This guide is intended for the administrator of an X-Cart Marketplace store with the Multi-Vendor add-on installed and enabled. By "administrator," we mean the store owner, storefront operator, or an agent acting on their behalf and represented by an X-Cart store user with the access level "Administrator" and the role "Administrator."
The guide covers:
Steps to Launch a Multi-Vendor X-Cart Marketplace
Step 1: Ensure that the Multi-Vendor add-on is enabled.
A regular single-seller X-Cart store is transformed into a multi-vendor marketplace by the Multi-vendor add-on. The store administrator can check whether they are using an X-Cart store with multi-vendor functionality enabled by checking the "My Apps" section in the store Admin area. In X-Cart Marketplace, the Multi-Vendor add-on will be installed and active. In fact, due to the specifics of its architecture, this add-on may not be disabled, so it will always be active if installed. Therefore, the only way to remove multi-vendor functionality from an X-Cart store will be to remove the Multi-Vendor add-on.
Note: General information on the add-ons in X-Cart is available in Managing Add-ons.
Step 2: Choose the Multi-Vendor mode
The store administrator must configure the store before anyone can sell products through an online marketplace based on X-Cart with the Multi-Vendor add-on installed. Besides all the configuration needed for a regular single-seller X-Cart store, a multi-vendor X-Cart store needs additional setup through the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page. The first and most important setting that the store administrator needs to adjust on this page is Multi-Vendor mode. With this setting, the store administrator must specify which store operation mode they want to use:
Forms a single order when a customer's cart contains items from more than one vendor.
The store administrator does the processing of the order. Therefore, the vendors cannot edit the order.
The order is delivered as a single shipment from a single warehouse location. The shipping cost is calculated for delivery from the Company address as specified by the store administrator.
Vendors as separate shops
Forms separate orders for each vendor when a customer's cart contains items from more than one vendor.
The vendors can fully edit their orders.
Every order is delivered from the warehouse of the respective vendor. The shipping cost is calculated for delivery from the address specified by the vendor.
In the "Warehouse" mode, the store administrator must use the "Company address" section in the store's contact information to specify the warehouse location from which the products will be shipped to the buyers. This address is needed for shipping and tax calculation and will be used as the ship-from address for all vendors selling through the marketplace. The administrator will also have to configure the shipping methods to ship orders from that address.
In the "Vendors as separate shops" mode, there will be no single ship-from address. Each vendor will ship their orders from their business location, which means a separate ship-from address for every vendor. Also, every vendor will have to configure their shipping methods. Therefore, the store administrator must ensure that every vendor is instructed correctly on what address and shipping settings they need to configure in their Vendor area to ensure that shipping and tax calculation is done correctly for their orders.
Step 3: Check and adjust the user access permissions (user roles + privacy and access settings)
The store administrator must ensure that all the multi-vendor marketplace users - including vendors - have access permissions required to do their work. The administrator manages the access permissions using Roles (Users > Roles).
The Multi-Vendor add-on introduces the "Vendor" role. The administrator can edit this role (rename the role / adjust the permissions given by the role) or create other vendor-related roles. See Managing Vendor Access Permissions for details.
The store administrator should also check and adjust the privacy and access settings on the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page. They must set whether to display the customers' contact information to vendors, whether the vendors should have access to global attributes, and whether the vendors should be allowed to work with product ratings and reviews.
Step 4: Do the setup related to vendor onboarding
The store administrator must adjust the contents of the vendor registration page through which new sellers will apply for vendor accounts. That includes editing the welcome text and changing the form fields that will have to be completed by prospective vendors. See Managing the Vendor Registration Page for details.
The store administrator should also specify the default role to assign to new vendor users using the "Role to assign to new vendor users" setting on the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page.
Another important task that the store administrator should complete before new vendor users log into the Vendor area is to adjust the onboarding welcome message for new vendors. The vendor onboarding message will be displayed on the Vendor area dashboard. The administrator can use this message to provide an overview of the steps a new vendor must complete before they can start selling or share any other kind of important information with the vendors. The vendor onboarding message can be configured using the "Vendor onboarding welcome message" field on the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page.
