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European e-commerce marketplaces to fuel your off-Amazon revenue growth

Updated: Feb 12


As the E-commerce pioneer, Amazon has dominated the industry in both the US and abroad. In Europe, Amazon has held the leading position in several countries’ largest economies – the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, among others[1].  The strategy implemented by many US and Asian e-commerce businesses in order to enter Europe has been purely based on Amazon. It’s no wonder Amazon gained access to 30-40% of the market. While this worked at the outset, it was found that years of strong growth were, in many cases, followed by a plateau. And here is when European non-Amazon marketplaces come into play. In this post, I will outline the marketplaces and strategies that I have seen deliver strong results for merchants who added roughly 15-20% in addition to their Amazon revenue by adding European marketplaces to their channel portfolios.


Overcome the Hesitance to Bother with Smaller Marketplaces

One common argument against using smaller European marketplaces is that they are not large enough for businesses that’ve experienced the massive scale of Amazon in the US. The trade-off between the amount of time invested in setting up a marketplace and the return can discourage merchants from looking outside of Amazon. Registration and offer setup require a similar time investment if you compare the marketplaces. Obviously, there will be differences, as some have more developed ecosystems while others are very basic, but these are insignificant. The first question is always, “Why should I set up a new marketplace if sales increment will be smaller compared to Amazon, yet the amount of time required to invest will be the same?” I can’t argue with that, yet I recommend switching the way of thinking. The key is to put a multichannel sales management solution in place and treat the non-Amazon marketplaces as a single one. This post will not detail the multi-channel listing and sales management solutions available, so for now, we’ll argue from the framework that multichannel selling tools can streamline listings and order management processes on multiple marketplaces into a single flow. This, in turn, allows you to think about smaller non-Amazon European marketplaces as one, which makes for a much larger market size. This proposal is more attractive, right? The setup still has to be done, but the relationship between the time required and market size to access is not linear anymore. With the multichannel selling tool running, you can continue adding new marketplaces to your sales channels at a relatively small increment of labor.


Focus on the right marketplaces

The global marketplaces like eBay, with strong historical standing, and the newcomers like Wish or Frugo are all known to European customers. But here, I would like to focus on marketplaces that are solely European and might not be known by merchants with a global focus – local country champions. The marketplaces I will discuss are embedded in the economies of Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, and Romania, which collectively have a total e-commerce market value of US$278 billion. Let’s dive in.


Table 1. E-commerce market values for selected European economies.

Country

e-commerce market value

Germany

 US$ 107,900 million

France

 US$ 78,200 million

Netherlands

 US$ 43,300 million

Poland

 US$ 31,200 million

Romania

 US$ 8,200 million

Sources: [2], [3], [4], [5] , [6], [7]


Kaufland

Back in 2021 a German marketplace called real.de changed its name to kaufland.de. This was a result of a corporate acquisition and reshuffling between retail giants. Kaufland belongs to the Schwarz Group – one of the biggest companies in the world, which also owns Lidl. The online marketplace they run differs from the pure e-commerce players in that it has a brand of enormous value, massive brick-and-mortar retail operations across Europe, and over 100 years of corporate history. If you were to compare it with something outside of Europe, Walmart would be the best bet. The synergies that omnichannel brings when integrating offline and online are enticing to tap into. While Kaufland has a lot to implement in that field, there is no need to reinvent the wheel but just do what the early adopter and role model Walmart did in US (for example pickups and in-store returns).


Kaufland started building out an international ecosystem back in 2022 when they opened the Kaufland.sk and Kaufland.cz marketplaces in Slovakia and Czech Republic respectively. These are as of now tiny markets, yet the expansion from Kaufland.de to Kaufland.cz and Kaufland.sk is a 1-click effort. This is a strong signal that Kaufland has serious aspirations.


cDiscount

cDiscount is the biggest French e-commerce marketplace right after Amazon. It is also one of the oldest in Europe – founded in 1998 by three brothers and quickly acquired by a French retail conglomerate Casino Group. cDiscount has its own fulfillment solution (now called Octopia Fulfillment).


Even though the marketplace claims it has international presence, great majority of revenue comes from France [8]. cDiscount doesn’t have a specific profile, it is an “everything store” with a comprehensive category tree. Catalogue is organized same way like the Amazon catalogue. Offers from multiple merchants are synced into a single product page and are also combined with cDiscount own retail offering. Many of the top European marketplaces have mirrored Amazon Prime and cDiscount is no different. It has its own subscription that offers shipping and other benefits - Cdiscount à Volonté (CDAV).


