Published: May 23, 2014 Last updated: Oct 8, 2021 Yan Kulakov

Half of all online sales in 2020 was made on online marketplaces. These are huge numbers. And after COVID-19 stroke, online marketplaces became even more popular—offline retailers entered marketplaces to survive, and small entrepreneurs also started selling their products online through online marketplace shopping websites. An eCom marketplace has become a life saver for them. Online shoppers behavior also has changed and it changes constantly with the focus on marketplaces.

See this: when people need something, some product, they don’t Google it now. They go straight to the largest eCommerce marketplace website Amazon and search for products right there. And most of the active online buyers do have an online marketplace list that they keep in their minds and recall every time they go shopping.

New online marketplaces pop up here and there every day. Some of them succeed, some close, and some become large global eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and others.

The point is that offline retail is dying right now. Not only because of the new post-covid conditions and regulations. This process started long ago before the pandemic. Offline malls were dying starting from the 2010s, and this process is just impossible to stop. There are hundreds of dead malls all across the United States—they look like abandoned motion-picture sets where some zombie action has just been filmed.

Big retailers either move their whole businesses online—become online marketplace sellers—or expand to online keeping a part of the business offline. Anyway, these are wake-up calls for all the retailers and small to mid businesses to start thinking about online marketplaces to sell their stuff or start their own marketplace site.

If you’re looking for ways to expand your business online, you can do it easily through an online marketplace. In this article, we’re going to cover the best marketplace websites to sell your products online.

Starting an eCommerce business: What options do you have?

You can start an eCommerce business as an online eCommerce marketplace seller or an eCommerce business owner.

Becoming a marketplace seller

To become a seller, you need to choose an existing product marketplace you want to do business with, sign up for a seller account and after the account approval by the marketplace administration, start selling your goods online. This is a fairly easy process for any entrepreneur even if you are not very tech-savvy. These days, there are hundreds of marketplaces to sell online and in this article we are going to tell you about the best five of them.

So, how exactly do you start selling on an online marketplace site? Here’s a brief instruction for the the most online retail marketplaces out there:

  1. Go to the marketplace site and sign up for a seller account. Usually, you need to fill up the form and submit it for approval.
  2. Then the marketplace administration will contact you if they need more details about your company. They can ask you for some information like your official address, identities, and so on. The marketplace needs this information to better know its sellers and avoid problems with authorities when paying out to the marketplace sellers.
  3. Next, you get approved. Start learning the dashboard and upload your marketplace products.
  4. Once you’ve done with all the preparations, set up payment and shipping methods, and you’re good to go.

The online e commerce marketplace will be paying you your share on a specific date. There are also options when all the money for orders goes to you and then you pay the marketplace all the fees. Some online selling marketplaces split every payment into two parts—one goes to the marketplace and the other to you. This happens automatically and immediately after a customers pays for the order.

Becoming an eCommerce business owner

Another thing you can do to start your own online store or online marketplace selling physical or digital products or services.

The first option is not that difficult—there are tons of easy to use webshop builders out there. But traditional online stores are also being pushed out by marketplaces. A classic online store can be successful and profitable only if you sell some super niche or luxury products.

An online selling marketplace is a different story. There are also tons of solutions to build your online shop marketplace on but the marketplace model itself is not that easy to implement. To start your own online marketplace to sell products of third-party sellers, you first need to attract those sellers somehow, and that’s a topic for a whole new long read or even more. But in the end, an eCommerce marketplace will be much more profitable.

The great thing about starting your own multi vendor site is that you don’t need to worry about the technology to build your website on. These days there are plenty of ecommerce marketplace service providers—SaaS, self-hosted, headless solutions, whatever you need. Just make sure you have enough budget to buy and support the platform and to market your website online.

What's the difference between online marketplace and online marketplace platform?

Entrepreneurs often get confused with the terms “marketplace" and “marketplace platform". Although you might think that these two are the same, they are completely different.

An online marketplace is a multi vendor website where multiple sellers can sign up to sell their products on this website. Usually, a seller gets their own dashboard and a micro storefront. They manage their catalog, process orders, promote products, and benefit from other eCommerce marketplace services.

An online marketplace platform is absolutely a different thing. The key word here is “platform". A platform means a solution (software if you want to call it so) for building your own marketplace for websites and companies. This is quite a difficult but interesting process. First, you buy the platform: it could be self-hosted with a lifetime license or subscription, SaaS, plugin for some website builder, or a headless solution. You can also code the platform from scratch but nobody does that these times because it’s too pricey and requires months of development.

