The Online marketplace sector have long been a major retail channel in the UK and worldwide, to the point where some of the world’s largest companies are now online marketplaces.
In all, they are in the top 10 of biggest retailers in countries around the globe, having taken the spots of traditional retailers like supermarkets and chains. As such, the online marketplace share is only going to get bigger as more and more businesses move online. But with these marketplaces, the corporate side of the business is only half the story. Most of the business carried out on these sites connects individuals buying and selling across the world. So which ones are best for your business to use?
It can be a lot of legwork to find out exactly which online marketplace is the biggest, and who is the best fit for your line of work in each country. So we’ve done all the hard work for you! Read on for our definitive guide to online marketplaces worldwide.
Online Marketplace UK
The UK has one of the world’s more mature online marketplace landscapes, having a significant presence since their inception in the mid-1990s. While the top end of the market is, like much of the world, dominated by the large American online marketplaces, there are a couple of homegrown entrants in the top five that are worth considering. The UK’s total online shopping value exceeds £680bn. So there is plenty of cash to target your sales towards if you want to market to a UK audience.
So, let’s take a look at the top five online marketplaces for the UK.
It’s hardly a surprise that Amazon is the UK’s largest online marketplace. With more than twice as many sales as its nearest rival, moving more than £17bn through 300 million users in 2019 alone, it’s a truly vast enterprise and is among the top retailers of any kind in Britain. Amazon is an excellent option for many reasons. Firstly, it covers such a huge range of products that there is almost certain to be a sensible spot for yours in there somewhere, with a truly enormous audience scrolling towards it.
A second reason that it’s worth a shot is the global reach that Amazon has, with major operations in 13 countries including massive markets in the EU and North America. This means you can easily pivot towards markets outside the UK without having to bother setting up accounts on other global sites in tandem with your Amazon account. Finally, mention of Amazon goes hand in hand with their incredible logistical arm Fulfillment by Amazon, which enables a vast array of choice in terms of your shipping options. If you’re a growing business, you can even charge them with your entire shipping operation, gaining access to that notoriously fast Amazon performance, meaning you can grow from your first 100 sales to your first 1,000,000 effortlessly.
Huge American-owned auction site eBay takes the second spot in the UK’s online marketplace premier league. Launching in the UK just a few years after going public in the US, eBay was one of the first companies to bring online shopping to a mass market. Of course, Above all, they pioneered the now-ubiquitous online auction format. It was also one of the first to make familiar concepts like ratings and online shops part of a seller’s online presence, taking the online business from the tech world and putting it firmly into the hands of average users.
With sales of more than £1bn in the UK, eBay is still the undisputed king of the auction format and makes it very easy to maximise the social side of your selling, with an online shop that is customisable to your personality and industry. A similar online reach to Amazon, and even a similar fulfilment service, allows users to truly run their businesses entirely on the platform, with a later introduced Buy it Now feature significantly closing the differential gap between an auction and eCommerce model. A lot of extra features on the platform can spice up your appeal, such as featured listings and free shipping, but it’s a very crowded marketplace where only the brightest survive!
The first truly homegrown Internet marketplace on the list, Gumtree was originally founded to help connect Australian, New Zealand and South African ex-pats in London, who were looking for everything from accommodation to jobs and furniture. Finding success beyond its target market, Gumtree grew to become the UK’s #1 free classified advertisements space, and for many years was decidedly low tech. Having been bought by eBay and re-launched in 2016, with a particular focus on mobile devices and social selling, Gumtree boosted its sales by more than 20% to just under £100 million, strengthening its place near the top of the UK’s online marketplace ecosystem.
It’s true that Gumtree lacks some of the bells and whistles of its larger rivals, such as fulfilment. It is very much a local product, trading on the ease with which you can sell on the platform without spending any money. It is now possible to pay for upgrades to your account as well as preferential listings, but speed and sharing is still its major selling point, something you may be able to take great advantage of if you benefit from word of mouth. It’s also an excellent way to draw customers onto your existing site, getting an amazing product splashed across social media in order to create new fans and new customers.
Online craft marketplace Folksy specialises in selling handmade crafts in a business model that’s similar to Etsy, but one that is even more serious about its craft roots than its American equivalent. Started in Sheffield in 2007, Folksy insists that the things you sell must be handmade using original designs, or at least designs that you have permission to use. So while you may sell prints or copies, they must be based on something you have designed yourself.
