B2C marketplaces stake their place in ecommerce Global ecommerce has outpaced the growth of most other industries over the last few years – and this trend looks to continue in the coming years. The US Department of Commerce reported that while ecommerce has been steadily growing for over a decade, the last two years have seen some of the most significant growth. For the first half of 2022, US ecommerce sales hit $507.7 billion USD, which is a 6.8% increase over the same period in 2021. At this rate of growth, the US will be on track to record for its highest annual online sales ever by the end of 2022. Globally, it's estimated that by 2025, ecommerce sales could exceed $7 trillion USD, accounting for almost one-quarter, or 23.6%, of all consumer spending. In this blog, we'll explore how current trends are unfolding and likely to impact the marketplace ecosystem going forward.
Marketplaces are driving ecommerce growth
Within ecommerce spending, marketplaces have been a source of significant growth. In fact, online marketplaces are trending to be the fastest-growing and largest retail channel globally, accounting for nearly two-thirds, or 58%, of ecommerce sales by 2027, up from 56% in 2022. Much of this growth can easily be attributed to the four largest global retailers operating successful marketplaces, including Amazon, Alibaba, Pinduoduo, and JD.com. While these four giants are expected to account for $2.5 trillion USD in ecommerce sales by the end of 2022, that figure is expected to grow to $4.3 trillion USD in global sales by 2027.
For Amazon, alone, its marketplace currently accounts for nearly two-thirds, or 60%, of its revenue, which means it can expect at least $720 billion USD of its projected $1.2 trillion USD in revenue to come from its marketplace by 2027. With this tremendous growth in marketplace sales comes a corresponding cannibalization of traditional, first-party ecommerce sales. According to recent reports, first-party e-commerce sales are expected to fall to 41% by 2027, down from 44% by 2022. Accordingly, by 2027, third parties selling through marketplaces will account for nearly two-thirds, or 59%, of global e-commerce sales. This trend is no stranger to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Traditional retailers have been fighting to stake their claim in ecommerce sales against the top five ecommerce retailers, including Amazon, Alibaba, Pinduoduo, JD.com, and Walmart.com for more than a decade.
Traditional retailers are adopting a marketplace approach
In response to the significant growth in marketplace sales over the last decade, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to adopt the marketplace model. While Walmart started its third-party marketplace in 2009, it didn’t launch its own fulfillment service to compete with Amazon’s until 2020. And Walmart recently started allowing international merchants on its marketplace, in 2021. In addition to Walmart, many other traditional retailers have made their foray into the marketplace space, in large part due to the global pandemic that devastated traditional retailers.
Most notably, 2021 saw many traditional retailers launch third-party marketplaces, including Canadian department store Hudson’s Bay, clothing brand Land’s End, and grocery wholesaler United Natural Foods. Both Macy’s and Saks announced in 2021 that they also intended to launch third-party marketplaces. And they’re in good company, joining traditional retailers and grocers like Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Ahold Delhaize, Kroger, and Albertsons (now shuddered) – each of which has operated marketplaces for the last few years.
B2B marketplaces look to eclipse B2C marketplace trends
While business-to-consumer, or B2C, marketplaces have been proliferating among ecommerce and traditional retailers – and dominating much of the headlines –, business-to-business, or B2B, marketplaces have quietly exploded and are seen as the next frontier. In fact, over the last three years, B2B marketplaces have become the fastest-growing ecommerce sales channel. In 2022, B2B marketplaces are projected to generate $130 billion USD in revenue, up 130.1% from 2021, which saw $56.5 billion USD in revenue, and up 428.4% from 2020, which saw $24.6 billion USD in revenue.
Although B2C marketplaces are beginning to cannibalize traditional ecommerce sales, it appears that B2B marketplace sales are growing alongside B2B ecommerce sales. Over the last three years, the rate of B2B marketplace sales compared to total B2B ecommerce sales has doubled. In 2022, B2B marketplace sales are expected to reach 6.9% of the total $1.89 trillion USD in B2B ecommerce sales. In 2021, B2B marketplace sales accounted for 3.5% of all B2B ecommerce sales, totaling $1.6 trillion USD. And, in 2020, B2B marketplace sales represented 1.8% of the $1.39 trillion USD in total B2B ecommerce sales.
While consumer ecommerce and marketplace trends have been thoroughly studied for more than a decade, B2B marketplace data is only starting to come into view. Most recently, the global pandemic and corresponding supply chain issues, coupled with digital-native millennials and Gen Z joining the workforce, have led to this significant growth in B2B marketplaces. While the world will eventually recover from the pandemic and rectify supply chain issues, it is likely that B2B marketplaces will continue to grow along their current trajectory. As they say, you cannot put the genie back into the bottle.
Increasing regulations follow marketplace growth
The explosive growth of global marketplaces has not gone unnoticed by legislators and regulators worldwide. Over the past few years, the world has seen newly introduced and enacted laws aimed squarely at marketplaces. Among these are global taxation and reporting laws, which will help countries report and account for transborder transactions. In addition, the EU recently enacted the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, creating obligations for platforms in areas such as data collection and anti-competition. Although both acts are seen to mainly target US platforms, their impacts will be felt by marketplaces operating in the EU, most notably Amazon and Alibaba.
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