There plenty of ready-made marketplace platforms such as:

  • CS-Cart Multi-Vendor—a self-hosted platform with one-time fee and a lifetime license
  • Sharetribe and Arcadier—SaaS platforms for different types on online marketplaces
  • Mirakl—headless solution for large companies with big budgets
  • WooCommerce for Wordpress—a multi-vendor plugin for a small marketplace

CS-Cart Multi-Vendor demo marketplace. Sign up for a free demo to get yours.

So, let’s sum it all up: an online marketplace is a ready website where you can sell your staff, and an online marketplace platform is software to build your own marketplace and sell 3rd-party sellers’ stuff. Got it? Let’s move on.

Benefits of selling on online marketplaces

So, why do entrepreneurs massively go to marketplaces? Because online marketplace companies like Amazon, and others offer great terms and conditions that allow vendors to start selling their products fast and to a large audience. Let’s see what benefits the seller marketplace can offer.

1. Fast start

If you’re a beginner online entrepreneur, marketplaces can give you so many opportunities to generate extra income from online. It’s much easier and faster to get your own micro store on a marketplace than to build your own dedicated web shop and support it. All you need is to upload your products to the dashboard and start selling. And what’s cool about the marketplaces is that they help you market your products because they need more customers and more traffic as much as you need buyers.

2. Established and proven business processes

All of the largest marketplaces in our online marketplace list below have programs to help you sell, fulfill, accept and process orders, and keep track of your stock. So, you don’t need to worry about any obstacles that can appear in your online selling workflow. For example, sellers on Amazon, eBay, and Google have access to Amazon Advertising, eBay Promotions Manager, and Google Shopping Actions. These solutions have all the tools to successfully market your products and work with customers. With programs such as Fulfillment by Amazon and eBay Global Shipping you can opt to have the marketplace warehouse, pick, pack and ship inventory on your behalf. So, marketplaces give you all the necessary tools to sell.

3. Large audience. We mean LARGE.

An online business marketplace usually has tons of loyal customers. If the marketplace is global and big, it could have millions of users who are your potential customers. Just imagine: Amazon has 2.7 billion monthly active users! eBay—840 million monthly visits. Walmart—410 million visits. Of course, smaller marketplaces won’t have that impressive number of visits but it is still bigger than on any traditional single-seller online shop. Did I mention that buyers don’t even use Google to search for what they need? Yeah, 56% of shoppers go straight to Amazon to look for products they want.

Let's sum it up: there are three main benefits in starting your business on an online marketplace:

  • Fast start because a marketplace gives you a ready environment to sell your products
  • Established business processes because a marketplace gives you all the tools you need
  • Large audience because on marketplaces, there could be millions of visitors

Strategies to start selling on marketplaces

Most often, entrepreneurs go to marketplaces for two reasons: to start a new business on an online marketplace or to expand their existing business online.

1. Starting a new business from scratch on an online marketplace

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, many businesses that were traditionally offline, started massively moving online. And they did benefit from it and manage to survive. Since then, the online shopper behavior has greatly changed and people are more likely to buy products online now that go to discover what local brick and mortar shops have to offer.

So, if you’re thinking about starting an online business, entering one of the largest marketplaces can be a great idea.

There could be some complications though. Some marketplaces like Walmart and Target Plus don’t allow you to freely sign up for a seller account. These are invite-only marketplaces. They want to see a history of on-time deliveries and positive feedback before accepting you as a third-party seller. But other marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay will allow you to register a vendor account with any delays and limitations.

It’s a good idea not to stick to only one marketplace. Just sit and write down an online marketplace list, make research and find out what marketplaces fit you best. And try to create a seller account on all the marketplaces from your go-to list. Multiple sales channels are better than just one.

2. Expanding your current business or online store to a marketplace

It doesn't really matter if you run a successful online or offline business, or are struggling with the market, expanding your business to an online marketplace can greatly improve your sales and expand your reach. You’d be definitely missing out on sales by not incorporating marketplaces into your strategy.

44% of online shoppers come to Amazon to check prices on products they are about to buy somewhere else. More than 50% read product descriptions on Amazon and over 60% come to this marketplace for product reviews. Consumers don’t limit themselves to Amazon—they visit other marketplaces to compare prices, read reviews and buy. Help them find the information and offers they need to buy where, when and how they want to. That’s how you can get more audience, which means more sales and revenue.

TOP 5 marketplaces you can start selling on right now

In this online marketplace list, we briefly reviewed 5 popular marketplace that offer one of the best conditions for sellers and easiest and fastest way to start selling online. All these marketplaces have different conditions, their pros and cons. Before signing up for a seller account, we recommend you to carefully read the terms and conditions and contact the marketplace support team for details.

1. Amazon

None of such marketplace comparison articles can go without Amazon in its top. Amazon is the largest online marketplace in the world. It operates almost globally and has over 2.6 billion monthly visits.