Step 5: Check and adjust Multi-Vendor email notifications
The store administrator must check the Email Notifications section (Store Setup > Email Notifications) and set up the notifications specific to the Multi-Vendor add-on. For more info, see Managing Multi-Vendor Email Notifications.
Step 6: Get some sellers to join your marketplace as vendors
Once the store has been configured as a multi-vendor marketplace, it is time to invite the sellers. The sellers will need vendor accounts. The store administrator can add new vendors via the Users section of the Admin area or have new sellers submit a vendor registration application via the "Become a seller" link on the storefront and then approve their applications in the Admin area. If someone who wants to be a vendor already has a customer account with the marketplace, the administrator can convert their existing customer account to a vendor.
Step 7: Help vendors with the setup of their catalog
The store administrator needs to help the vendors as they start adding their products to the catalog. At the minimum, this includes setting up the catalog categories for the vendors to use (because vendors do not have access to the creation of categories) and, if necessary, helping the vendors set up the product classes, attributes, and attribute values they require. More info on this is available in the section Supervising the Product Catalog.
Generally, the store administrator will have full access to any products created by vendors and may help the vendors by reviewing/editing/removing products on their behalf. If necessary, the store administrator may even add products to the catalog on behalf of vendors (manually one by one or via import - everything will work as usual with the only difference that the administrator will have to specify the vendor who will be the owner of the product).
Step 8: Set a commission for the vendors
In an X-Cart Marketplace with the Multi-Vendor add-on installed, vendors pay a commission to the store owner/storefront operator on each sale. The store administrator must specify the commission rates for the commissions' calculation. The store owner may use the same commission rate for all the vendors or set commission rates specifically for each vendor individually. See Setting Vendor Commissions for more information.
Step 9: Choose and configure the payment methods
The store administrator chooses and configures the store's payment methods. Most payment methods integrated into X-Cart support a single payment recipient account. So, the administrator will receive the money from all the sales in their account for most payment methods. The administrator will then have to distribute the earnings to the specific vendors. There is, however, a payment method that is currently integrated with X-Cart, which supports the automated payment of profits to the vendors - PayPal for Marketplaces. For details, see PayPal for Marketplaces: Overview.
Step 10: Decide on the shipping methods
In the "Warehouse" multi-vendor mode, different vendors' products are all shipped from the same warehouse. The storefront operator is responsible for shipping the orders out to the buyers. So, the store administrator must configure the shipping settings similar to configuring the shipping settings in a regular single-seller X-Cart store. You can find more info on the subject in the Shipping section of this manual. In the "Vendors as separate shops" multi-vendor mode, each vendor has to ship their products from their business location. For this reason, each vendor has to add and configure their shipping methods. The process is the same as when completed by the store administrator, with the only difference - that the vendors have to configure their shipping methods in their Vendor area. The store administrator must ensure that each selling vendor has at least one shipping method configured and enabled.
Step 11: Configure the taxes
Depending on the store business model, the vendors themselves or the store owner/storefront operator must collect the taxes on the sales and pay to a government organization. To ensure proper tax calculation, the store administrator must specify who will be responsible for managing taxes on the sales through the store/marketplace: the site owner or the vendor, in the Finance section of the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page.
Regardless of who will collect taxes (the store owner/storefront operator or the vendors), the setup of taxes and tax rates for the entire store/marketplace is the responsibility of the store owner/storefront operator.
The store administrator representing the store owner/storefront operator will need to configure tax calculation with one of the following methods:
Using an integration of an online tax calculation service like AvaTax or TaxJar (This method involves getting an account with one of the online tax calculation services and configuring the store to connect to the respective service to get tax rates for each order).
