When talking about e-commerce, it is almost natural for people to think of Amazon or eBay. Their reputation precedes them not only because they have forged the path of online retail sales for more than two decades, but for having maintained their leadership over time. As of 2022, both stand as the most visited online marketplaces worldwide. The concept of a one-stop online shopping mall where third-party vendors offer their products and services is not new. However, in recent years, the e-commerce boom spawned a plethora of digital marketplaces.
Online marketplace heavyweights
The two U.S.-based e-commerce giants may still have the upper hand, but new competitors are measuring up. This is the case of two third-party marketplaces owned by online commerce company Alibaba. Although focused exclusively on the Chinese market, TaoBao and Tmall were the world’s leading online marketplaces based on gross merchandise volume (GMV) in 2021, totaling 711 and 672 billion U.S. dollars, respectively. Similarly, a homegrown player has taken the Latin American market by storm. With an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 62 percent between 2020 and 2022, Mercado Libre is among the fastest-growing online marketplaces globally.
A new dawn for traditional retailers?
Looking at the growing reach of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar stores have also started to offer their e-retail platforms to third-party sellers. Walmart, for instance, launched its own online marketplace in 2009. After several years without much novelty, the bet started to pay off. In May 2022, America’s largest retailer surpassed 150,000 sellers in its marketplace, nearly four times more than before the COVID-19 pandemic. By the second half of 2022, Walmart was the third most visited online marketplace in the United States, while its competitor Target ranked sixth, just behind Etsy.
Etsy: standing out in a crowded field
Faced with an increasingly competitive landscape, some e-commerce companies have opted for a different business model. Instead of offering everything for everyone, Etsy focuses on filling the niche of handmade and vintage items. This online C2C/B2C retail platform has built much of its success on providing customers with a more personalized shopping experience than mass merchandise sales. Fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the number of active buyers on Etsy doubled between 2019 and 2021 to a record 96.3 million.
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