No matter what you sell, it’s important to have a presence in the right ecommerce marketplaces. After all, even with advertising to drive traffic, it’s a great idea to offer products on places other than your website. That’s because a lot of people will buy items from several different vendors in one shopping trip. Later, if you have a website, then the customer may buy more from you directly the next time. Or, they might be a good regular customer on the ecommerce marketplaces.
On the other side of the coin, you may be at a disadvantage if your products are not available on the marketplaces. While it’s unnecessary to be on all the marketplaces (and some are only available in certain languages), diversifying your sales beyond just your website is usually a smart idea.
With that in mind, let’s look at the different ecommerce marketplaces available globally. Some marketplaces are very specialized, while others have a broader appeal. By the end of this article, you should be able to identify which marketplaces have the potential for your business.
What is an ecommerce marketplace?
Ecommerce marketplaces are websites that provide an opportunity for businesses to sell their products directly to the consumer. In this case, the buyer can order products through the marketplace. They can also buy from multiple sellers in one transaction, with money being sent to the appropriate merchants.
Another feature of ecommerce marketplaces is that there’s a lot of competition. For example, if you want to buy a new pair of brand-name sneakers on Amazon, there will probably be multiple payers of the same model available. Prices will differ, as will seller ratings. It’ll be up to the customer to accept one offer over the other.
With that said, from a consumer perspective, there’s a huge variety of merchandise available. Although you might find 20 pairs of sneakers in your size, you may discover something unique, such as a piece of shoe art. And finally, because there’s so much competition on these websites, customers can typically get an excellent bargain — and be sure of this before they buy.
Further Reading: 15 Important Ecommerce Tools You Need to Know in 2024
How do ecommerce marketplaces work?
Although there are several different types of ecommerce marketplaces, they all work on the same principle: third-party merchants offering their products to consumers. For most marketplaces, merchants are responsible for managing their listings. There’s a tool provided by the marketplace where you can upload pictures of your products, their descriptions, and whatever else fits into that marketplace.
Once you post your items (and their cost), the marketplace advertises the item on your behalf. Think about the last time you saw an ad for Amazon. While Amazon frequently markets its own products via display ads and other online efforts, they also display third-party merchandise. They do this by including most products in their retargeting tools. Other marketplaces have similar practices.
If a customer needs to reach out to you, some marketplaces will handle the messaging. Generally, the idea is to keep everyone safe from scams and other misbehavior online. However, it also helps to keep people from moving the transaction elsewhere and bypass the seller fees.
When a customer orders your items through the marketplace, their payment system collects the money. For this reason, a customer might buy items from several marketplace sellers and check out only once. Typically, the marketplace takes a commission or fees from the sale price before forwarding the money.
Finally, the marketplace handles some aspects of order fulfillment, and in some cases, they do everything. Most marketplaces let you print out a shipping label, package the purchase, and drop it in the mail. Some, like Amazon, also let you send merchandise to their warehouse. In the second case, the marketplace handles order fulfillment. Either way, you’ll get inventory tracking and other recordkeeping help.
The 3 biggest benefits of selling on an ecommerce marketplace
With all the fees and extra work with ecommerce marketplaces, it’s easy to wonder why so many sellers use them. However, as you’ll see, these marketplaces tend to be mutually beneficial to all parties. While there are many benefits, these 3 alone should convince you to pursue these opportunities
1. Expand your customer base
Not everyone is going to visit your website to buy your products. Not only might they not know about your brand, but they might not understand how your products stack up against the competition. While careful marketing and better brand awareness can help with these factors, they don’t give a side-by-side comparison like a marketplace can.
In other words, marketplaces help people find your products who wouldn’t otherwise, even if you maximize your marketing budget. Not only do people get to see your stuff, but reviews and comparisons can help your products get discovered by people who wouldn’t otherwise.
2. Leverage the marketing power of the ecommerce marketplace
I’ve already hinted at this, but ecommerce marketplaces do extensive marketing. Can your business afford to advertise on the radio? How about TV? Many marketplaces can afford this, and they do. Amazon and Walmart are especially well-known for doing this. And even though some of them have brick-and-mortar locations or merchandise they sell themselves, the overall effect of those marketing efforts trickles down to third-party sellers.
Of course, the marketing power of these marketplaces also puts seller fees into perspective. Not only do the fees and commissions pay for website upkeep, but they also help pay for advertising. Better yet, everyone who sells on the marketplace helps to pay for these services at a lower price due to the economy of scale.