This is a pretty restrictive requirement, and it banishes many of the custom design t-shirt and coaster businesses that you may find on Etsy. It also means that the floor is a lot more open for businesses that do fit the bill to get unobstructed exposure. Folksy boasts 150,000 shoppers a month on its site, which is not a figure to be sniffed at for most small craft businesses, and it also has very reasonable fees to encourage small businesses. The highest commission you’ll pay on Folksy comes in at 6%, which compares well with the 45% commission you’ll sometimes pay on Amazon, and even the premium monthly fee is just £5, allowing you to waive the 15p per item listing fee.
Not on the High Street
Another homegrown UK venture, Not on the High Street also has the distinction of being genuinely grassroots, started by two female entrepreneurs who wanted an online space for local craft businesses who couldn’t afford shops (hence the name). Having grown from 200 local crafters to over 5,000 across the UK, it has also drastically increased its customer base to over 38 million visitors a year in 2019.
Setting up on the site is harder and more expensive than on any of its competitors, with a one-off fee of £199, a 25% commission on every sale and a rigorous process of checking every new store for its quality. Having said that, successfully setting up a NOTHS shop places you in the top few hundred of your type of store in the UK, and with more than 38 million pairs of eyes shared between just 5,000 stores every year, there is potential for a lot of exposure.
Like eBay, NOTHS places a great deal of emphasis on the store and its owner over the products, and the more information and personality you can put into your shop and what you sell, the better. However, once again, this only applies to a relatively niche group of homemade or handmade craft gifts and items, so it is definitely not for every type of business.
Online Marketplace Europe
The UK is one of the larger markets in the world for online shopping, but it’s nothing when you consider it next to the entire continental European ecosystem, where 500 million potential customers live. But while the UK’s markets are relatively centralised and uniform, there’s a huge amount of variation in Europe’s markets depending on their region and language, as well as many other factors. Luckily, thanks to the great connections between each market that exists on the continent, it’s really easy to sell between them, so here’s a quick look at some of your biggest avenues.
Polish online marketplace Allegro is the largest of its kind in Eastern Europe. Also, it is the fifth-largest in Europe as a whole. While it may not have the same kind of brand recognition that more famous marketplaces enjoy, it’s been around in Europe for as long as eBay and Amazon and boasts more than 20 million accounts. One of the biggest advantages of pursuing sales via Allegro is that the platform acts as a gateway to the whole Eastern European market, and though it is mainly focused on Poland, it is also used in the Baltic and in neighbouring states like Romania.
Its advertising has also been focused on the Polish Diasporas across Europe, with a particular focus on Germany, France and the UK, so it may even be possible for you to use the platform to target users a little closer to home. The extra services available through Allegro rival even eBay and Amazon, with advertising and branding help available, as well as plenty of customer support if you should need it. However, all business on the channel is conducted in Polish, which may present a problem for non-Polish businesses. If you regularly target Polish consumers, this may be a cost you already have factored in, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to expand.
Originally set up as an online catalogue for the German multi-national conglomerate Bertelsmann, Bol is the premier online marketplace for the Benelux region (that is, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg), one of the richest economic areas in Europe with nearly 30 million citizens. Its DNA as a shop for everything is still very much on show, and there’s not much that this platform doesn’t sell, from cosmetics to car parts. It’s also famously easy to use, with the quick set up of online accounts and very few of the barriers to entry you find on other sites, so you can get set up and selling very quickly.
Bol is relatively new to the online marketplace world, launching its platform in 2011, and is trying to fill the role of just about all of the tech giants, selling products from other major retailers and even second-hand goods via its site. This does mean that you can benefit from comprehensive support on shipping and fulfilment (they’re the Dutch Amazon, after all), and with no monthly fees and very low commissions. As with other European marketplaces, use of English is sporadic, so it helps to speak Dutch or at least have a budget for translation if you want to make the most of this platform.
CDiscount is France’s largest homegrown online marketplace. It is roughly equivalent in its range of goods and services to UK retail giant Argos, including 40 categories from electronics and tech to food and wine. It’s the perfect way for just about any retailer to get easy access to the French market because of the sheer breadth of their stock, with a claimed user base of over 11 million people, or one in six of the French population. While primarily based in France, the company also has operations in Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy and Luxembourg. So it’s a potential gateway to the rest of the European market too.
For foreign businesses, the primary benefit of using CDiscount is their distribution function, which operates a network of nearly 20,000 pickup and drop-off points all across France, greatly simplifying the issue of fulfilment in another country. However, their commission and fees are more expensive as a result, topping out at 20% and 39 Euros a month respectively. One other innovative system the site employs is an algorithm that places the top-selling products into one of a small number of physical stores in Bordeaux and Paris, so if you do manage to make it big on the site, the potential rewards are huge.
