From fashion to crafts, independent sellers are discovering new ways to reach their customers. Check out these ten online marketplaces that are clicking with retailers and buyers alike.
Finding the right online marketplace for your products and target audience is equivalent to deciding on your shop’s location. If your online marketplace choice isn’t strategic, then you could be missing out on business. Even if you’re currently selling your wares in one spot, it’s sound practice to stay up-to-date on the latest marketplace options and trends. So let’s meet the top marketplace players and find out which ones will help you master the online selling game. While you’ve likely heard of most of these, there might be some under-the-radar MVPs that are perfect for your product(s).
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In no particular order…
Amazon: Where You Can Buy (and Sell) Anything
As the largest Internet retailer in the world, Amazon is often where sellers launch their first online stores, and many thrive on this all-in-one marketplace alone. Although the platform announced some constraints on its fulfillment services, it has bolstered other efforts, including logistical support for sellers with fast-moving inventory and new B2B services.
- Amazon is the world’s largest Internet retailer with more than 2 million third-party sellers accounting for 40% of its unit sales.
- Easy, cost-effective setup for individuals and professional sellers alike.
- Amazon offers logistics support to high-volume sellers.
- All sellers can list products in more than 20 categories. Professional sellers can apply to sell in at least 10 additional categories.
Etsy: The Handmade Original
While there’s likely no need for an intro, we’ll do the honors anyways. Etsy is all about handmade, vintage and novelty items. Its merchandise ranges from art, clothing, and crafts to food, jewelry, and knick-knacks. Etsy has established itself as the destination for handmade items and can likely be credited for helping the handmade and artisanal movement go from cottage industry to legit retail category.
- User-friendly and easy to navigate.
- Maintains a strict handmade policy; if a seller is listed in that category, they must be able to demonstrate that their items comply with Etsy’s Handmade Policy.
- If an item is labeled as “vintage,” then it needs to be at least 20 years old.
- Strong “suggestive” tool and personalized suggestions.
- Supplies sellers with a wide array of marketing and promotional tools, such as Google Analytics.
- Allows integration with Facebook.
Bonanza: The Anything-But-Ordinary Marketplace
In 2014, EcommerceBytes named Bonanza “Most Recommended” and “Best Overall” online marketplace, while in 2016, EcommerceGuide.com named Bonanza “the best eBay alternative we’ve seen.” With a tagline that promises buyers that they can “find anything but the ordinary,” Bonanza is gradually achieving “top online marketplace” status. Boom. Bonanza focuses on items that “aren’t shiny, new and mass-produced.” Merchandise includes collectibles and novelty items, hard-to-find books, videos, music and records, jewelry, stamps, as well as sports (and other) memorabilia.
- Bonanza integrates with Facebook and Google.
- Listings are free and don’t expire. Also, sellers don’t have to worry about monthly store fees.
- Vendors get to keep around 97% of the money they make from selling on Bonanza.
- Strong customer service and communication channels between sellers and consumers (there’s even a built-in chat tool).
Ruby Lane: The Curated Antique Marketplace
The world’s largest curated marketplace for antiques, vintage collectibles, vintage fashion, fine art, and jewelry, Ruby Lane has been the vintage destination since 1998. Items are sorted into categories, known as “lanes.”
- Proving that content is king, Ruby Lane also publishes a digital magazine, Ruby Read. This online monthly magazine includes articles about antiques and art, vintage, collectibles, and trending interior design, fashion and culture. It was awarded the Silver Addy Award for Creative Excellence in the category of Best Online/Digital Magazine from the American Advertising Federation (AAF) in 2014.
- Each Ruby Lane shop is pre-screened by an in-house team of art and antiques professionals and must meet specific standards before opening.
ArtFire: The Artist-Focused Site
ArtFire’s tagline is “global commerce with a local perspective.” It is a marketplace, craft and maker community where people worldwide buy, sell and interact. Based in the heart of the Tucson Arts District, it partners with Arizona’s Maker House “to offer a community creative destination that supports local makers and indie businesses.”
