Although industry giants such as Amazon and eBay largely dominate European online retail, there are a whole range of other marketplaces where local consumers like to shop. We provide an overview of promising sales platforms that international retailers should consider for their cross-border e-commerce.
Europe-wide e-commerce has been growing for years: consumers are increasingly focusing on online shopping and are particularly keen on taking advantage of the wide range of marketplaces. The Corona pandemic seems to have given this development a further boost: The German industry association bevh, for instance, reports that e-commerce sales in Q3 2020 have exceeded the previous year’s level by 13.3 percent, eventhough not in all segments. Additionally, in a study conducted by the technology company Integral Ad Science (IAS), three-quarters of European consumers claimed to be doing their Christmas shopping online.
Whether out of necessity or their own preference, consumer buying behavior has changed drastically during the pandemic: Shopping online is considered more convenient and secure than ever before.
However, the point of sale does not exclusively have to be Amazon or eBay: There is a trend towards selling products through more than one channel. It is becoming worthwhile for retailers to focus on regional sales platforms in which consumers already put their trust.
We present a selection of popular alternatives to Amazon or eBay in Germany, France and other European countries.
Successful marketplaces in Germany
- The online shop of the long-established OTTO company is one of the top-selling online retailers in Germany. In the financial year 2019/20, a turnover of around 3.5 billion euros was achieved. During the 2020 Christmas shopping season, the number of orders placed on Otto.de increased by almost 60 percent compared to the previous year.
- The approximately 7.5 million active customers shop primarily via smartphones or tablets – more than 70 percent of sales are already generated via mobile devices.
- Otto.de offers more than three million items in categories such as clothing, home & living, electronics and toys. To do so, the company is already working with over 400 sales partners. In order to be allowed to sell products, they must have e-commerce experience, offer a German-speaking customer service and be able to ship from a German warehouse. OTTO is currently driving forward the development of the platform with its newly established marketplace OTTO Market: retailers can now be automatically connected to otto.de, which considerably reduces the connection time.
- Costs incurred: a basic fee for retailers which does not depend on the number of products offered is planned. In addition, a customary market and assortment-specific commission will be payable for each item sold. Further information: https://www.otto.market/.html
- The merger of the supermarket chain real and the online department store Hitmeister has created one of the largest marketplaces in Germany. Real.de is characterized by an omnichannel concept: Customers can have orders from a variety of categories delivered not only to their homes but also to one of the approximately 280 stationary stores and return them there. In order to facilitate retailers’ access to additional sales channels in Europe, real.de founded the “International Marketplace Network” (IMN) with the marketplaces Cdiscount (France), eMag (Romania) and ePrice (Italy). Using this interface, online retailers only need to be connected to one of the aforementioned marketplaces in order to be able to sell their products on all four.
- Costs incurred: In addition to a monthly basic fee of EUR 39.95, connected retailers are charged product group discounts from their sales revenues: These range from 6.5 to 12.5 percent. There is no limit to the number of articles that can be posted and, like the choice of payment methods, they are free of charge. Accounts can be cancelled at any time. In 2019, Real.de was rated as the most fair playing marketplace in a survey conducted by the German Merchant Association. Further information: https://real2business.de/international-marketplace-network/
Alternatives to Amazon in France
- On the French popularity scale, the e-commerce platform ranks among the top. Cdiscount records around two million hits per day. Nine million registered customers purchase products from 40 different categories offered by 12,000 affiliated retailers. Particularly popular are the categories household & garden, electronics and toys as well as popular fashion brands.
- With Cdiscount Fulfilment, retailers are offered their own logistics solution, which is designed to function similarly to the Amazon service. Since 2018, the local marketplace has also been providing access to other selected e-commerce platforms in Europe via the above-mentioned International Marketplace Network. The cross-border business is expected to have a positive impact on sales growth.
- Costs incurred: Cdiscount offers retailers various options for selling goods, starting at EUR 39.99. The commission rate depends on the product categories and ranges between 5 and 22 percent. Further information: https://marketplace.cdiscount.com/en/
- With more than 20 million registered customers, Rakuten France, known as PriceMinister until 2018, is also one of France’s local marketplace giants. The product range of the more than 5,000 affiliated retailers is believed to include around 200 million listed items. These include books, electronics and home and garden products as well as shoes, handbags or health and beauty products.
- The e-commerce platform has developed promisingly since its foundation 20 years ago. By connecting to the Japanese Internet giant Rakuten in 2010, the marketplace has been able to grow further and offer new functions. For example, sales partners have the opportunity to efficiently market their products through additional marketing services.
- Costs incurred: A professional sales account starts at the price of EUR 39 per month, the commission comes up to between 4 percent and 22 percent, depending on the product category. Further information: https://services.fr.shopping.rakuten.com/en/
- Founded in 1837, LaRedoute, a fashion and mail order company, is the market leader in France in the fashion and home decoration sector with more than ten million customers every month. La Redoute describes itself as “The most selective marketplace” – the focus is on high-quality goods that are also distributed by the company itself. In addition, 450 sales partners use La Redoute as a sales channel: Anyone wishing to register here and sell their products first goes through a thorough selection process. As with most other marketplaces, interested retailers should be prepared for special local requirements: For example, communication and customer service are only conducted in the local language.
- Costs incurred: No information on the website. Further information: https://www.laredoute-corporate.com/en/marketplace-en/
Alternatives to eBay in Poland
- If you want to successfully expand into the Polish e-commerce market, you should rely on Allegro. Currently, the platform has 20 million monthly active users. According to media reports, Allegro made a brilliant stock market debut on the Polish stock exchange in 2020 – issuing shares worth two billion euros.
- In the home and garden segment, Allegro’s market share comes up to 74 percent, compared to 62 percent in the electronics segment and 46 percent in the fashion segment. The market power is based, among other things, on its early entry into the e-commerce business: Allegro has been in existence since 1999.
- Retailers who decide to establish a presence there can potentially reach 17 million active customers via the marketplace. Like most other marketplaces, Allegro offers merchants a range of services such as an integrated payment system or delivery via parcel services.
- Costs incurred: Product listings are free in almost all categories, but fees are charged for completed transactions. Again, the commissions to be paid to the marketplace vary between categories. Further information: https://allegro.pl/help/sell-on-allegro
E-commerce platforms in Belgium and the Netherlands
- Bol.com is considered a leader in Benelux e-commerce: More than 15 million monthly visitors from Belgium and the Netherlands value the marketplace for its particularly convenient ordering process and fast delivery. They can choose from 16 million items in 16 categories – including electronics, toys and baby products as well as health and lifestyle products, jewelry and accessories, sports and leisure. Since 2018, Bol.com has also been selling a wide range of pet products in cooperation with Pets Place, a leading Dutch supplier. Sales partners are selected through pre-qualifying questions.
- Costs incurred: There are no monthly fees, sellers pay a commission on goods sold. Depending on the article, the commission comes up to between 5 percent and 17 percent. Bol.com offers additional services such as fulfillment and marketing services to help sellers optimize their offerings. Further information: https://www.bol.com/nl/
Regional marketplaces in Europe
Using regional e-commerce platforms such as Otto.de (Germany), Cdiscount (France) or Bol (Belgium/Netherlands) as a supplement or alternative to Amazon or eBay can pay off. These platforms enjoy the broad trust of local consumers and are attracting a growing number of customers. In most cases, additional services are offered to facilitate or optimize cross-border trade. Depending on the segment and product, however, new distribution channels must be chosen carefully: The focus must always be on the target group to be reached. In addition, preferences regarding payment methods, product presentation and communication must be taken into account. These can vary greatly from country to country.