Top 5 Most Popular Online Marketplaces. How to Join the Champions League?

The internet has definitely changed the way we run a business. These days, online marketplaces offer a whole new world of opportunities and standards to wholesalers, retailers, and innovative enthusiasts. Taking the right steps, these can become a flourishing business venture for merchants, offering their products for sale. E-commerce platforms let smaller vendors contend in the competitive retail field, as well as offer an easy way for larger sellers to use numerous advantages of marketplace platforms.

eMarketer estimates that global retail sales will reach $27.7 trillion in 2020, even if annual rates of growth will slow down over the next several years. During this period Asia-Pacific is expected to double its sales and reach $2.725 trillion by 2020, remaining the largest retail e-commerce market (products and services market sectors). North America will remain the second largest regional e-commerce market, after China, and experience a constant double-valued growth in the next few years, resulting from current digital buyers, coverage of new market segments, and an increase in m-commerce sales.

The general key to growing one of the top online marketplaces is: high-quality vendors draw in more customers, while a growing client base attracts more vendors. However, how to get inside this circular flow? Are there any rules of becoming the best marketplace to sell online? – Well, in fact, there are.


5 rules of popular online marketplaces:

  1. Vertical marketplaces tend to grow faster. There is a tough competition within horizontal retail platforms and they require a complex approach. For example, eBay works hard to balance demand and supply across numerous smaller market sectors. While users of Uber or Lyft visit them for one simple reason – to find a ride.
  2. Grow locally, before expanding internationally. These days, social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others allow businesses to drive efficient early growth using targeted ads and geotagged posts. Such approach can be also used to validate your startup idea.
  3. Curation helps to make better decisions. Leveraging data ecommerce business owners can coordinate supply for customers and guarantee better quality for both sides. Curated platforms make sure that vendors set reasonable prices, while consumers buy from high-quality merchants.
  4. Think of shadow niche. Market size is less important than its potential. Don't consider only obvious market sectors, but think of shadow segments thereabouts. For example, is a dog sitting marketplace that connects dog parents with local pet sitters. Only one in ten dog owners' uses kennels, so Rover refers to the nine remaining (potential) users.
  5. Success shouldn't be the destination point. As your online business starts to scale, you should benefit from new opportunities to raise the bar of the marketplace in addition to revenue growth. Such e-commerce platforms like Etsy offer extra services to sellers and so get an opportunity to increase gross margin by 10% annually. Except for financial benefits, such approach improves sellers' loyalty and increases lock-in between the companies.

Related article: How to Create a Two-Sided Online Marketplace Platform?

Top 5 most popular online marketplaces:



These days, neither of articles/books/notes about marketplaces can do without mentioning Amazon. Today it is the largest online marketplace in the USA that sells all types of goods, including food, toys, books, electronics, art pieces, and even much more. However, it has gone even further and currently, it offers cloud infrastructure services (AWS), software, analytics services (Alexa), digital content and multimedia products.

Amazon began as an online bookstore and has grown to be a multi-billion corporation with 11 global marketplaces operating in North America, Europe, and Asia. It has a huge customer database from 180 countries.

How does it work?

Amazon is among the best online marketplaces for sellers worldwide. Third-party vendors add products, which are then included into site inventory. Once a consumer decides to make a purchase, a vendor is liable for filling the order.

What does make it stand out of the herd?

  • Probably the largest and richest selections of products;
  • User-friendly design, smart search system, and convenient filters;
  • Comprehensive review system with star rating;
  • Personalized offers and recommendations to consumers, based on their shopping and browsing history;
  • Various customer loyalty programs with free shipping and other goodies.



eBay is one of the pioneers and movers in online shopping. Currently, it can boast of 167 million active buyers in 190 markets, so we have no doubts that it is “where the world goes to shop, sell, and give”. This global enterprise includes auction and retail website and has local marketplaces in more than 30 countries from pole to pole.

Apart from the company also includes other commerce brands, like eBay Classifieds Group, that helps users find necessary things within their local communities, and StubHub, the world's largest platform for online tickets.

How does it work?

The selling cycle is similar to Amazon. You create a listing, write a description, add photos, select a category, provide shipping options, and so on. The company provides sellers with useful tips and tools, like spell checking or auto-replies.

What does make it stand out of the herd?

  • Broad selection of goods and services for sales, offered by both large and small businesses;
  • Extensive range of payment options;
  • Comprehensive tutorials and tips;
  • Various shipping options (free / flat-fee / calculated).