Further Reading: 10 Ways to Leverage Social Media in eCommerce
3. Take advantage of customer loyalty to ecommerce marketplaces
Some ecommerce marketplaces have customer loyalty programs. For instance, Walmart has Walmart Plus, which helps pay for shipping and encourages people to buy from Walmart over competitors that don’t offer these perks. Another example is Amazon. They have a Subscribe & Save, along with a credit card program. The first offers cash savings upfront, while the second provides cashback for everything, including from marketplace sellers.
Ultimately, selling on ecommerce marketplaces lets your smaller brand benefit from big-brand perks, both for the company and the consumer. And while it may be more work to compete directly on a larger platform, the benefits usually outweigh the inconvenience.
13 Top Ecommerce Marketplaces to Sell With
Globally, there are many marketplaces. Many of them appeal to specific clientele or a small range of products. If you’re in the right market, these can be invaluable tools to drive sales. However, I want to focus on the big players globally. That’s because they offer the opportunity to leverage a lot of brand recognition and marketing power. Plus, many of these marketplaces are the backbone of an entire business, such as with FBA sellers.
This is one of the largest and oldest ecommerce marketplaces globally. They’ve also moved into physical locations in the past few years, between their acquisition of Whole Foods and some bookstores. Additionally, you can buy consumer electronics, and a host of other products made just for Amazon. That’s one reason why so many people love the site.
However, despite the fact that Amazon is most famous for books and private-label consumer goods, the Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) and third-party seller programs are hugely successful. With FBA, you send products to Amazon’s warehouse, and they handle the fulfillment process, including both shipping and returns. As a bonus, FBA merchandise frequently benefits from Prime shipping. If you’ve ever filtered for products with Prime shipping, you know how valuable this is.
If you don’t want to send your inventory to Amazon for whatever reason, you can still participate as a third-party seller. Here, you’re responsible for boxing up purchases and shipping them to customers’ addresses. You also maintain the product listings yourself.
Further Reading: How to Become an Amazon Influencer – A Step-By-Step Guide
Originally just an auction site, eBay has branched out to become one of the world’s biggest ecommerce marketplaces. Now, you can buy almost anything from old stereo equipment to brand-new designer handbags. Many large brands have a storefront on eBay, so this isn’t just a small business forum. And at the same time, a lot of small businesses are exclusively on eBay.
Service-wise, eBay is much more limited than Amazon. They let you print postage labels from your seller dashboard, but you must ship everything yourself. In other words, you’re responsible for order fulfillment. The only exception to this is the Global Shipping Program, which is used to send goods overseas. However, even here, you have to pay for postage from your earnings.
One thing that makes Walmart unique among ecommerce marketplaces, at least in the US, is that it started as a physical retail chain. And they still do most of their business out of their stores. Almost every town in America has a Walmart nearby.
However, Walmart is one retailer that’s made a successful transition to the digital world. Their Marketplace Sellers program lets you sell items through their website. Products are mixed in with Walmart-owned options, just like on Amazon. This way, people looking for a product get the same option to buy from whatever sellers offer the product.
Like Amazon, you have the option of shipping to Walmart’s warehouses (where you can benefit from their fulfillment and loyalty programs) or shipping it yourself. Of course, products fulfilled by Walmart frequently arrive sooner, so that’s something to consider.
Etsy is one of the largest niche ecommerce marketplaces. Specifically, Etsy limits sellers to vintage or artisan items and supplies. So, you might find vintage tin soldiers, a handmade chess set, or needlework supplies. One of the biggest advantages of Etsy is that it attracts people who appreciate high-quality products, both new and old. Therefore, you don’t have a race to the bottom price-wise, like you often find on eBay or Amazon.
Here’s another major difference: drop shipping has severe limitations. It’s OK to do some limited drop shipping where you did design work (think tees and mugs) and similar products. But this is a relatively small part of Etsy’s overall marketplace. On the other hand, if you have a craft supply brand, then Etsy is a great place to market your wares.
You might think of AliExpress as similar to eBay, and this comparison is popular. AliExpress is one of the Chinese ecommerce marketplaces, and it allows entities in China to sell wares to overseas buyers. Everything ships from China, though some sellers might use a forwarding service. Also, you’ll have to wait a while for items to arrive due to the distance. There are sections for both transactions between consumers and those involving business.
AliExpress differs from eBay in that there’s no auction option, but you can still compare prices between sellers. Also, you can’t ship items to addresses in China. There’s another website for domestic trade. And finally, drop shippers often use AliExpress for procurement. Here, the Chinese business will ship to the consumer.
