An overview of online marketplaces and global scenario

March 22, 2018

Online marketplace (or e-marketplace) can be defined as a two-sided e-commerce website where the marketplace operator provides catalogue search facilities, ordering, and secure payment platform to buyers and third-party sellers who own products and inventory information.
Online Marketplaces worth $1.63 trillion worldwide in 2017, account for 50% of global online retail sales. And these marketplaces registered a 27% year-over-year growth in 2017 in gross merchandise value.

The market is very concentrated with the world’s 75 largest online marketplaces accounting for more than 90% global marketplace sales. Still, it is also very dynamic and young sector: 35 of these players did not even exist before 2010.

According to their offer range and target audience, online marketplaces can be classified as follow:

  • Vertical Marketplaces, focused on a specific product category (e.g. ASOS for Fashion, Redbubble for Arts & Crafts) – [Read our spotlight on Fashion marketplaces];
  • Horizontal Marketplaces, dealing with products from different categories but targeting a specific community (e.g. Etsy for DIYers, Panjo for enthusiasts and hobbyists);
  • Global Marketplaces, selling everything for everyone (e.g. Amazon, Ebay, Tmall); thus, they have the largest customer base and include the biggest players of the market.

Across these categories, it is possible to make a further distinction between pure and hybrid marketplaces, which have both 1P and 3P supply (e.g. Amazon,

E-marketplaces are certainly an important channel for any brand to consider and they come with their pros and cons:


  • Can act as an additional sales channel as they give access to additional customers that the brand may have never reached through its own website;
  • They have reduced marketing costs with respect to other sales channels, as the marketplace bears majority of them;
  • They represent an opportunity to enter new geographic markets, since their global structure facilitates exports.


  • Margins can be reduced by the marketplaces fees and commissions structure;
  • Sales terms and conditions may become an impassable burden for sellers (e.g. local legal entity, or shipment requirements);
  • Marketplace mediation may weaken the customer-brand relationship;
  • Brand may not be in total control of their brand presence and image on these marketplaces.

An important starting point to build your growth strategy to access the global online marketplaces is to understand their geographical stronghold, product categories coverage, commission structure, logistics solutions and other features that make each marketplace unique.


Amazon has the broadest customer base across 5 continents with 13 marketplaces, which makes it the principal channel for brands to access new markets. The widespread proprietary logistics network also stands Amazon out among all the other marketplaces. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries (with independent marketplace): UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Canada, US, India, China, Brazil;
  • Categories: One of the most horizontal players covering practically every physical retail category: Clothing & Accessory, Electronics, Beverage, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Homewares, Sports, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Baby, Toys & Games and many others;
  • Type: Hybrid (1P & 3P);
  • Active users: 310 million globally (2016), 90 million estimated US Prime members (2017);
  • Revenue: $162 billion (2017, AWS excluded);
  • Commission: 5-20% (category dependent);
  • Fee: $39.99/month for Professional Seller account (applicable for more than 40 items/month) or $0.99 per item sold for the Individual Seller account + variable closing fee on books, music, videos, and DVDs (US market);
  • Fulfilment options: Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) or independent fulfilment;
  • Payment options: credit/debit card, checking account (US-only), Amazon Pay;
  • Marketing opportunities: Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) for PPC campaigns (search and display), merchandising, timed deal events, sales events (e.g., Prime Day, Black Friday), Vine Program (for reviews), enhanced content (A+ Pages, brand store).


The considerable large base of customers and the Global Shipment Programs (GSP) make eBay a good and easy choice for global exploration. Safe and convenient payment methods such as PayPal are available. And companies can also take advantage of the relatively competitive sales fees. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Austria, Canada, US, India, China, Brazil, Belgium, Singapore, Ireland;
  • Categories: Electronics, Clothing & Accessories, Homeware, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Sports, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Toys & Games, Baby and others;
  • Type: Pure (3P only);
  • Active users: 167 million;
  • Revenue: $9.57 billion (2017);
  • Commission: 7-11% (category dependent);
  • Fee: no monthly fee required. Listing fees on more than 50 uploaded items per month;
  • Fulfilment options: eBay’s Global Shipping Program (GSP) or independent fulfilment;
  • Payment options: credit card, PayPal, payment upon pickup (cash or cheques);
  • Marketing opportunities: Promote your list (PPC campaigns), Order discounts, Codeless coupons, Promotional shipping, Sales events, store page ($25 – $350/month).