Launched back in 2005, Etsy is one of the most popular e-commerce websites. It focuses on handmade, novelty and vintage items, from jewelry and clothing to toys and art pieces. Currently, its database is made up of 45 million items for sale, over 1.7 million active sellers and 28.6 million active buyers.

How does it work?

Creating an account is free and there is no binding monthly payment. Like Amazon or eBay, Etsy takes a listing fee ($0.20) for every listed item and 3.5% fee for sales. Its seller's services include advertising platform, discounted shipping labels, and payment processing.

What does make it stand out of the herd?

  • Large listings include unique handmade products, hard-to-find items, and vintage goods;
  • Curated recommendations and personalized email notifications, based on buyers' browsing/shopping history;
  • List of boutiques and flea markets to shop from Etsy merchants offline;
  • Comprehensive and easy-to-use navigation system with detailed search system;
  • Promotional and marketing tools for vendors, including Google Analytics and Facebook integration;
  • Strong Etsy community.



Bonanza was launched back in 2007 and already in 2012 it was named “The Best Place to Sell Online” by Collectibles, “Best Ease of Use” in 2013 by eCommerceBytes, “Best Marketplace Overall” in 2014, “Company of the Year” in 2015 by Best in Biz Awards and “Most Recommended Marketplace” in 2016 by eCommerceBytes. Last year Entrepreneur Magazine named it the “Best Entrepreneurial Company in America”.

This seller-centric platform offers good opportunities to small businesses and entrepreneurs by creating online shops easily and quickly. It focuses on buying and selling new and pre-owned clothes, accessories, jewelry, items for home and garden, art pieces, collectibles and antique.

How does it work?

Users create Bonanza account for free or can login using Facebook and Google. Creation of listings and uploading photos are at no charge. Sellers pay as they sell, final offer value (FOV) starts at 3.5%.

What does make it stand out of the herd?

  • Free listings that never expire and lower fees, comparing to Amazon or eBay;
  • Automatic Amazon / eBay / Etsy / Shopify / CSV import or sync;
  • Convenient batch editor for editing groups of items;
  • Tools for launching Customer Marketing Campaigns;
  • The platform takes care of advertising and every listing is published directly to Bing, Google, Nextag, Pricegrabber and other popular buyer channels;
  • Highly-rated customer service and customizable integrated chat functions.

top-online-marketplaces-rover is a Seattle-based marketplace that now offers its services in 10,000+ cities over the United States. In 2014 its CEO, Aaron Easterly, won Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Pacific Northwest region in the category “Emerging Companies”. Currently, Rover's account base totals over 85,000 sitters.

The list of services includes dog boarding/sitting/walking, day care, drop-in visits, and house sitting. Apart from that, the company offers premium insurance, 24/7 support, background checks, ongoing education, photo updates, vet consultations and secure online payments.

How does it work?

Accounts for dog owners are free, while pet sitters and walkers pay a fee for a background check (ranging from $10 to $35). Owners are charged a service fee that is up to 5-7% of the booking whole. While sitters and walkers get around 75-85% of their earnings for every booking.

What does make it stand out of the herd?

  • Connects pet parents with dog lovers;
  • Nation's largest community of dog walkers and pet sitters;
  • Android and iOS apps to share any updates, like walking summary, photo proofs, and other details;
  • Premium insurance for both owners and sitters/walkers;
  • Ongoing sitters' education;
  • General background checks for every dog walker/sitter;
  • Verified reviews system.

Related article: How to Innovate in E-commerce Industry: Tips for 2017 and Beyond


Build a marketplace: what to consider?

Online e-commerce websites give an opportunity for startups and established businesses to expand their presence and reach out to more buyers, both locally and internationally. While buyers opt for marketplaces due to a number of reasons, like a larger selection of products and services, easy items comparison, ability to read reviews and conduct research prior to buying anything.

To develop the best online marketplace, these are the major concerns that should be taken into account:

  • Chicken and egg problem: attracting vendors to bring over consumers
  • User-friendly interface for both buyers and sellers
  • Safety and reliability: reasonable prices, responsible merchants, and secure transaction software
  • Marketing and strong community support

To create an online marketplace you should start with the niche markets. Look for unique ideas and uncovered,shadow sectors. Don't clone others, but innovate and invest time and efforts in unique ideas. One of the main mistakes is that most startups are too focused on building and launching their ecommerce app, so they fail to work on a marketing strategy and save a budget for it. As a result, this places future business success under a threat.  Marketing is a great part of the online marketplace development cost and it includes online/offline ads, SEO, media coverage, PPC, social media marketing (SMM), content marketing and so on. 
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