Danish retailer Coolshop was one of the first businesses to realise the potential of the EU Single Market to sell video games around the continent, taking advantage of the differing prices to sell them more cheaply than anyone else could in any one country. Fast forward 20 years and the company has applied that philosophy to a variety of other sectors, including home & garden, toys and furniture, so it now truly has a range large enough to compete with the biggest retailers in any country. If you’re looking for an ideal ‘in’ to the continental market then this is it, because Coolshop was founded with that very much in mind.
The whole site is in one common language, English, and you can buy and sell in your local currency – Coolshop does the exchange for you. It also offers a really low commission of 4% and no monthly fees, so it’s a highly accessible platform too. Coolshop specialises in international logistics, so you can get support and help with shipping from your dedicated account manager, and customer support is available 24/7 via their online chat facility, so you won’t be left in the dark. While its user base is a little on the small side, at just over 1.5 million, there’s probably no easier way to get your international ambitions off the ground.
Swedish bargain retail site Fyndiq has a unique business model that you won’t find in too many other places. It’s entire stock is sold in a flash sale format. While it’s an unusual way to sell, it’s a great opportunity to break into the Scandinavian market of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. This can be more difficult than selling on the rest of the continent due to its self-contained character. Fyndiq covers electronics, health and beauty, fashion, children’s and entertainment. However, once you make your listing, you hand over control of the sale to Fyndiq, so don’t expect the level of visibility you’d get with other large online marketplaces.
On the plus side, it’s really easy to set up and go on Fyndiq. They offer you a range of analytics so you can see how well your products perform. The whole site is in Swedish, which may be a hindrance to you, but as a widely spoken language throughout Scandinavia, it means your market is a lot bigger while still being fairly niche. A couple of warnings though: they specialise in speed and require that your products be shipped in 24 hours, so you need to make sure that’s a possibility. You may also find that most products sell for less than 50 Euros on the site, so if you specialise in high-value items, it might not be the place for you.
Online marketplace USA and North America
The world of eCommerce is much like the music world. That is, in the sense that only the brands that have cracked America can truly say they’ve made it big. As the world’s wealthiest market, with an enormous combined population, the US, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico make for a tempting target if you can stomach the competition. You’ve got the benefit of a large English speaking population, relatively uniform jurisdictions and well developed logistical infrastructure, but there are just so many options and so many rivals out there that it’s easy to get lost in the noise. So which platforms give you the best chance of success? Let’s take a look.
Online craft marketplace Etsy was launched in the US as a conscious cross between eBay and Amazon, taking the eCommerce format of buying and selling based on categories of the latter, while mimicking the shopfront personalisation of the former. The result has been compared to a real-life craft fair, but online, and composed of millions of sellers across just about every medium. In recent years, Etsy has modelled itself as the home of the small business, providing tools that enable users to completely personalise everything about their online shop as well as the technical tools that enable them to track purchases, sales and ship orders easily.
Etsy is known for being easy to use, and opening a shop is free, with the company charging just $0.20 per item to keep it listed for up to four months at a time. Worldwide sales are healthy, with Etsy estimating a total of $4bn in traffic passing through its worldwide operations in 2019, though the relatively niche remit of the platform means it is only suitable for certain types of items. No car tyres or power drills; think customised wedding stationery and printed t-shirts.
Founded by venture capitalists as a direct competitor to Amazon, Jet.com copies the Amazon-style and feature list while also focusing heavily on discounts, placing it firmly as an Amazon for the under 30s. Since its buyout by supermarket giant Walmart in 2016, Jet has revamped its business model and no longer charges its members or its customers a fee. Instead, it relies on the bulk buying power of its parent company to sell just about everything at a 5-10% discount. This is all funded by a variable commission system that charges between 10 and 15% commission on every item that you list, and is notoriously confusing, using a complex rules engine to decide how much you’ll pay.
Another interesting mechanic is the ability for shoppers to give up things like free returns and free shipping in exchange for bigger discounts, as well as an algorithm that sets discounts individually for each customer on the basis of their past shopping behaviour. If all this sounds like a lot of work, you shouldn’t worry. Great marketplace integration allows you to list products on third-party apps that really speed up the whole process. One catch, however, is that you need a registered US business code to list on the marketplace, which can be a big obstacle for foreign businesses with no US presence.
