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    August 25, 2020
    6 minute read

    UK Marketplaces Grow and Evolve to Drive Pandemic Ecommerce Boom

    by: Christian Hassold

    Ecommerce has boomed across the UK and Europe during the pandemic and this growth shows no sign of abating. As more consumers switch to online, they are looking for the most convenient way to do it and many have turned to marketplaces as a one-stop-shop for online retail.

    UK Marketplaces_Views-1

    According to recent research by Adobe, of the 70% of UK consumers now regularly shopping online, more than half are doing so using marketplaces, with Amazon being four-times more popular than retailers’ own sites and apps. The inference from this is that, even with more time on their hands and restrictions to shopping in-store, consumers like the ease and convenience that marketplaces offer them around a very broad range of products. They simply log in and away they go. Additionally, between March and June, the average online shopper made 11 purchases from an online marketplace, and just three from an online retailer.

    How marketplaces are growing

    Amazon, perhaps unsurprisingly, leads the way and has seen consistent growth from last year’s Black Friday, right through the lockdown and on to Autumn 2020 as it gears up for the next Golden Quarter. 

    According to tracking data from SimilarWeb for industry website Tamebay, across August to October 2019, Amazon saw a total of 1.15 billion visits. That rose to 130 billion in November 2019 to January 2020 and on to 134 billion in May to July 2020. 

    eBay has seen a distinct up-tick in traffic since the lockdown began, with traffic growing from 858.1 million visits in August to October of 2019 to 962.7 million across May to July 2020, finds SimilarWeb. 

    Etsy tells a different story. It suffered badly in the early days of the lockdown, with traffic dropping by 2.5% in the three months between February and April 2020. However, the influx of homemade and quirky hand-made cotton facemasks has lifted traffic to the site, seeing it settle almost 25% higher by July.

    Perhaps the standout grower in the UK marketplace world, however, is OnBuy. Over the lockdown it has seen exponential growth, going from some 2 million visits in August to October 2019 to nearly 5 million in February to April 2020 and on to almost 10 million by July. Why? It seems that this relatively new entrant into the crowded UK marketplace market has tapped into all those shoppers that want the convenience of marketplaces, but who don't necessarily want to sign up to Amazon to get them.

    New markets for marketplaces

    Like all retailers and merchants, the coronavirus pandemic has forced marketplace operators to also change what they do and many have seen the lockdown and its attendant growth in online shopping as the kickstart needed to enter new markets.

    For Amazon, the lure of grocery and DIY/home improvement has been a big drawer. Before coronavirus struck, Amazon was looking keenly in the UK and the US at the grocery delivery market. In the UK, the online grocery market is tipped to grow by 33% across 2020 finds Mintel. Amazon may well have started the year with just 5% of that, but if it grows in line with this prediction, its grocery business would be worth around £800million. 

    But Amazon isn’t going to settle for 5% of the UK online grocery market; the lockdown has seen all that change – not least that shopper loyalty has gone out of the window, with getting a delivery slot driving use. And Amazon has seized the opportunity. It offers more deliveries than anyone else and is increasingly good at getting same day orders out. This is driving Amazon to take a much bigger share of the online grocery market in the UK.

    It is already paying off. During lockdown, Amazon has seen its online grocery sales triple, while its grocery delivery capacity across all its markets has been extended by more than 160% and it has tripled the number of locations where shoppers can pick up their groceries. In the UK, it has made its Amazon Fresh delivery service free to Prime members to drive up sales, while it has also done a deal with supermarket chain Morrisons’ to stock the entire Morrisons’ range for delivery in an Amazon web-shop. 

    The DIY and home improvement markets are also attracting Amazon’s attention. According to research by Bloomreach, home improvement and DIY saw sales were up 50.9% year on year in July. To help better target the DIY and home improvement, furniture and decorating merchants on Amazon, the marketplace has launched an augmented reality (AR) app that allows the overlay of multiple items on a room or even a photo of a room. This idea, like delivery in the grocery sector, is what Amazon does so well: it improves on existing ways people shop.

    In conclusion

    And this is why marketplaces are likely to keep on growing as the pandemic unfolds over the coming months. Shoppers are now very much online and the ease of use of marketplaces is only going to increase. 

    Tools such as AR and excellent choice and delivery are going to make them the go-to location for everything from the everyday to grocery to home improvements and beyond. 

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