More information on the use of TaxJar and AvaTax integrations with X-Cart Marketplace is available here:
Step 12: Adjust the vendor payout options and payout request related email notifications
Unless the multi-vendor marketplace has been configured to use a payment method that will automatically transfer the money from the sales to the accounts of participating vendors, the store owner will have to track vendor earnings and do payouts into the vendor accounts. To facilitate the process, you can use payout requests. This feature enables vendors to request a payout of their share of the revenue accumulated by the store owner/storefront operator and the administrator - to approve or decline such a request. If the store administrator intends to use this feature, they should adjust the payout-related settings in the Finance section of the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page.
For example, the administrator can set a minimum balance that a vendor must have to request a payout of their earnings, enable email notification for payout requests, etc. X-Cart provides a few payout request-related email notifications. So, if the payout requests feature is going to be used, the store administrator should check the text and settings of these notifications. See Managing Multi-Vendor Email Notifications for details.
Step 13: Check and adjust the Multi-Vendor appearance settings
The store administrator should set the appearance preferences on the Multi-Vendor add-on settings page to modify the appearance of the vendor list in the customer area and the way vendor rating is displayed.
Step 14: Check and adjust the settings related to clean URLs
Since vendors will have their profile pages, the store administrator needs to change the clean URL format for this type of page using the setting
vendor_clean_urls_format in the store's configuration file XCART_DIRECTORY/etc/config.php. For details, see Setting Up SEO-Friendly Clean URLs.
Note: The specific clean URLs for individual vendor profile pages can be set in the Company Details section of a vendor profile by the store administrator or the vendor.
Step 15: Consider activating other Multi-Vendor-related add-ons
The store administrator may extend the functionality of their multi-vendor X-Cart marketplace with other add-ons. See Marketplace Components Overview for an overview of the add-ons typically used with Multi-Vendor.
Administrator Tasks to Manage a Multi-Vendor Marketplace
Task 1: Supervise the users
The store administrator manages the existing vendor users, including removing vendor users, exporting vendor information, and accessing all the data associated with specific vendor profiles. See Managing Vendors for details.
Task 2: Supervise the catalog, coupons, and discounts
The store administrator exercises the function of supervising the product catalog. See Supervising the Product Catalog for more information.
If the store uses the Volume Discounts and Coupons add-ons, the store administrator can help vendors set up volume discounts and coupons, respectively. For more info, see Coupons: Usage with Marketplace and Volume Discounts: Usage with Marketplace.
Task 3: Work on the orders
The store administrator has full access to all the orders in the store.
In the "Warehouse" mode, the administrator performs the following functions:
updates order statuses according to the store's order processing flow;
if necessary, makes changes to orders using the Advanced Order Management (AOM) capabilities;
can send order tracking information to customers regarding the packages sent to them.
In the" Vendors as separate shops" mode, the administrator has the same capabilities as in the" Warehouse" mode but, typically, only acts as a supervisor. In contrast, vendors process orders and make changes to the information of specific orders.
Task 4: Get information on how your vendors' business is going
It is always a good idea to check how the vendor business in the marketplace is going from time to time. The store administrator has access to vendor statistics, including:
See Viewing Vendor Statistics for more information.
Task 5: View and manage vendor rating information
Task 6: Pay the vendors and track the flow of money to and from the vendors
A multi-vendor marketplace can use a payment method that supports automated distribution of the money received from a buyer by order payment between the store owner and the vendors (like PayPal for Marketplaces). Otherwise, the money from the vendor products sales ends up in the hands of the store owner, who has to handle the distribution. The store owner needs to ensure that the money earned by the vendors goes to the vendors, whereas the commission that the vendors should pay to the store owner remains in the hands of the store owner. X-Cart calculates the amounts earned by the vendors and the store owner as a commission in each case. After a vendor's product has been sold and the store owner has received the money, the vendor can request a payout. The store administrator should review the payout request and ensure that all is correct and that the money is transferred to the vendor. If an order gets canceled or refunded, the respective adjustments need to be made. As a result, the vendor may have to do a full or partial money return to the store owner to handle the refund. To keep track of the transactions between the vendors and the store, the store administrator has to register all cases when the money changes hands while being distributed to the vendors or goes back from the vendors to the store owner. More info on this is available in Vendor Payouts and Tracking the Flow of Money to and from the Vendors.