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Marketplaces clear winner as 51% of post-pandemic retail set to take place online online

Where is the footfall?

More than 40% of all post-pandemic online spending globally is taking place on marketplaces, with online set to account for 51% of all retail sales this year, a global consumer study has found.

72% of global shoppers say that online shopping saved them in 2020 and 73% see ecommerce as continuing to be important to them in 2021 and beyond, according to a survey of 28,000 shoppers in 17 countires as part of Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2021.

The study found that 42% of spending went to Amazon, Alibaba,, Mercado Libre and eBay, with more than a quarter of total UK ecommerce spend happening on Amazon alone. Shoppers too seem wedded to the idea of marketplaces in the months and years ahead, with two-thirds (64%) saying they are excited by the prospect of buying everything through one retailer or marketplace in future.

One caveat, however, is that 56% of global shoppers think that Amazon should pay more taxes, a figure that rises to 69% in the UK and 70% in the US.

Omni-channel, tech and delivery are key

With 41% of shoppers still worried about Covid-19 when store shopping, the study goes on to show that shoppers are not seeing ecommerce as an either/or choice. While ecommerce is strong, 64% of those surveyed say that they prefer to shop with brands and retailers that have both an on and offline presence.

As a result, 59% of them want to see brands and retailers communicate and engage with them across all channels. Two thirds (66%) want brands to be more digitally innovative, with 60% more likely to buy from retailers that are more digital, for example offering check-out free shopping a la Amazon Go, which is exciting to 62% of them.

Delivery, too, is of mounting importance. 48% say that they want faster delivery, with 30% of shoppers expecting delivery within 24 hours. Here again marketplaces are winning, with 66% of those surveyed saying that marketplaces offer the best delivery speed and options.

Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “eCommerce can no longer be treated as the supplementary sales channel. Global shoppers have clearly stated that, in the future, it will be their primary channel for retail purchasing. For some organisations, and particularly marketplaces, they are reaping the rewards of investing in a strong online presence, while the news has been littered with stories of businesses who have not identified these changing demands going bust.”

He adds: “Amazon continues to be the leader of the retail pack in the West, alongside Mercado Libre in LATAM and a number of marketplaces in APAC, but they are facing increasing pressure from consumers to be more ethical and from competitors who are investing in their own direct-to-consumer offerings, digital marketplaces, innovations and social media platforms. Couple this with the fact that COVID-19 has weakened brand loyalty, and serious challenges remain in the sector – it’s no longer enough to just have an online offering that reaches customers on one or two channels and to expect long-term ROI.”

Enterprise marketplaces

The rise of the marketplace in consumer shopping habits is also leading to a rise in retailers looking at setting up their own marketplaces – so called enterprise marketplaces – to help them reach consumers, expand their offering and exploit new markets.

Research carried out for the industry’s first-ever Enterprise Marketplace Index found that marketplace retailers outperformed peers and competitors in 2020, growing 81% year-over-year – more than doubling the rate of overall ecommerce growth of 40%. This is an impressive result even during a period of massive digital acceleration.

Furthermore, the research also found that marketplaces led to a 34% increase in site traffic for retailers. Beyond the black-and-white sales numbers associated with the introduction of third-party products, eCommerce marketplaces deliver a halo effect to retailers in the form of increased traffic and customer satisfaction. Secret Sales, Harvey Nichols, Joules and Feelunique are just a few of the UK companies blazing a trail with their marketplace strategies.

Philippe Corrot, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Mirakl, which produced the index: “The already upward trend for online shopping has rocketed over the last 18 months, setting in motion a permanent shift towards eCommerce in the UK. Throughout 2020, retailers had to quickly pivot their business models and sales strategies to continue to operate and maintain a competitive advantage. Now that doors are open for non-essential retailers, they are having to adapt once again to meet the needs of those shopping both in store and online.” 


Corrot adds: “The power of enterprise marketplace solutions lies in their ability to provide retailers with a particular resilience during periods of complex change. First and foremost, it provides agility and the ability to scale at speed, a crucial asset when customer trends can exhaust retailer stocks in a matter of minutes.  The pandemic provided the strongest proof point yet for retailers that consumers value convenience and reliability. As companies are being forced to accelerate their digital transformation in a new world, we can expect more incumbent brands to rely on eCommerce marketplaces to develop a new source of revenue and bolster their operations. We are confident that this trend towards eCommerce and in particular the marketplace model will continue to grow.”  

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