A great benefit of Amazon is the access to 100 million Prime members. These consumers spend an average of $1,400 a year on Amazon, making it a goldmine for brands and retailers. Making available your products to Prime members is the key to successful sales on Amazon.

In most cases, you can start selling on Amazon right off the bat. Just pick a seller plan that fits best your business. Usually, third-party sellers choose Amazon's individual selling plan. It is suitable for most of the sellers, products, and business processes. But there are some products such as fine art and collectibles that require the professional plan, which costs $39.99 a month, plus:

  • Per-item selling fees, which vary by category, and
  • Variable closing fees and referral fees.

With an individual selling plan, you’ll pay $0.99 per transaction, as well as selling fees based on each category.

2. eBay

eBay is the second largest and one of the oldest marketplaces you can start selling on. It also has a huge audience of almost 200 million active buyers and 840 million monthly visits. eBay is available in 190 countries, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to expand and grow. One cool thing about eBay is that you can sell as an individual seller or a company.

eBay has two primary types of selling fees:

  1. An insertion fee when you create a listing, and
  2. A final value fee when your item sells.

It’s great that eBay doesn’t charge you with other extra fees like a setup fee, or recurring fees for using the marketplace for your business.

3. Walmart marketplace

This is a pretty young but actively growing and successful marketplace that belongs to a retail giant Walmart. The marketplace has over 440 million monthly visits and doesn’t charge sellers with recurring fees and initial setup fees.

The only downside of the Walmart marketplace is that it is an invite-only sales website. Walmart carefully picks sellers to work with—they must have a good history of selling and customer service. So, if you have ever sold online, you can sign up for the Walmart marketplace with no hassle and start selling on this large multi seller website. If you’re a new-comer, you’ll have a little more lead time to launch.

Walmart marketplace only takes commission for sales, no extra or hidden fees.

4. Rakuten

Rakuten is the fourth largest ecommerce site in the world based in Japan. In Japan, the marketplace has almost 600 million visits per month, and in the US—45 million visits. It’s a great marketplace to start your online sales if you want to go beyond the United States. The marketplace works globally, so you have a great opportunity to reach much more customers than you currently have.

On Rakuten, every seller gets their own micro-store, which they can customize so that it matches their brand visuals. They can also manage returns easily.

Rakuten has different beneficial programs for customers, which attracts audiences to the marketplaces. For example, a Rakuten Super Points loyalty program. The more purchases customers make, the more points they get to redeem on future purchases.

40% of the eCommerce marketplace revenue comes from repeat customers, so having programs like these built into an online marketplace saves you the time of creating and managing your own and simplifies the redemption process.

Rakuten is not the most affordable marketplace to do business with though: you as a seller must pay $39 per month + a $0.99 transaction fee per item sold.

5. Etsy

Etsy is the only niche marketplace in our top. It caters to online buyers looking for unique, usually handcrafted products. This is a perfect marketplace for self-employed individuals, small and medium businesses that produce and sell handmade unique items or vintage products.

Every seller on Etsy has their own storefront with unique design and content. A customer can get to the seller’s storefront by clicking on the seller’s name. This is a great feature—if you don’t have your own separate website, Etsy gives you a space for it, which can help to increase your brand awareness.

Etsy is not that big as Amazon or eBay—33 million active customers. But these customers are more loyal and most of them are repeat buyers.

Doing business on Etsy costs $0.20 for each product listing, plus transaction and payment processing fees for each sale.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the best digital marketplace to start an eCommerce business?

A: Amazon is one of the most seller-friendly marketplaces and allows for signing up for a seller account without any experience in eCommerce.

Q: Marketplace vs eCommerce store: what is the difference?

A: On a marketplace, multiple independent sellers offer their products on a common storefront and in their micro-stores. In a traditional eCommerce store, there’s only one seller—the store owner. Marketplaces are always much bigger than eCommerce stores.

Q: How online marketplace sellers accept payments?

A: The most common method of the cash flow arrangement is when the marketplace receives the whole amount for orders and then pays out to sellers on a specific date. Payments could also be split automatically into two parts—sellers receive their part immediately on the PayPal or Stripe account.

Q: What fees can an online marketplace shopping website charge sellers?

A: These could be initial setup fees, recurring fees for doing business on the marketplace, commission for each item sold, or all of these at once.

Q: How sellers arrange shipping on marketplaces?

A: There are two major ways to deliver products: 1. When a sellers takes the shipping on them—processes the order and ships products directly to the customer, or 2. when a seller sends ordered products to the marketplace and then the marketplace delivers the order to the customer via its own delivery service.

Q: Amazon works globally. Is it the best option to sell from anywhere in the world?

A: Not necessarily. Sometimes it is better to go with your country’s local marketplace to sell products to your target market.

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