Growth in marketplaces fuelled by specialists.


Online marketplaces have grown considerably over recent years to now account for 60% of all e-commerce transactions globally, with specialist marketplaces such as those dealing in second-hand goods enjoying the greatest growth.


Over the three years from 2019 to 2022 the marketplace model has grown from $2.4 trillion of consumer spending to $4.1 trillion, according to OC&C Strategy Consultants that analysed the world’s top 250 online marketplaces.


It found the specialist platforms had grown at almost double the rate of the generalist marketplaces during this period. Those marketplaces focused on specific verticals, second-hand or refurbished goods, and local areas have had a particularly buoyant period. They achieved 36% growth per annum versus 23% for the generalist marketplaces between 2019 and 2022. 


This has enabled 34 marketplaces to grow beyond $1 billion in annual revenues over the last three years and a further eight to move beyond the $10 billion level. The growth of these more focused platforms has been particularly notable in Europe where shoppers are already comfortable with DTC (Direct to Consumer) models, which translates well to them using marketplaces for the purchase of specialist products.


Highlighting the development of specialist marketplaces is the artisan craft category that has largely been the domain of Etsy but in only the past year it has been joined by a host of other players including Artisans Cooperative, and MakerPlace that are all looking to carve out their own place in the broad craft category.


The levels of growth of the various marketplaces has been determined to a large extent by the specific product categories with which they are involved. Those areas enjoying increased consumer appetite are apparel, consumer electronics, grocery and personal care. OC&C believes there is a significant opportunity for specialist models to continue to grow as the overall marketplace landscape expands.


Hyper-local marketplaces are cited as a particularly interesting area by OC&C especially in the area of grocery and take-away. This has been helped by the development of supporting services such as payments and fulfilment. This has led to the number of grocery marketplaces increasing by four-times between 2019 and 2022 within the top 250 platforms analysed by OC&C. 


Ankul Wangoo, associate partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, says: “The story around online spending in recent years has focused on the growth of the likes of Amazon, but now we are seeing the growing importance of vertical-focused and second-hand marketplaces, which can offer more curated and tailored experiences, as well as building greater trust with shoppers.”


Although the serious growth over the 2019-2022 period has been delivered by the specialists the overall marketplace landscape is still very much dominated by the generalists with the likes of Amazon, eBay, Flipkart and Mercado Libre still accounting for a significant 70% of consumer spending on marketplaces in 2022. The growth area for these established players has been to offer value-added services to their seller partners including the likes of marketing, fulfilment, and analytics capabilities.