More than 20% of retail purchases will be online in 2023, and that number is expected to rise. Much of the growth in online shopping can be attributed to e-commerce marketplaces, where multiple retailers pitch their products to a large, shared audience.
Rather than going it alone, marketplace retailers can take advantage of built-in perks, such as payment processing, shipping assistance, and marketing advice, to provide a near-seamless online experience.
See what these online marketplaces are all about, learn about the top options, and check out our expert tips to make e-commerce a cornerstone of your business.
Top 9 examples of e-commerce marketplaces
More than just price comparison platforms, e-commerce marketplaces let you buy directly from various retailers once you’ve made your selection. Their convenience is part of what has made them so popular among consumers.
We’ve compiled a list of the most popular e-commerce marketplaces and highlighted what makes them unique.
Alibaba is one of the biggest B2B e-commerce marketplaces in the world, with about 1.31 billion active customers annually. The site gets just under 100 million visits every month, justifying its high seller fees.
The Chinese marketplace serves customers worldwide, with electronics, beauty, and personal care categories racking up the most traffic.
AliExpress is under the same corporate umbrella as Alibaba, but this online marketplace serves consumers rather than businesses. The store builder is easy to use, and the fees are reasonable. However, some information can be lost in translation (literally), and shipping times can be quite long.
Amazon Marketplace operates in over 100 countries and services millions of people, so it’s no surprise small sellers and huge conglomerates alike flock to the site.
Sellers can use services like Amazon FBA to ease storage and shipping issues. But even as sellers gain access to built-in marketing and a thriving sales channel, Amazon presents potential negatives, such as high competition and above-average selling fees.
eBay started off as an auction site focused primarily on secondhand goods, but today, the marketplace offers almost everything imaginable at either auction rates or Buy It Now pricing. That flexibility is quite appealing, but you’ll still face steady competition and tiered fees that increase alongside your sales price.
Etsy is no longer solely dedicated to handmade items and vintage finds, but the focus on unique products and collectibles remains strong.
Setting up is easy for new sellers and one-person stores — just create an account and make your listings. You’ll pay an initial listing fee and then a percentage of your sales, but there’s no subscription or large upfront costs.
Walmart’s massive online presence helped the mega-seller rake in billions in e-commerce sales in 2022. Businesses that want to piggyback on Walmart’s digital success must go through a multi-step approval process and have products that fit into one of 35 approved product categories. Fees range from 6% to 15%.
Third-party Walmart sellers outside the United States aren’t currently eligible for Walmart’s Shopify interface, meaning they’ll have to find ways to upload products, create listings, and sync inventory independently.
You’ll have to be approved by Rakuten before you can start selling online, but once you’re through, you can customize your Rakuten storefront to help with multi-channel brand consistency.
Unlike other marketplaces, Rakuten covers tangible and downloadable items, with sellers delivering purchases through email or traditional shipping. The marketplace helps sellers with payment processing, shipping details, and even market research.
Taobao is another Alibaba marketplace — this one tailored to Chinese audiences speaking primarily Cantonese and Mandarin. The site only allows registered companies to apply for a storefront, and the customer service system can be tough to navigate, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the languages used.
If you want to sell to consumers in India, Flipkart may be your best bet. The site generated a reported 511 billion rupees (about 6.2 billion USD) in revenue in 2022, with sellers offering products in over 80 categories. New sellers can quickly scale, thanks to free listings and more than 100 million registered customers waiting to buy, but the site is only open to retailers in India.
E-commerce marketplace benefits
Why partner with an e-commerce marketplace if you already have your own storefront? It’s like selling your house on your own versus partnering with a well-known brokerage; there are many benefits to getting help from the pros.
Here are some advantages to using an e-commerce marketplace:
- Increased reach: With an e-commerce marketplace, you gain immediate access to a vast customer base beyond the traffic you might get on your own.
- Established infrastructure: Instead of learning how to build an online marketplace from scratch, use a pre-built storefront that includes solutions for logistics, payment processing, and customer support.
- Improved discoverability: Help consumers find your storefront using marketplaces’ built-in search and product recommendation algorithms.
- Use their tools to scale quickly: Most marketplaces offer sellers educational resources, such as marketing guides and shipping plug-ins, that minimize the learning curve and fuel fast progress.
Must-know strategies for selling on marketplaces
Selling on an e-commerce platform is designed to be a streamlined experience, but you need a comprehensive plan to find true success. The ideal strategy depends on where you’re starting from.
Scaling from a solo online store to an e-commerce marketplace
If you have a store already up and running, you can use marketplaces to add another revenue stream. Use EDI for retail to sync up multiple storefronts so details like your inventory counts and fulfillment info are always updated and accurate.
Starting a brand-new marketplace-based store
If you don’t have a dedicated website, you can skip straight to selling on an e-commerce marketplace. Use the built-in tools alongside search engine optimization to launch and scale quickly, garnering positive reviews and building a positive reputation.
Tips for selling on e-commerce marketplaces
- Select the ideal e-commerce marketplace for your brand. There are many different types of marketplaces, and they won’t all be a good fit. Consider the products you sell, where you want to ship to, and what fees you can afford before deciding.
- Push your top-performing product. Launch with a focus on your best product to maximize traction and good reviews.
- Optimize product titles, descriptions, and categories. Product listings should be optimized for the marketplace’s algorithm and SEO to help consumers find you.
- Invest in digital marketing. Although most online marketplaces have in-house marketing resources, some are severely limited. Consider sponsored listings, blogs, and paid ads to increase visibility.
- Measure profits and fees. Become a great accountant. Track and calculate material costs, sales numbers, and fees; it’s the only way to know if you’re making money.
- Broaden your shipping approach. Investigate various shipping methods and explore packaging options to find the most suitable choice. Research ways to protect your products while still saving money.
Make the most of e-commerce marketplaces with Orderful
Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the wide world of digital sales or you're an experienced online seller, e-commerce marketplaces can be hugely beneficial to your overall strategy. Our advice will help you launch quickly, reach your target audience, and efficiently fulfill orders.