Online Marketplaces in the UK: Amazon and eBay Dominate

This article was written with the expert advice of Matthew Ferguson and Maciej Wiankowski of marketplace growth agency Rich Insight.

The United Kingdom is the third largest ecommerce market in the world, with online retail sales reaching $94 billion annually, behind only China and the U.S.

The U.K. is also one of the most developed markets for ecommerce in the world, with online sales making up 19% of total U.K. retail sales. This is far ahead of the U.S., where online retail accounts for less than 12% of total sales.

In this article we look at the largest online marketplaces in the U.K. The first part focuses on the two dominant players, Amazon and eBay, and then we take a look at other major online retailers in the country, including global, British and European marketplaces.

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The largest online marketplaces in the U.K.

Amazon and eBay dominate the landscape of online marketplaces favored by U.K. consumers. Amazon has 417 million visits per month from the U.K., and eBay has 245 million. To put that in perspective, the population of the U.K. is around 68 million.

Taking a closer look at Amazon and eBay, it’s worth noting that eBay’s U.K. traffic works out as 59% of Amazon’s. This puts eBay in a much stronger competitive position in the U.K. than in the U.S., where it has only a quarter of Amazon’s traffic.

The next ranked online marketplace in the U.K. is Etsy, but with 19.4 million visits per month it is a distant third place behind Amazon and eBay. Homewares site Wayfair comes next, and then the U.K.’s own notonthehighstreet, a marketplace for crafts and gifts.

After Amazon and eBay, the next listed marketplace selling general goods is Wish, but this provides a very different shopping experience, focusing on low-priced products sold in a flash-sale format, and mostly shipped directly from China.

The rest of the U.K. chart consists of:

  • Homewares marketplaces: Trouva, ManoMano and Houzz.
  • Other category specialists: GAME sells video games, consoles and accessories. Zalando sells fashion. AbeBooks sells new, used and rare books.
  • Generalist marketplaces from elsewhere in Europe, but with a small percentage of U.K. traffic: Allegro from Poland, bol.com from The Netherlands, and eMAG from Romania.
  • Global cross-border online marketplace Fruugo.
  • U.K. generalist marketplace OnBuy.

Across the whole list, OnBuy is the only marketplace for general goods that is focused primarily on the U.K. While it is good to see a homegrown marketplace on the list, OnBuy has less than a quarter of a percent of Amazon’s U.K. traffic so is not currently a serious challenger.

Amazon in the U.K.

Amazon

Amazon is the most popular online marketplace in the U.K., with 417 million visits per month. This places the U.K. fourth for Amazon globally, behind the U.S., Japan, and Germany. Amazon’s global gross merchandise volume (GMV) is estimated at $335 billion, making U.K. GMV approximately $24 billion, based on traffic levels.

Selling on Amazon U.K. works in the same way as selling on other Amazon marketplaces, but there is no global account system. There are, however, two “unified account” systems – one for Europe and one for North America – enabling businesses to sell across multiple countries within those regions from one account, but not between the two regions.

In the U.S., Amazon is often perceived as the only online marketplace that is worth selling on. In the U.K., however, Amazon is often seen as one strand of a multi-channel strategy. This is partly because eBay is closer to Amazon’s level of popularity in the U.K., but also because selling internationally through multiple marketplaces is more common for U.K. businesses.

Amazon in the U.K. is sometimes seen as an “untapped opportunity”, but in reality the level of competition is very similar to the U.S. and other countries where Amazon is a dominant force. There are large numbers of Chinese brands selling directly to consumers, and private labeling by businesses in the U.K. and worldwide is very much in evidence.

Most of Amazon’s services and programs that exist in the U.S. also exist in the U.K., including FBA, Seller Fulfilled Prime and most advertising options. Amazon has a number of European fulfillment programs that make it easier for businesses to sell to multiple European countries (including the U.K.)

Prime is just as important to customers in the U.K. as in the U.S., and free one-day delivery has long been the standard for Prime in the U.K. Other U.K. marketplaces, including eBay, generally allow (or at least tolerate) sellers using FBA to fulfill orders on their marketplaces.

eBay in the U.K.

eBay

eBay is the second-most popular online marketplace in the U.K., with just under 245 million visits per month. This places the U.K. second for eBay globally, behind the U.S. and just ahead of Germany. eBay’s global gross merchandise volume (GMV) is reported as $90 billion, making U.K. GMV approximately $13.5 billion, based on traffic levels.

Selling on eBay is the same in every country, as eBay has a global account system. However, listings are specific to each eBay site and do not automatically show in the standard search results across all global marketplaces.

Sellers have a few options for selling internationally, from simply setting international shipping rates and using eBay’s Global Shipping Program, to creating individual localized listings for each eBay marketplace and arranging their own shipping. An optional paid upgrade called international site visibility, available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, helps listings on one of those eBay sites show in search results on the others.

eBay has much the same brand image in the U.K. as in the U.S. and elsewhere: an online flea-market mainly consisting of used products sold via auction by individuals. Although that type of trade still takes place on eBay, most transactions are now for fixed-price new products sold by businesses and other professional sellers. eBay buyers tend towards a bargain-hunting mentality in the U.K., as they do in other countries.

While it is common for sellers to dismiss eBay entirely in the U.S., it’s worth taking more seriously in the U.K. due to its stronger competitive position. eBay can offer an easier way to experiment with selling to the U.K. market, so may be worth considering before Amazon for international sellers looking to expand.

Other global marketplaces popular in the U.K.