Allegro

When doing research about the biggest marketplace in Poland (and one of the biggest in Europe) I checked my Allegro user account. Turns out I have been an active Allegro user since 2000. It is a well-established marketplace. Quoted on Polish Stock Exchange in Warsaw, it was founded in 1999, just 5 years after Amazon in US. Over the years owned by technology giants like Naspers and investments funds, it is now the question whether it will be acquired in the future by Amazon. As of now Amazon has opened its Polish site and is growing it steadily year by year while Allegro still and by far dominates without any doubt.


Allegro has already implemented many of the same mechanism that has made Amazon successful. Allegro Smart is an equivalent of Amazon Prime. Allegro’s catalogue is synchronized based on EAN/UPC barcodes and displays offers of the same EAN code on single product page. Allegro also has its own logistics and a parcel locker network to streamline last mile delivery.


First thing that comes to your mind is likely the language barrier. Polish population is not bilingual so product offers and customer service has to be done in Polish. But let’s not call this a barrier for an e-commerce business in the era of Chat GPT and automated customer service processes. It is a small hurdle to overcome.


Bol.com

The Netherlands is actually the biggest economy in Europe where Amazon is not the leading e-commerce platform. Bol.com is a regional champion in Benelux. Founded in 1999 and today owned by Ahold - a Dutch retail powerhouse[9].


Bol.com integrates the catalogue based on product barcodes. Sellers compete for Buy Box the same way they do on Amazon and other major European marketplaces. Bol.com also has its own retail offering which means merchants might have to compete for the Buy Box with the owner of the marketplace. Last but not least, the platform offers Prime like subscription service called Select.


The owner of Ahold operates retail outlets across the globe – in the Netherlands, Belgium, United States, Indonesia and many other countries. Each country has its own brand though. Even in Benelux there is no common brand shared between the Netherlands and Belgium. The Netherlands has its Albert Heijn and Belgium has Delhaize. This makes omnichannel integration between retail and online hard to implement, contrary to Kaufland that runs the marketplace and brick and mortar retail under the same brand. I am curious to see how the Ahold company plays it out strategically in the future. Brand separation is quite a roadblock when it comes to omnichannel retail synergy.


eMag

eMag is a Romanian marketplace started in 2001 and has since then become a dominant player in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. It had an ambitious plan to conquer the Polish market, yet due to very competitive landscape in Poland, which is dominated by Allegro, eMag sold off its assets in Poland in 2020 and exited the market[10]. It doesn’t speak poorly of eMag though, as even global giants like eBay failed to expand to Poland (eBay quit Poland in 2015 after trying to win the market for 10 years[11]).


One may say that Romania is a tiny country to bother, yet eMag has to be assessed as a marketplace of 3 EU economies that have strong appetite for e-commerce shopping. The company offers comprehensive product listing support for international merchants, making language barriers easy to overcome. It has its own Prime like subscription service and fulfillment solutions. Most of the business I know that tried eMag were positively surprised by the results.


Even though many marketplaces have their own fulfillment solutions, I do not recommend starting out by going to marketplace fulfillment directly at the begining. It requires substantial investment in stock plus triggers the local country VAT registration requirement. Instead, I recommend to be tactical and use a fulfillment solution in another EU country where you already have VAT registration (most Amazon Sellers in Europe already do have VAT registrations in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and many other countries as FBA requires it) and serve marketplaces like eMag from that country, making use of the VAT OSS (One Stop Shop). This means that you can fulfill your eMag orders to Romania from Poland or Germany without any additional VAT registration in Romania and report Romanian revenue in your OSS return.


eMag is an everything-store with multiple categories. The marketplace is growing rapidly following the trends in dynamic economies of Romania and Bulgaria that joined the European Union in 2007. It is definitely a worth trying market expansion.


Zalando

Zalando is the only marketplace on the list that has narrow category focus – fashion. It is the biggest fashion house in Europe. Founded in 2008, it reached 10.3 EUR billion in revenue in 2022[12].  If you were to compare it with a similar business outside of Europe, it would be Zappos. Zalando, like Zappos, started with shoes and expanded to fashion and beauty, eventually opening the platform to enable the marketplace business model.


