A guide to online marketplaces: The alternatives

Last year, ChannelAdvisor published research showing that 95 per cent of retailers in the UK sell their products through online marketplaces. It's understandable; with all of the digital infrastructure already in place, the process couldn't be any easier.
 
Of the companies questioned, 86 per cent sell on Amazon and 68 per cent sell on eBay - two of the three big players we covered in part one of our guides to online marketplaces. If these don't suit your business, though, you do have options.
 
Below are three great online marketplaces you may not have considered.
 

Rakuten

 
Truth be told, this shouldn't really be seen as an alternative - Rakuten is huge. Originating in Tokyo in 1997, the company started expanding beyond its homeland's borders in 2005. Six years later, it purchased the popular entertainment retailer Play.com for £25 million, and set about turning it from a standard shop to an all-encompassing marketplace akin to Amazon.
 
These days, it's exactly that; a place for third-party merchants to set up shop and sell their goods safely and securely. The registration process, according to Rakuten's sales bumf, takes just 10-15 minutes. Then you'll have support teams on hand to help you through listing. Once everything's set up, you sell and ship, and Rakuten passes (most of) the money on to you.
 
All sales are subject to commission, and the amount you pay depends on what you're selling. The UK site is pretty reluctant to tell you exactly how much before you give it any information, but as a guide, the US site charges $0.99 per item sold, and a commission of between 8 - 15 per cent. You're also required to pay for membership, at $99 per quarter.
 

Fruugo

 
Founded in Finland back in 2006, Fruugo's goal was to make Europe-wide trading easy for retailers of all kinds. Although it succeeded, a tough few years followed, with financial troubles almost bringing the company down completely. Fortunately, those struggles are a thing of the past and thousands of brands are back reaping the platform's rewards.
 
Fruugo's main selling point is still its international focus, and there are a fair few handy features to shout about. At time of writing, for example, the platform is accessible in 23 countries, using ten different languages. It can also handle payments in 11 currencies. All of the translation and conversion work is handled automatically by Fruugo, saving you the time, cost and hassle.
 
As for cost, sellers are charged a flat-rate commission of ten per cent on their sales, and this includes payment fees, currency conversion and VAT calculation. Not bad going, eh?
 

Notonthehighstreet.com

 
If you're selling stuff that you wouldn't find in the typical copy-and-paste city centre shops, Notonthehighstreet.com could be the way to go. This one is kind of like Etsy, in that its focus is placed firmly on original and quirky items, as opposed to big brands and established names.
 
Among the site's 4,000-plus sellers, you'll find innovative designers and original artists offering all kinds of useful and attractive items. There's a big section for inside the home, and another for the garden. You've then got plenty of great gifts to consider, as well as jewellery, wedding accessories, and even food and drink. So, while Notonthehighstreet.com has its niche, there's plenty of scope for sellers to get involved.
 
The charges might seem a little steep compared to your other options, though. The signing up fee is £199, then 25 per cent of each sale is taken as commission, but you get plenty in return. This includes your own storefront (with professional review) and 'expert' search engine optimisation (SEO). Provided your product range fits, the big benefit is that you'll be reaching customers who are already looking for something a little different. You're therefore more likely to sell your stuff, or 'convert'. Amazon, on the other hand, is a bit more of a free-for-all, where visitors are less likely to just stumble across your goods.
 
Plenty of choice!
 
So, as these examples prove, the e-commerce world doesn't stop at Amazon and eBay. In fact, it doesn't even stop here - we could go on for hours. Above are just three of the best but not-so-obvious platforms. Just be sure to find one that fits your needs!
 

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