According to its website, ArtFire is pioneering a process they’ve termed Community Directed Development, “to put our company leaders and developers in direct interaction with our community of artisans. We use their feedback and open discourse to build a site in real time. By using this feedback, we can innovate quickly by building new tools and guiding the site in a direction that best serves our community’s interests.”
- Connects buyers and sellers of handmade and vintage goods, as well as digital arts and craft supplies.
- Provides sellers all the benefits of a venue while offering the customization, control, and features of a personal website.
- Also includes best-in-class promotional and learning tools.
Storenvy: The Indie Brands Marketplace
Storenvy is home to emerging brands. Vendors can launch a custom store within minutes; shoppers can discover cool, one-of-a-kind things from indie brands. Categories include men’s and women’s accessories and apparel, art, homeware, music, health & beauty, tech, kids, and “specialty” items (a miscellaneous section including books, games and pet-related items).
- Ideal for brands with stories to tell (because of what they stand for and the people behind them).
- A clear “trending” section.
- Clean navigation: buyers can shop according to brands, categories or what’s most popular.
Alibaba: The Global Trader
Alibaba is a force to be reckoned with in the ecommerce world. It was founded in 1999 as a B2B portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. Today, it’s a Chinese ecommerce company that provides C2C, B2C, and B2B sales via web portals, and between all its services hosts millions of merchants and businesses, as well as hundreds of millions of users. It also provides e-payment services, a shopping search engine, and a data-centric cloud computing service. But who’s counting?
- Through various online portals, it has the biggest network of sellers and buyers.
- Alibaba has different revenue models for each type of seller, giving it quite a competitive advantage. Smaller sellers can list products for free on Taobao; Tmall is exclusive to big brands, and sellers pay for subscription and transaction. And to boot, Alibaba.com itself works as a middleman and connects buyers and sellers (mostly importers and exporters), and charges them per transaction.
Jet.com: The New Bargain-Prices Powerhouse
The relative newcomer of the bunch with its 2014 launch, Jet refers to itself as a “next-generation marketplace focused on transparency, value and control for both shoppers and retailers.” It features household essentials like groceries and laundry products, health & beauty, women’s accessories, appliances, and pet supplies. So basically: everything.
According to its website, “Jet is a fair marketplace that removes inefficiency and cost, resulting in the best value for shoppers with improved margins and greater control over order profitability for retailers.”
- One of Jet’s biggest competitive advantages is its high margins. It has what it coins a “dynamic pricing engine.” What does this mean? It has an algorithm that offers customers discounts on related items as they shop. So, the more you buy, the more you save.
- Easy integration and setup.
- Oh, and PS: Walmart bought Jet this summer.
- What made Jet even more appealing to Walmart? It boasts a growing customer base of urban and millennial customers with more than 400,000 new shoppers added monthly and an average of 25,000 daily processed orders.
eBay is one of the granddaddies of the bunch, having been around since 1995. Today, the online auction and shopping site even has localized websites in more than 24 countries. It’s a marketplace ideal for anyone wanting to sell literally everything and anything — from collectibles and appliances to clothes and accessories — at an auction price.
- Wide variety of payment systems, including PayPal.
- It features helpful buying guides.
Overstock.com – The Liquidator
Another ‘90s original, Overstock started out as an online marketplace exclusively selling surplus and returned merchandise. (This came in handy when the dotcom bubble burst: Overstock.com was selling the inventory of at least 18 failed dotcom companies at below-wholesale prices.) Today, Overstock also sells new merchandise.
- Overstock prides itself on being a “flexible partner,” offering different selling options so that vendors can grow their businesses the way they want. (Either with all the help you need or as independently as you choose.)
- It can also be considered a springboard for your business, as partnering with Overstock gives vendors the chance to leverage its more than 16 years of online experience.
- We love that Overstock gives back to local and global communities like global artisans, pet shelters, small business owners, and farmers by supporting organizations like Main Street Revolution, Worldstock.com (which connects artisans residing in remote regions of the world to consumers), and Farmers Market.
Remember that the search for an online marketplace begins with your merchandise and your needs. Examine the pros and cons of each, and consider which marketplace will help you reach your traffic goals and profit objectives. You may want to go with the most popular marketplaces — or maybe one of the lesser-known gems. Good luck!