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Marketplaces Report 2021: The customer experience

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With ecommerce and mobile commerce having accelerated across the year, much of that traffic is now coming to marketplaces and retailers, brands and merchants have reacted. We explore this shift in our latest Marketplaces 2021 report, focusing specifically on how each major European market has evolved its marketplace structure.

It also considers how those marketplaces work for consumers and for merchants, as well as acting as an almanac of what they sell and how to meet this demand.

Digital Editor, Scarlette Isaac, zooms in on the customer experience. 

While the likes of Amazon and eBay still dominate in most European regions – with the exceptions of Poland and The Netherlands, where Allegro and respectively still hold sway – the mix of marketplaces in most markets is changing and broadening. 

This shift has been driven by consumers. The pandemic forced them to shop online and marketplaces and marketplace-like functionality has increasingly delivered the kind of customer experience that they crave. Retailers, brands and marketplace entrepreneurs have been quick to leap on this change and, so, the marketplace landscape has had a healthy boost.

Looking at the drivers for shopping on marketplaces, price (72.98%) and convenience (72.29%) were rated the highest by our survey respondents. The ease of use, the all-things in one place approach and good search functionality make the marketplace a convenient ‘search engine for shopping’. As more marketplaces have emerged that service niches or verticals, this convenience approach has been applied at an ever more granular approach, further driving use among consumers and attracting users to them. Furthermore, by promoting competing vendors on the one platform, marketplaces also tend to exert a downward pressure on prices, as well as encouraging faster delivery and free returns.

The multitude of variety marketplace platforms offer is arguably one of the biggest USPs. From Amazon that sells everything under the sun, to, say Etsy that sells crafts – marketplaces have a broad range of inventory. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that choice was crowned king by over half of consumers (63.50%). 

Just under half of our respondents said a key factor for shopping on marketplaces is the delivery options available (47.28%). Although voted less important than price and convenience – it could be said that these categories all overlap. Getting items exactly when they are wanted and needed, to a location of choice is part of the choice shoppers now make when selecting which of the competing items to buy. The cost of that delivery based on how fast or slow it arrives, is also a key consideration. 

The growing subscription economy has expanded to the marketplace sector, with marketplace platforms following in Amazon’s footsteps to boost growth and elbow fellow competitors out the way. This model offers consumers a range of benefits, including free/cheap and flexible delivery, recurring orders, access to exclusive offers and items and more. Paid subs also create a sense of community whereby the ‘members’ have access to exclusive offers, discounted delivery and early access to new products or services. Fashion retailer/marketplace Asos was an early exemplar of this, along with Dutch and Cdiscount

Despite the obvious business benefits, this model is still in its infancy when it comes to the European marketplace landscape. As illustrated by our research, the average for marketplaces across Europe offering subscriptions still tends to zero, largely unchanged since last year, with roughly half of markets having no subscriptions available. Of those that do, the numbers per market are low, with most tending to be around a fifth of marketplaces or lower. Only in France is it higher at 42%, with all subscription offerings largely limited to much more developed markets. 

The charts featured in this article were originally published in the RetailX European Marketplaces 2021 report.  

For further insight into the world of European marketplaces, including shifting trends, real-world case studies and an exploration into dark web marketplaces – download the full report today.

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