E-commerce is booming. What is the best marketplace for your business?

Globally, 47% of ecommerce sales were made through online marketplaces in 2020, amounting to just under two trillion dollars. During a time where the majority of us we’re under a form of lockdown, we have become reliant on the convenience of having our purchases delivered to us. With most marketplaces offering next day delivery, or even same day – these marketplaces are projected to keep growing.

We are all familiar with the likes of eBay and Amazon – the main players in online retail – but are these marketplaces for you? Do you sell niche products? Do your items appeal to specific regions or international marketplaces?

This article will look at the e-commerce trends of the UK, we will look at the benefits of selling on marketplaces, the negatives – and how it will suit your business.

What is an online marketplace?

An online marketplace is an e-commerce site that connects sellers and buyers. The key features that define this from a individual e-commerce site is:

  • The buyers and sellers will operate through the same website, often using the site hosts payment provider.
  • Sellers on the marketplace generally operate with there own inventory (Not always the case)

There are many price comparison sites such as idealo and pricechecker, although these sites have many items displayed, you often cannot make the purchase without being re-directed to the site. These price comparison sites are usually filled with links to eBay and Amazon listings – as these markets are so competitive so it’s likely they offer the best price for the consumer.

In this article we will look at marketplaces that generally sell to consumers, and mainly selling physical products. Although most marketplaces do cater for business-to-business (B2B) trade, this is often left to specific distributors and sites in which supply items that are required by themselves.

The top 5 online marketplaces in the UK

#NameRegion/CountryProduct CategoryUK Visits/MonthMarketplace Keys
1AmazonGlobalGeneral407.0MAmazon can give your items an unrivalled customer base. They also offer FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon), in which you can send your items to Amazon and they will deal with the fulfilment and customer service.
2eBayGlobal General 297.9MeBay can generate a huge amount of sales – but this is all dependent on your listing rank on the site.
3EtsyGlobal Arts, Crafts36.0MEtsy is a great site for sales of niche products from handmade candles to furniture.
4WayfairNorth America, EuropeHomeware24.1MThe worlds largest marketplace for home goods and furniture. If this is your area of sales you need to be using this marketplace.
5OnbuyUK General 8.2MThe UK’s rival to eBay. A great marketplace to list on due to there being less competition – however don’t be put off! With 8.2 million visits a month you cannot miss out.

Amazon is the most popular online marketplace in the UK, with 407 million visits per month. This places the UK third for Amazon globally, behind the US and Japan. Amazon’s global gross merchandise volume (GMV) is estimated at $490 billion.

Selling on Amazon UK works in the same way as selling on other Amazon marketplaces, but there is no global account system. There are, however, two “unified account” systems – one for Europe and one for North America – enabling businesses to sell across multiple countries. So If you would like to sell in the main 8 European marketplaces this is a great way to do so.

In the US, Amazon is often perceived as the only online marketplace that is worth selling on. In the UK, however, Amazon is often seen as one strand of a multi-channel strategy. This is partly because eBay is closer to Amazon’s level of popularity in the UK, but also because selling internationally through multiple marketplaces is more common for UK businesses.

Amazon in the UK is sometimes seen as an “untapped opportunity”, but in reality the level of competition is very similar to the US and other countries where Amazon is a dominant force. There are large numbers of Chinese brands selling directly to consumers, and private labelling by businesses in the UK and worldwide is very much in evidence.

Most of Amazon’s services and programs that exist in the US also exist in the UK, including FBA, Seller Fulfilled Prime and most advertising options. Amazon has a number of European fulfilment programs but the UK sits outside these since Brexit went into effect at the beginning of 2021.

Prime is just as important to customers in the UK as in the US, and free one-day delivery has long been the standard for Prime in the UK. Other UK marketplaces, including eBay, generally allow (or at least tolerate) sellers using FBA to fulfil orders on their marketplaces.

eBay is the second-most popular online marketplace in the UK, with just under 298 million visits per month. This places the UK second for eBay globally, behind the US and ahead of Germany. eBay’s global gross merchandise volume (GMV) is reported as $100 billion, making UK GMV approximately $18 billion, based on traffic levels.

Selling on eBay is the same in every country, as eBay has a global account system. However, listings are specific to each eBay site and do not automatically show in the standard search results across all global marketplaces.

Sellers have a few options for selling internationally, from simply setting international shipping rates and using eBay’s Global Shipping Program , to creating individual localized listings for each eBay marketplace and arranging their own shipping. An optional paid upgrade called international site visibility, available in the US, UK and Canada, helps listings on one of those eBay sites show in search results on the others.

eBay has much the same brand image in the UK as in the US and elsewhere: an online flea-market mainly consisting of used products sold via auction by individuals. Although that type of trade still takes place on eBay, most transactions are now for fixed-price new products sold by businesses and other professional sellers. eBay buyers tend towards a bargain-hunting mentality in the UK, as they do in other countries.

While it is common for sellers to dismiss eBay entirely in the US, it’s worth taking more seriously in the UK due to its stronger competitive position. eBay can offer an easier way to experiment with selling to the UK market, so may be worth considering before Amazon for international sellers looking to expand.

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