How to Create an Online Shopping Mall in WordPress

    Shreya Reddy
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In recent decades, the concept of a shopping mall has become a full-blown modern retail trend that has proliferated across the globe. I mean, of course, it has! Shopping malls save you the trouble of having to visit multiple places to tick off all the items on your shop list. You find everything you’re looking for under one roof. And who doesn’t love convenience?!

Imagine having this provision online! You visit a website and find a variety of products all in one place. Products ranging from clothing to electronics and gadgetry can all be added to the same shopping cart, purchased and delivered to your doorstep.

Let’s explore the online shopping mall in detail and fish out the features to be included in an online mall setup.

What is an Online Shopping Mall?

A regular, tangible shopping mall is a collection of different stores under a single roof, or on a common ground. This concept taken online means a virtual mall is a group of eCommerce websites (individual stores) being handled on a single WordPress installation (common ground). In the WordPress world, the parent site website, a multi-site, functions as a mall whereas the sub-sites function as individual stores.

How does an Online Shopping Mall Work?

To understand the functioning of an online shopping mall it is important to understand the users involved in the system and how they interact with each other

Users in an Online Shopping Mall

1. Mall Owner

The mall owner is the one who creates the setup, owns the property, and provides basic amenities to store owners. In an e-shopping mall, the mall owner is the multi-site admin. He/She provides store owners with a feature to create stores in the mall. The mall owner also charges the vendors or store owners a recurring fee for renting out space (a sub-site) to set up their store.

  • Mall owner is the multi-site admin
  • Mall owner installs various plugins needed (e-commerce, payment gateways, contact forms, SEO, marketing) and themes (e-commerce platform compatible themes)
  • He/She provides a one-click store setup option for a store owner, which can be purchased for a recurring fee

2. Store Owner

The store owner or vendor is the one who wants to create a store online. The mall makes it easy for the store owner to create a store since the framework (essential pages, payment options, e-commerce platform) are already in place. But to avail the facilities of a mall, the store owner will have to pay the mall owner a subscription fee. In actuality, the stores created in the multisite are individual eCommerce websites. The store owner can personalize the store (name, logo, colors) to make it their own.

  • Store owner can register on the main-site to create an online store
  • Store owner can choose a theme (from the options available) and personalize the online store
  • He/She can set up products, and manage orders and payments.
  • Store owner is the admin for the sub-site

3. Customer

The customer is the end user who will visit the online mall to shop for products. A customer can use the main site as a directory to visit individual stores. A customer gets registered across all stores once he registers on the main site.

  • A customer can search for stores and products on the main site
  • A customer can purchase a product from an individual site

Benefits of an Online Shopping Mall

For those who view an online shopping mall as just another eCommerce store then it’s time to rethink that statement. An online shopping mall has many benefits. And what’s more, the benefits are spread across all the users who interact with the system.

  • Maintaining an online shopping mall is a significant business opportunity for mall owners. This opportunity comes with small investments and does not have much maintenance work involved once the multi-site has been set up. Also, the mall owner does not have to manage any large inventory. All the mall owner has to do is provide potential store owners with an option to create stores in the mall from the front end and define various subscription plans for stores.
  • With regards to the store owner, he/she is saved from the hassle of developing a website from the ground up. He has to simply register to the online shopping mall and procure for himself a store in the mall. Once that has been done one can easily sail through the shop set-up process.
  • As for the customers, the online shopping mall is definitely a great proposition! After all, who wouldn’t want to get all required products under one roof right? The customers can be saved from the hassle of purchasing and tracking orders from numerous websites.

How is an Online Shopping Mall different from a Marketplace?

An e-shopping mall is more often than not, confused with an e-commerce marketplace. This is because the underlying objective of providing the consumer with a one-stop shopping experience, across both these platforms is the same. Both these business models provide the audience the access to a collection of various products belonging to different vendors, brands or categories.

However, it’s imperative to understand the primary distinguishing factors between these two models.