For businesses looking to make that leap into international sales, Newegg is a great way to start. It’s another company that focus on making cross-border commerce easy. This store originally began as a computing-focused marketplace, and though Newegg has since expanded to cover sporting goods and homewares too, it is still dominated by tech and gadgets. Newegg is an aggregator, so unlike other marketplaces that let you build a storefront, this system simply gathers together all added products that match each category into one place, allowing customers to browse items of the same type from all sellers.
Newegg also has options that allow access to marketing and sales help, account managers and even international fulfilment, so it really is a place from which you can run a whole business. There are no fees to list, but access to the more advanced features is restricted to premium members paying between $30 and $100 a month, though they also get shipping discounts. All in all, with commissions topping out at around 15%, it’s an easy and low-cost way to get your products in front of 30 million users, and there’s plenty of help available to get your shop that extra boost in the form of sales and marketing support.
Sears was already famous as an elder statesman of US retail, with a huge network of bricks and mortar stores and as a pioneer of the shopping catalogue back in the 1950s and 1960s. In recent years, Sears has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the creation of its online marketplace in order to compete with online retailers. This enables you to access some of their 16 million shoppers and 130 million users every month, as well as the established Sears brand name and a sought after rewards scheme, across a huge range of products and through several sub-brands.
Selling via Sears requires a monthly subscription of $39.99, but in exchange for this fee, you get access to some really nice perks, including a fulfilment service and a powerful suite of analytical tools to help grow your sales. The commission rates of between 10% and 20% are fairly typical for online marketplaces, but the use of Shop Your Way rewards points is a great bonus you won’t find on other sites. These are proven to attract 10% higher spending in rewards members than non-members, and can be spent and redeemed across the whole range of Sears brands, attracting all kinds of customers to your door.
While Wish is less well known around the world, it is a giant of the US eCommerce scene. It is the sixth-largest eCommerce company in the world on the back of its grip on the US market alone. If you’re looking for a pure eCommerce experience, then Wish is it. There are no commission fees, no joining fees and no monthly subscriptions, only a set fee based on a combination of item type and shipping costs, typically around 15%. In recent years, Wish has spread out of the US and become the number one shopping app in 42 countries, with 300 million users around the world – a huge audience.
One of the biggest selling points of Wish as an online marketplace is that businesses don’t pay anything unless they make a sale, so it’s very low risk from a cost standpoint. It’s also optimised for mobile, so it’s a very useful marketplace for low value or impulse items or other items that sell well via social media. However, it’s also worth noting that Wish only allows brand new products to be sold, and only by the brand owner, so it’s not great for re-sellers.
Online marketplace Asia and Pacific
As the single fastest-growing economic region of the world for the last 20 years, the Asia-Pacific market has been an enormous growth area for online shopping too. The increase in Internet usage has also been massive, accounting for some of the world’s most technically advanced and connected societies such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. Stretching from Eastern Russia all the way to New Zealand, it’s vastly populous and diverse, so where do you start? Let’s take a look.
Alibaba is the world’s largest eCommerce company. As one of the world’s most valuable companies of any kind, it has to be your first stop for eCommerce in the Asia-Pacific region. With a colossal 600 million members worldwide, the vast majority of people who use Alibaba in the west are actually buyers taking advantage of the massive wholesale markets of China and India, but it is certainly possible to sell on the platform too. There is a free option when you first sign up, but as it limits sales to 50 products and places you at the bottom of the pecking order in terms of priority, it’s next to useless for serious sellers.
The fees for premium accounts can look a little steep next to other eCommerce sites, ranging from $1,999 a year for a basic plan to $5,999 for a Gold Supplier Premium package which gets you everything from top priority listings to a dedicated account manager and powerful analytics. There is a reason for this, however, which is that the site is designed for vast sales of industrial proportions, so for many users, these fees are a true drop in the ocean in comparison to their overall sales. It’s a particularly niche supplier which can out-do Chinese companies on bulk orders of manufactured products, so if you are one of those, this is the place to sell.
If the fees and competition on Alibaba were looking a bit too extreme for your business, then that site’s little brother AliExpress is probably more up your street. AliExpress covers the retail side of things. In fact, it is mostly a business to business platform designed to connect wholesalers with the businesses which need large volumes of their products. This makes the process of getting started slightly more complicated than the ‘sign up and go’ approach. So, you’ll need an Alipay account along with an accredited agent who can work with the site. But in general, the rest of the experience is much more user friendly. You can even create your own personalised shop, like you can with equivalent sites in Europe and the US.
