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UK businesses selling via online marketplaces turn over £282bn a year: study

Marketplaces have long offered sellers a way to reach new customers. Image: Goodluz/Shutterstock

Almost 900,000 UK businesses are now selling on online marketplaces, where they turn over an estimated £282bn a year, a new study suggests. 

That total revenue, made by the 882,900 UK businesses that sell on marketplaces, is equivalent to only 6% of all UK business turnover, arketplacesuggests the research from digital payments specialist Shieldpay and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Revenue from sales via marketplaces are growing by 9.4% a year – ahead of the 7.4% growth seen by businesses that don’t use marketplaces. In 2019, found the study, 48% of retailers used marketplaces – a figure that has grown to 61% in 2022.

The study, Emerging growth opportunities for online marketplaces, also suggests that the value of the global B2B ecommerce market will rise to £7.3 trillion this year. Some 41% of sales for B2B-only businesses take place through marketplaces, it found. 

Despite this a relatively small proportion of sales take place on marketplaces, it found. Small businesses are less likely to use marketplaces than larger businesses, with 3% of micro-businesses selling through marketplaces in 2019, according to the ONS. 

Researchers questioned 2,073 senior decision makers working in UK businesses via YouGov about how marketplaces had affected their businesses. Some 43% said marketplaces enabled them to reach customers they otherwise may not have reached, while 34% said using them made it easier to sell their products, as doing so removed technology barriers and reduced operational costs. One in five (20%) said they made it easier for them to make the most of the online shopping boom during the pandemic, and 19% said they benefitted from the marketplace’s name. When asked about the drawbacks of using marketplaces, 27% said they saw none – and that nothing would prevent them from using marketplaces.

Claire Van der Zant, revenue director at Shieldpay, says: “The £280bn turnover that online marketplaces contribute to the UK economy is a sizeable figure, but it’s clear that this 6% share is only set to increase further in the coming years. A marketplace is more than just a business in and of itself, it is a distribution channel to empower other businesses to reach new markets and a transformational tool to unlock new value for the end consumer through greater choice and more competitive pricing.

“Our research not only shows that marketplaces make a notable contribution to the UK economy, but that businesses are not yet fully capitalising on the significant benefits they can bring. The value of marketplace commerce can often be overlooked, especially by SMEs, but the robust infrastructure, convenience and security that they provide should encourage more businesses to move online and make the most of these advantages.”

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