Uniquely among the ecommerce marketplaces, the US version of Rakuten doesn’t let you buy something from their website. Instead, you join Rakuten, browse offers from third-party vendors like department stores and clothing retailers, and buy from the retailer directly. Then, Rakuten gives you cash back. In other words, as with credit cards and their points, Rakuten gets paid to direct people to your site. Then, they use part of those fees to reward customers.
Although many big players work with Rakuten, if you’re a smaller retail brand, this is still a nice way to offer rewards to your customers. Best of all, you only have to pay the fees and let Rakuten handle the details.
For consumers in China, Taobao is one of the most important ecommerce marketplaces. It’s owned by Alibaba Group, the parent company of AliExpress. Unlike AliExpress, Taobao does ship within China. It’s also active in other Chinese-speaking countries, including Taiwan and Singapore. On Taobao, multiple businesses compete for sales. Then, they ship purchases directly. You can buy almost anything.
Have you ever heard of Alipay? This is the most common payment source on Taobao. Within China, it functions much like PayPal in the US. However, unlike PayPal, the merchant doesn’t get paid until goods are received and approved, rather than offering a refund to the consumer if there are problems.
Further Reading: 5 Most Popular Platforms for Social Media Marketing in China
Another part of Alibaba Group, this website facilitates business-to-business sales. It also provides web services, payment products, and other items. In other words, it’s the Chinese version of Amazon, including multiple business lines and the ability to be ubiquitous. Also, you can use this platform to reach Chinese customers from outside of China.
Further Reading: How To Build An Ecommerce Website: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you live in Latin America, Mercado Libre is one of the largest ecommerce marketplaces, and you can buy almost anything. It works similarly to eBay, with individual/small business sellers marketing directly to the consumer. Like its American counterpart, you get the option of fixed-price listings or auctions. Then, when customers order something, you’ll mail the package directly to them.
By the way, eBay used to have part ownership. The company is chartered in the US, with headquarters in Argentina.
Sometimes, shopping where you can get anything or deal with individuals isn’t ideal. Wayfair is a large marketplace, but it focuses almost exclusively on housewares. So, people can buy furniture, storage solutions, linens, kitchen gadgets, and more.
As one of the largest specialized ecommerce marketplaces, Wayfair is a great place for smaller brands to sell their products. Sellers must develop their own catalog, but they get plenty of opportunities to make their products stand out. Choose drop shipping or fulfillment by Wayfair to suit your business needs.
Computer and electronics enthusiasts are very familiar with Newegg. If you sell niche computer equipment, cool electronics, or gaming accessories, you should check them out. That’s because this platform is one of the best for finding things that nobody else carries. Also, Newegg vets their sellers to ensure that they aren’t selling counterfeits. In an industry where piracy is rife, this practice is important.
Selling through Newegg is easy. They handle advertising, customer support, and payments. Fulfillment-wise, you can choose between shipping items yourself or using their shipping service. Either way, you get the same brand promotion and customer service features that businesses love.
Even an emerging market like India can benefit from ecommerce marketplaces. Flipkart is one of the larger online marketplaces in India, and it works similarly to Amazon. You can buy almost anything on Flipkart, from children’s toys and clothing all the way to appliances or jewelry. The company handles marketing for you through advertising and other methods.
As with western marketplaces, you can ship the orders to customers yourself. Or, you can ship inventory to a Flipkart warehouse and let them do the rest. Either way, you’ll get money sent by the platform every week.
Further Reading: 13 Free eCommerce Platforms to Launch Your Store on in 2024
Facebook marketplace is a lot like Craigslist. Unlike most ecommerce marketplaces, you’re essentially on your own for customer service and other functions. Instead of having the platform handle most things, you’ll ship everything to the customer, and they’ll make payment arrangements directly with you. As with Craigslist, this often involves a meetup in a safe location and payment with cash.
Of course, you get the privilege of advertising through Facebook and letting people see what you’re selling. For local brands, this can be valuable.
Further Reading: The Top 15 Facebook Ad Tools You Didn’t Even Know Existed
Whether you’re in a developing country or somewhere else, there are plenty of ecommerce marketplaces to choose from. Each of these marketplaces has a different format, pricing structure, and business model. But no matter which ones you chose, participation can help with sales, brand awareness, and even referrals.
Hero photo by Dean Amir Hussain on Unsplash