Global marketplaces form the largest group on the list of the U.K.’s top online marketplaces, with eight featured in total. After Amazon and eBay, there are six global marketplaces included.

Other global marketplaces in the UK

Etsy is the world’s most successful niche marketplace, focusing on handmade goods and supplies for craftspeople. As a global marketplace, selling on Etsy in the U.K. is just a case of setting your international shipping rates. The U.K. is the second largest country for Etsy, providing 7% of its global traffic, but still far less than the U.S. with 64%.

Wayfair is one of the world’s largest online sellers of home goods and furniture, and the fourth largest marketplace in the U.K., attracting just over 16 million monthly visitors. Wayfair’s U.K. traffic (13% of global visits) is second behind only the U.S. (69%).

Wish is a global marketplace best known for “fast fashion” and other low-cost impulse purchases, mainly shipped directly from China. Wish has a wide geographical spread of buyers, with 5% of its traffic coming from the U.K. The U.S. is the largest market for Wish, but still only accounts for 22% of its global traffic.

AbeBooks, owned by Amazon, gets 12% of its traffic from the U.K. It is a global marketplace with a single seller account system. Sellers are required to ship internationally but can set their own shipping rates. AbeBooks sells new books, rare books, textbooks, art, photographs, maps, comics and other paper collectibles.

Houzz is an international marketplace selling furniture, home goods, and professional services in 15 countries. Only 3% of Houzz’s traffic is from the U.K., with the U.S., Russia and Canada all bringing in more visitors.

Fruugo is a global marketplace with local websites in 46 countries. It focuses on cross-border trade, and is the most globally diversified website on the list, with 17 countries accounting for 80% of its overall traffic. Fruugo makes it very easy to sell internationally, taking care of translation, customer service and currency exchange.

Homegrown online marketplaces popular in the U.K.

The U.K. does not have a particularly strong line-up of British marketplace businesses, compared to the global players that dominate marketplace ecommerce in the country. However, there are some interesting niche sites with distinctive brands and growing traffic.

UK online marketplaces

notonthehighstreet is a marketplace for crafts and gifts, hosting 5,000 small British businesses. 89% of notonthehighstreet’s traffic comes from the U.K. Only U.K.-based businesses can sell on the site, but international sellers may be admitted in the future.

GAME has hundreds of third-party sellers on its marketplace for video games, consumer electronics, PCs, phones, and accessories. International sellers are allowed, subject to additional security checks. 85% of GAME’s traffic comes from the U.K.

Trouva sells homewares, clothing and gifts from hundreds of independent brick-and-mortar boutiques. To sell on Trouva, you must have a physical shop based in the U.K. or Europe, and fixed opening hours. 56% of Trouva’s traffic, a little over 1 million visitors, is from the U.K.

OnBuy is a U.K.-based platform that sells a range of new products in hundreds of categories. It positions itself as a British alternative to Amazon. OnBuy does allow sellers from outside the U.K. to apply to sell on the marketplace.

European online marketplaces popular in the U.K.

There are five European marketplaces featured on the U.K. list. They are all very large ecommerce sites in continental Europe, with monthly visits ranging into the hundreds of millions and far outstripping Amazon and eBay in some countries (such as bol.com in the Netherlands). However, in each case only a small percentage of their overall traffic comes from Britain.

For international sellers looking to expand into the U.K., these may provide an interesting alternative to gain cross-European exposure, with some level of U.K. traffic.

European online marketplaces in the UK

Zalando carries almost 2,000 brands in fashion and shoes. It’s a cross-European retailer and marketplace, with more than ten million visits per month from Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Poland. Sellers must support shipping via Hermes, and pass an application process. 3% of Zalando’s traffic is from the U.K., amounting to four million visits per month.

Allegro dominates ecommerce in Poland, with more than two hundred million visits per month. It is a generalist marketplace, covering all product verticals. Listings and customer service are expected to be in Polish. In the U.K., Allegro draws one million visits per month, most likely from Polish expats living in Britain.

ManoMano sells DIY, home improvement, and garden products throughout Europe. Its top three traffic sources are France (49%), Italy (23%), and Spain (16%). The U.K. accounts for 3% of ManoMano’s traffic, which is just under one million visits per month. ManoMano only works with sellers that can meet their quality, reliability and delivery service standards.

bol.com is the leading online retailer in the Netherlands, selling toys, electronics, books, and many other product categories. bol.com receives 52 million visits per month from Dutch shoppers, and a further 23 million visits from Belgium. This is many times Amazon’s traffic from the Netherlands (which is 8.5 million visits per month). Less than one percent of bol.com’s traffic comes from the U.K., but this still amounts to around half a million visits per month.

eMAG is the largest ecommerce website in Romania, with a significant presence in Hungary and Bulgaria as well. It sells a wide range of product types. 1% of eMAG’s traffic comes from the U.K., representing around 400,000 visits per month. Like Allegro, it’s likely that eMAG’s U.K. traffic is from Eastern Europeans living in Britain.

About the data

This article covers 17 online marketplaces (either pure-play marketplaces or retailers with a third-party marketplace) with more than 300,000 monthly visits from the U.K., based on data from SimilarWeb. A global list of online marketplaces, based on the same data, is available in The World’s Top Online Marketplaces.

We have excluded online retailers whose online marketplace forms a very small part of their overall business (such as ASOS), as well as marketplaces with a consumer-to-consumer model (such as Shpock and Depop), and marketplaces with a very narrow product niche (such as Bandcamp and Poshmark).

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