Another attraction of AliExpress is that, after you get set up, it’s a relatively low-cost option with commission fees generally no higher than 8%. Due to the nature of the products bought and sold on the site, it can often be necessary to have a warehouse for storage in the country from which you commonly buy. This can be expensive, though AliExpress operates a drop shipping function. As a result, you only need to buy from your supplier as you make a sale, eliminating the need for storage.
Previously known as Catch of the Day, Catch has long been one of Australia’s largest online-only retailers. Catch also opened up their eCommerce platform to third party sellers, which gives you the opportunity to make use of one of Australia’s fastest-growing markets for business purposes. Due to its location, Australia is home to lots of homegrown retail operations beyond the eBays and Amazons of this world, and the key to really cracking the Aussie market is to get involved with them.
Users will find that the Catch marketplace is a relatively low-frills operation. Indeed, it focuses instead on being easy to use. It offers an array of helpful tools to track sales and performance as well as developer tools to upload your products easily. Also, there is support, sales and fulfilment options available. This is useful for sellers on the other side of the world. With over 4 million users across Australia, it’s a useful gateway into the country. Admittedly, it’s a little pricey with commissions of up to 25% and monthly fees of AUS $49.99.
Speaking of fast-growing markets, Flipkart didn’t exist in India until 2007, and now it claims to have cornered some 65% of many of the country’s most lucrative products. You can sell just about anything on Flipkart, and there is a huge range of products, so you should find a niche whatever your business. It also operates on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis, only charging a commission of between 5% and 25%, so it’s also relatively low risk. The only special requirement for non-Indian businesses is they engage an Indian-based aggregator, whose job it is to act as an agent and handle things like returns, which can be engaged for a fee.
The rest of the platform is very similar to other sites you may be familiar with. For foreign business owners, it offers priceless optional extras such as sales and marketing support to boost brands. Additionally, there is also local logistical fulfilment support. Of particular use is the Seller Protection Programme, which helps protect sellers against scams and fraud, another invaluable service in situations with a considerable language barrier in the way.
GittiGidiyor is a Turkish auction site modelled on eBay. In fact, Ebay now own it, after the US giant bought it on a round of international expansion. Turkey is one of the fastest-growing eCommerce regions in Europe and the Middle East, and GittiGidiyor is easily the largest homegrown marketplace, with an estimated 45% penetration into Turkish society and 19 million customers a month. Selling on GittiGidiyor is heavily based around its subscription model. Businesses fit neatly into bands depending on how many listings they want at once.
Free account are also available. However, there is only a 10 item limit and thus isn’t very suitable for business use. However it’s a relatively cheap platform. Even with the maximum 16% commission, the highest cost option of Mega+ only costs 1399 Turkish Lira a month. Users should double-check exactly what they will pay to establish what their profit margins will be. This commission is decided by a complicated commission table similar to the one used by Amazon. Like eBay, GittiGidiyor uses a storefront mechanic to give sellers their own spaces. It can be upgraded with extra paid-for options such as featured items and different colours, titles and fonts.
Online Marketplace Latin America
The Latin (South) America region is an eCommerce growth hotspot. Internet penetration is now nearly ubiquitous, and mobile phone ownership commonplace among all sectors of society. Growth is as high as 20% in some areas, so where’s is the best place to go for a piece of the pie? Let’s take a look.
Easily the best thing about Mercado Libre is the vast market it gives you access to. It really does unite South and Central America, covering 19 countries and 160 million buyers. Everything facilitates international trade. Therefore, the platform comes with an automatic currency conversion and translation system as well as local fulfilment options. As a result, you really can do business across thousands of miles and many borders without any hassle.
Accessibility is the name of the game with Mercado Libre. Even the commission rates are simple, with countries divided into blocks with either a 16% or 17% rate. That’s fairly high, but it’s much more simple than most sites. And with no monthly fees it still works out fairly cheap! They’ve even got pretty amazing shipping. Particularly, they have many free shipping options and also the logistical skills to get most orders from here to there in three days.
If Mercato Libre aims to be the most accessible online marketplace in Latin America, then Linio is the most professional, offering Amazon-level choice and services to its 300 million customers. Setting up an account on the service will place you alongside half a million other users also selling items. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. The platform offers a range of different payment and fulfilment options, as well as a plentiful support online or over the phone. Linio offers a huge range of different products in a wide variety of 60 categories, from homewares to car parts.
Setting up an account is also easy to do. There are no upfront costs and a swift application process without too many barriers to entry. There is also no monthly fee. Actually, just a commission of between 5% and 15% to pay in exchange for all of the features we’ve mentioned. However, users should remember to consider the cost of sending the product to the Latin American country they’re selling to. Linio’s fulfilment service only operates within their region.
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