As the most visited site in France, FNAC specializes in CDs, DVDs video games, and software. FNAC has consolidated its influence with an established retail business of 145 physical shops. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: France, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland;
  • Product categories: Electronics, Consumer Accessories, Gaming Consoles, Toys & Games, Sports, Electrical Appliance, Tablets;
  • Type: Hybrid (1P & 3P);
  • Active users: 20 million;
  • Revenue: $9.2 billion (2017);
  • Commission: 8-12% (category dependent);
  • Fee: €40/month;
  • Fulfilment options: independent fulfilment;
  • Payment options: credit card, PayPal, pay by phone;
  • Marketing opportunities: merchandising, email, social and physical store advertisements.

La Redoute

La Redoute is the most popular fashion and home website in France, targeting mid-range and premium products. It is a full-price marketplace carrying 50% of its own brands and 50% external brands, where sellers have the full autonomy in pricing, delivery, and payment options. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Country: France;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Handbags, Jewellery, Homeware;
  • Type: Pure (only 3P);
  • Active users: 11 million;
  • Revenue: $930 million (2016);
  • Commission: 8-20%;
  • Fee: €50/month;
  • Fulfilment options: independent fulfilment (parcel tracking required);
  • Payment options: credit card, PayPal;
  • Marketing opportunities: newsletter, merchandising, flash sales.


The Otto Group reaches 45% of all German households in urban, semi-urban and rural locations through its catalogue and online marketplace businesses. Despite the strict requirements to sell on Otto, there is no need to have local registration but only a local account for international sellers. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Russia;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Electronics, Homeware, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Toy & Game, Tablets, Sports, Baby, Electrical Appliance;
  • Type: Hybrid (1P & 3P);
  • Active users: 9 million;
  • Revenue: $4 billion (2016);
  • Commission: 15-50% (Category dependent);
  • Fee: €10.000 registration fee (one-off);
  • Fulfilment options: OTTO fulfilment service or independent fulfilment;
  • Payment options: credit card, PayPal, Paydirekt, bank transfer, 3 – 48 monthly instalments;
  • Marketing opportunities: merchandising, social media and newsletter;
  • Additional information: strict requirements (minimum 100 products, experience with XML files for technical integration, previous online marketplace or e-shop experience, German translation of contents).


Newegg offers a comprehensive selection of the latest consumer electronics products, and further consolidated its brand with an online tech community, which allows the consumers to interact with other computer and gaming enthusiasts. Newegg provides international sellers with a good opportunity to reach US market with few entry barriers. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Australia, Indonesia, India, Singapore, New Zealand;
  • Categories: Electronics, Gaming Consoles, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Sports, Clothing & Accessories, Consumer Accessories, Electrical Appliance, Health & Beauty, Toy & Games, Tablets;
  • Type: Hybrid (1P &3P);
  • Active users: 30 million;
  • Revenue: $2.65 billion (2016);
  • Commission: 12%;
  • Fee: None;
  • Fulfilment options: Shipped-by-Newegg service or independent fulfilment;
  • Payment options: credit card, Newegg store credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Android Pay, Apply Pay;
  • Marketing opportunities: banner ads, hot deals page, segmented emails.