  1. The Website
    • An Online Shopping Mall in most cases is a network of multiple sites or shops that can be accessed via the main website.
    • A marketplace is a single e-commerce website which sells products or services that belong to various third-party vendors.
  2. Classification and Branding
    • In an online shopping mall, a particular brand or shop has a dedicated subsite or web page which is tailored to the brands’ custom requirements and hence facilitates branding.
    • Marketplaces also support search filtering and classification based on product categories or brands, but the vendors are not given an exclusive page or control over how their products are showcased or displayed.
  3. Payments
    • The owner of a shopping mall provides the online stores with the required payment gateways but does not have anything to do with the monetary transactions between the vendor and the customer.
    • All the transactions on the marketplace website are processed through the website owner. The payment happens at a single point and is then distributed among the different vendors.
  4. Pricing Models
    • The shopping mall owner charges the store owner on a monthly or yearly basis in exchange for the facilities such as store hosting or availability and maintenance of plugins.
    • Marketplaces, however, charge commissions or transaction fees for each product sold on the website. They may also make money out of Ads, featured listings or Membership fees.

If you want to have a closer look at each of these platforms, Amazon and eBay are giants in the marketplace industry, whereas, PointShop is a great example of an Online Shopping Mall. You can clearly observe how you are navigated to a different website when you click on a particular ‘Featured Store’ on PointShop.

Now that we know exactly what we’re dealing with here, let’s go ahead and dive deep into technical details.


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Creating An Online Shopping Mall on WordPress

Online shopping malls on WordPress are created using the WordPress multisite feature. The multisite is a hub for multiple subsites based on a single WordPress installation.

Step #1

The process begins with setting up a WordPress multisite. As a mall owner, not only do you have to make it easy for store owners to create a website, but provide them essential plugins. For a store owner to register, the mall owner will have to set up an online registration form.

[su_note note_color=”#ffffab”]PLUGINS WE RECOMMEND


Apart from the plugins listed above, the mall owner would have to add suitable or rather compatible themes and other extensions that could benefit the store owner. For example, additional payment gateways, email marketing plugins, social media sharing plugins. The essential plugins could be auto-activated on the sub-site once it’s set up. The store owner could have the options to activate optional plugins as and when needed.

Step #2

A vendor looking to set up a store on the multisite site mall can use the registration form to set up the store.

[su_note note_color=”#ffffab”]PRO TIP

The registration form could be customized to accept the Store Name, a custom logo, and preferred theme to offer a one-click installation process.


Step #3

Once the setup and installations are done with, the vendor can log in with his credentials and add the final touches to the online store that he can call his own. The store owner could then upload the products and ‘open shop’ in the online mall 🙂

Summing Up

An online shopping mall is a great concept and can be implemented in WordPress as a multi-site using WooCommerce to handle the malls eCommerce needs. If implemented efficiently it makes for a strong and extremely useful system. And the key to implement an effective system would be to include a right mix of features into your online shopping mall for WordPress.

So that was about the working of an online shopping mall. This next post discusses the development process of an online shopping cart and essential features to incorporate into it.

Shreya Reddy

Shreya Reddy

6 Responses

  1. Hi Nelson,

    There is no one theme I can suggest without specific requirements in hand. In order to narrow down on a theme there are two main aspects that you must keep in mind.

    The first is that the theme must be compatible with your choice of eCommerce plugin. So, for example if WooCommerce is the eCommerce plugin of your choice then the theme should be compatible with WooCommerce.

    The second aspect to keep in mind would be to identify if you want the functionality to be tied to the theme or not. In my opinion it’s best to use plugins for the functionality that you need as it gives you an option to do away with a particular functionality as and when required.

  2. Hie , i need an online shopping mall theme that is beautiful , clean and easy to use , any recommendations

  3. I have recently finished my business plan and am ready to begin an on-line mall. I have read this article and found it helpful, but am still in the dark about how to execute a star-up shopping mall using a multisite platform. I’m also unsure about pricing for the multisite application. Can you point me in the right direction to get started?

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