-end development: 20 hours

  • Tracking and map integration

If you are shipping a product, users should track its progress with ease.

Design time: 5 hours
Backend development: 15 hours
Front-end development: 10 hours

  • Contact screens/feedback

Users need to be able to contact the developer or the platform owner. Contact screens and feedback sections act as a customer touchpoint and an information-gathering tool.

Design time: 5 hours
Backend development: 8 hours
Front-end development: 10 hours

To estimate the cost of your app, just add the number of hours listed here and multiply it with the hourly rate of your development provider. If your hourly rate is $50, an app with all the features listed above will cost approximately $100,000 to build.

Note that these costs may reduce or increase depending on the number of features you need in your app.

Popular Business models of local buy and sell apps like Letgo and Offerup

There are many ways you can monetize your buy and sell app. Some apps like Craigslist are free to use, and others such as OfferUp and eBay charge a commission to let users sell products on their platform. You can choose your monetization plans according to what your users prefer and what your long-term goals are. Popular business models include:

  • Transaction charges and commission

Charging a commission for each sale made is a popular way for many buy and sell apps to make money. Sellers usually add a small markup to cover the charges, and the buyer pays a fixed, flat fee.

  • Ads and promoted posts

Sellers who are eager to sell their product can pay to have their listing appear on top of search results at particular hours, which boosts their chances of being sold manifold.

  • Delivery charges

Many companies also charge for delivery to cover costs and open another avenue to monetize their app.

  • Premium memberships and subscriptions

Selling subscriptions and premium memberships open up additional sources of income.

  • Third-party services

Offering third-party services such as job listings, gigs, and other benefits can open up a world of opportunities to monetize your app.

How can Volumetree help you in creating a local buy and sell app?

The design, development, project management and product management teams at Volumetree have spent many years helping individuals, governments, and large enterprises build intuitive, user-focused apps that consistently one-up the competition and have a community of loyal users. If you have an innovative local buy and sell app idea, schedule a free 15-minute consultation with one of our product experts to see how we can help you make it big in the app world.

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