Alibaba’s Tmall has the broadest customer base in China, accounting for 60% of China’s B2C online market. What’s more, Tmall Global is one of the few marketplaces in China that allows international brands to sell directly to Chinese consumers without a Chinese business licence or physical presence. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Country: China;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Electronics, Food & Beverage, Homeware, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Electrical Appliances;
  • Type: Pure (3P only);
  • Active users: 507 million;
  • Revenue: $30 billion (2017, together with Taobao);
  • Commission: 5%;
  • Fee: Annual fee from $5.000, plus deposit from $8.000 to $25.000;
  • Fulfilment: International sellers can choose to store their inventory in and ship from the bounded areas in China, or to ship directly from overseas. Alibaba’s CaiNiao logistics and Tmall Partners are available for fulfilment in the bounded area;
  • Payment options: credit/debit card, Alipay, Ant Credit Pay, cash payment upon pickup;
  • Marketing opportunities: On-site advertisements and PPC. Different types of brand store are available: Flagship Store (trademarked brands), Speciality Store (merchants with brand authorisation documents with the distribution rights to sell products without geographical restrictions in Mainland China) and Monopolised Store (merchants with two or more brands within a product category).


JD is the second largest eCommerce market in China. JD Worldwide is open to brands, franchisees, retailers and traders that are legally registered outside China. Physical presence and bank account in China is not needed. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: China;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Electronics, Food & Beverage, Homeware, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Electrical Appliances, Sports, Baby;
  • Type: Hybrid (1P &3P);
  • Active users: 300 million;
  • Revenue: $55.7 billion;
  • Commission: 2-10%;
  • Fee: $1.000/month;
  • Fulfilment: JD shipping or independent fulfilment. For international sellers, JD Worldwide provides global shipping and warehousing solutions;
  • Payment options: credit/debit card, WeChat Pay, JD credit pay;
  • Marketing opportunities: merchandising, social media, PPC, banner ads, flagship store;
  • Additional information: JD applies a B2C (marketplace) and B2B (reseller) combined model. With the first option, the inventory can either be stored in the bounded area in China or shipped directly from overseas.


The leading e-commerce site in Japan, Rakuten is also the fourth largest marketplace worldwide, offering an extensive range of products from basic to luxury. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Country: Japan;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Electronics, Homeware, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Electrical Appliances, Toy & Games, Baby, Sports, Gaming Consoles;
  • Type: Pure (3P only);
  • Registered users: 105 million;
  • Revenue: $9 billion (2017);
  • Commission: 8-12%;
  • Fee: from JPY 19.500/month ($184) to JPY 100.000/month ($943) + registration fee of JPY 60.000 ($566, one-off);
  • Fulfilment: independent fulfilment (parcel tracking required), but preferred partners for last-mile delivery and returns for international sellers;
  • Marketing opportunities: search and display ads;
  • Additional information: international sellers should first get the legal and financial entity in Japan.

Mercado Libre

The Latin America is one of the fastest growing market for e-commerce (11% year over year). Mercado Libre is the No.1 e-commerce site in Latin America, and Mercado Libre’s Cross-Border Trade (CBT) serves as the gateway to the thriving South American market. Here’s a useful scheme:

  • Countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominicana, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela;
  • Categories: Clothing & Accessories, Vehicle Parts & Accessories, Electronics, Homeware, Health & Beauty, Jewellery, Toy & Games, Baby, Consumer Accessories;
  • Type: Pure (3P only);
  • Active users: 160 million;
  • Revenue: $844.4 million;
  • Commission: 10-16%;
  • Fee: None;
  • Fulfilment options: independent fulfilment. For US sellers, they can ship your products to Mercado Libre’s local warehouses in the US;
  • Payment options: credit card/debit, bank transfer, Mercado Pago, Rapipago, Pago Facil, Vitual Load, Provincia Net;
  • Marketing opportunities: brand store, sales events, email campaigns, social media.

Online marketplaces are many and complex, but very important. Witailer helps companies to define their e-marketplace strategy and expand internationally through various e-marketplaces. We specialize in consulting brands to define when and where to launch, how to maximize branding and sales benefits while minimizing risks, and provide direct support on topics from content enhancement to advertising to operations. Discover all our services for brands.

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