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Key Trends and Developments in Online Marketplaces

Introduction

In the fast-evolving world of eCommerce, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for business owners and potential sellers. In the last years online marketplaces have become the cornerstone of digital trade, offering unparalleled opportunities for growth and expansion. 

According to the 2022 Future of Marketplaces Report from Edge by Ascential, third-party sales through marketplaces are projected to become the largest and fastest-growing retail channel globally by 2027, capturing 59% of global eCommerce sales, up from 56% in 2022.

Share of 1P and 3P of total eCom Sales (2019-2027, %)

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At Sellside Partners, we understand the importance of staying informed about industry trends to maximise your business potential. In this article, we delve into the key trends and innovations shaping the online marketplace sector, providing you with the insights needed to successfully navigate this dynamic landscape.

Emerging Trends in Online Marketplaces

The online marketplace landscape is constantly evolving, shaped by emerging trends that redefine how businesses and consumers engage in e-commerce.

Specialist and Vertical Marketplaces

Specialist marketplaces, which focus on specific product categories or niches, have recently outpaced generalist marketplaces, growing 1.6 times faster in third-party GMV (36% annually compared to 23% for generalists from 2019-2022, global excl. China), as outlined by OC&C​​. These vertical-focused marketplaces enhance user engagement by providing tailored experiences for specific categories​​. According to Grand View Research, the global specialty e-commerce market was valued at USD 18.85 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.5% from 2021 to 2028​​.

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Case Study - Houzz, initially a design inspiration site, has evolved into a $14 billion GMV marketplace. It offers tailored fulfilment options like two-person delivery for furniture, distinguishing itself from generalist platforms.

Rise of Second-Hand Marketplaces

According to an OC&C study, the second-hand market is experiencing remarkable growth, projected to reach $330 billion by 2027, with an annual growth rate of 13% from 2022​​. This surge is driven by different motives, with 66% of European consumers buying second-hand articles to save money, and a growing consciousness on sustainability, noted by 40% of consumers​​. Furthermore, the acceptance of second-hand goods has significantly increased, now accounting for over 10% of all goods transacted through online marketplaces, up from 6% in 2017​​.

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Case Study - Vinted, a prominent second-hand marketplace for apparel, boasts over 50 million users across 16 countries. It has expanded its offerings to include homewares and books, driven by a user-friendly platform and comprehensive services like delivery and insurance​​.

Technological Advancements

Technological advancements are driving innovation and transformation with AI-powered recommendation engines revolutionising product discovery and enhancing user experiences.

These and other advancements are reshaping how transactions are conducted, goods are sourced, and trust is established within marketplaces.

Understanding the implications of these technological breakthroughs is essential for businesses to stay competitive.

Integration of AI and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are revolutionising online marketplaces by enhancing personalisation and customer experience. Amazon's AI-driven product recommendations, for instance, accounted for 35% of its total sales in 2021​​. According to McKinsey, personalisation can reduce customer acquisition costs by up to 50%, lift revenues by 5% to 15%, and increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10% to 30%​​.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR are transforming online shopping by allowing consumers to visualise products in their environment, thereby improving the shopping experience. A Deloitte study found that AR can boost conversion rates by up to 40%​​. Additionally, Retail Perceptions reports that 61% of consumers prefer shopping at stores offering AR, and 40% are willing to pay more for products they can experience through AR​​.

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Shifts in Consumer Behaviour

Shifts in consumer behaviour are reshaping the landscape of marketplaces worldwide.

Increasing demand for convenience and personalised experiences is driving businesses to adapt their strategies.

Increased Mobile Shopping

According to Overlo, mobile commerce is rapidly expanding, with the share of total e-commerce sales from mobile devices growing from 56% in 2018 to 60% in 2024. This trend underscores the need for marketplaces to optimise their platforms for mobile users.

Social Commerce

The evolution of social commerce in China offers a glimpse of the possibilities with a market size of $352 billion and a share of total eCommerce of 13% as outlined by eMarketer. McKinsey found that brands in China have achieved conversion rates of almost 30 percent on social platforms. This is up to ten times higher than conversion in conventional e-commerce. 

Over the past few years, US social and creator platforms have rolled out a plethora of social-commerce capabilities (ie. Instagram Live Shopping, YouTube Shopping, Twitch, Amazon Live). A 2021 retail survey by Forrester found that 61 percent of online adults younger than 25 in the United States said they had completed a purchase on a social and creator platform network without leaving the website or app, up from 53 percent in 2020. The adoption of social commerce sales channels is expected to continue its growth path over the next years.

US Social Commerce Sales (2019-27, $ bn)

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Future Outlook and Implications for eCommerce Businesses

Online marketplaces are set for continued growth and innovation, driven by technological advancements and evolving consumer behaviours. eCommerce sellers must stay adaptable and proactive in embracing these trends to capitalise on emerging opportunities. As the landscape evolves, those who can swiftly integrate new technologies and align with consumer preferences will be better positioned to thrive in the competitive market.

Recommendations for eCommerce Businesses

  1. Specialize Website UX for Specific Product Categories:
    Tailoring the user experience (UX) to cater to specific product categories can improve customer satisfaction and increase sales. Specialist marketplaces have shown higher growth rates by offering customised experiences​​.

  2. Analyze Opportunities to Offer Second-Hand/Circular Products:
    As sustainability becomes a priority for many consumers, exploring the sale of second-hand or circular products can open new revenue streams and attract eco-conscious buyers​​.

  3. Utilize New Technologies to Increase Personalisation and Conversion Rates:
    Leveraging AI and machine learning can enhance personalisation, driving higher engagement and conversion rates. Implementing technologies like AR and VR can also offer immersive shopping experiences that boost sales​​​.

  4. Keep Up with Consumer Preferences and Trends:
    Staying informed about the latest consumer preferences and market trends is vital. Regularly updating your product offerings and marketing strategies to align with these trends can enhance relevance and competitiveness.

  5. Invest in Mobile Optimisation:
    With mobile commerce accounting for a significant share of eCommerce sales, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is crucial. This includes responsive design, fast loading times, and seamless navigation.

  6. Leverage Social Commerce Strategies:
    Integrating social commerce into your strategy can drive traffic and sales. Utilise platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to create shoppable content and engage with consumers directly

 

By focusing on these strategic areas, eCommerce businesses can navigate the dynamic marketplace landscape effectively. Embracing innovation, prioritising user experience, and leveraging new technologies will be key to achieving sustained growth and success.

Sellside Partners Credentials

The Sellside Partners team has gained a lot of valuable M&A experience on large cap marketplace/ eCommerce transactions such as AutoScout24, Reichelt Electronics, Aroma Zone or Movinga while having supported the IPOs of Allegro and Deliveroo.

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Sellside Partners currently accompanies one of the leading European luxury fashion marketplaces during its search for a strategic investor. The deal is supposed to be announced in the next 1-2 months. If you are thinking about finding a buyer or investor for your business in the short- to mid-term we would love to get to know you.

Free Consultation

Sources:

OC&C Strategy Consultants, Edge by Ascential, Grand View Research, McKinsey, Deloitte, Overlo, Forrester, Retail Perceptions

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