Is it easy to register on Zalando as a seller? Zalando calls its marketplace business model as Zalando Partner Program. The registration policy changes from time to time. There were times where it was fairly open – registration was quick and brand vetting smooth. Now however, getting a brand approved is more difficult (based on personal experience). Nevertheless, you won’t find out until you try. If your brand is attractive, you will likely succeed. Remember the name Zalando Partner Program as you might not find anything on Zalando marketplace.


Is there anything to watch out for when selling on Zalando? Yes, it is their return policy, which is very generous for customers. Free returns up to 180 days is a nightmare for sellers but if you do the right price calculation, you would be able to make it work considering massive volumes that Zalando might bring you. In order to streamline returns you can hop on to use the FBA like service called Zalando Fulfillment Solutions. It is a complete end-to-end end fulfillment service that covers entire Europe.


Zalando has consumer websites in most of the European countries: Zalando.de, Zalando.fr, Zalando.it and a dozen of others. As a seller you don’t really bother with the individual websites as it is all integrated into one selling platform and all product pages are auto-translated. Product description and copywriting is of minimal importance on Zalando since it is a fashion marketplace. Images are king and Zalando has very specific image requirements.


Europe’s eCommerce market is valued at $363 billion so try to make most of it

The table below compares the marketplaces I discussed in terms of monthly visits. Reliable revenue numbers are hard to track, therefore I chose monthly visits as a good benchmark. Final row in the table presents Amazon.fr so that you can use it as a sizing benchmark, as I am aware of the fact that the numbers of visitors per month are hard to translate into revenue figures. The logic you can apply is that if Allegro and Amazon.fr have the same number of visits per month, you could in theory expect similar revenue from those two (assuming shopping patterns and average order values are similar). Nevertheless, just treat it as a benchmark.


Table 2. Monthly visitors for selected European e-commerce marketplaces

Marketplace

Country

Monthly visits in millions

Allegro

Poland

199

Zalando

Europe

139

Kaufland

Germany, Slovakia, Czech Republic

35

e-Mag

Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria

80

cDiscount

France

40

Netherlands, Belgium

77

Amazon.fr (benchmark)

France

196

Sources: [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]


Europe’s eCommerce market is valued at $363 billion, with an anticipated annual growth of 7.7% by 2025[19], making it the third-largest eCommerce market globally. Even though I can estimate that Amazon has easily 30% of it, what is left is massive. Although the non-Amazon part might feel quite fragmented, there are local country champions of significant size that should top your priority list when you consider your expansion strategy. Right marketplace selection coupled with efficient multichannel listing solution and reliable fulfillment can give you a significant revenue boost.


Sources:

[1] The Top 10 European Marketplaces in 2023, Channel Engine, https://www.channelengine.com/en/blog/top-european-online-marketplaces, accessed 2023-12-25


[2] E-commerce w Polsce w 2023 roku: debiuty i rozczarowania, Manager Plus, https://managerplus.pl/e-commerce-w-polsce-w-2023-roku-debiuty-i-rozczarowania-93883, accessed 2023-01-11


[3] eCommerce market in Poland, ECDB, https://ecommercedb.com/markets/pl/all, accessed 2024-01-14


[4] Top 5 Countries with the Largest E-Commerce Industry, Insider Monkey, https://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/top-5-countries-with-the-largest-e-commerce-industry-1202774/, accessed 2024-01-25


[5] Top 15 Countries with the Largest E-Commerce Industry, Yahoo Finance, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/top-15-countries-largest-e-015736210.html, accessed 2024-01-19


[6] Netherlands Ecommerce Market Report 2023, Yahoo Finance, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/netherlands-ecommerce-market-report-2023-184500823.html, accessed 2024-01-2


[7] eCommerce market in Romania, ECDB, https://ecommercedb.com/markets/ro/all, accessed 2024-02-02


[8] The Top 10 Marketplaces in Europe, Lengow, https://blog.lengow.com/marketplace/marketplaces-in-europe/, accessed 2024-02-02


[9] Ahold Company Profile, Bloomberg, https://www.bloomberg.com/profile/company/3279433Z:NA, accessed 2023-12-29



[11] 10 lat temu skończyło się porażką. eBay wraca do Polski, WP, https://finanse.wp.pl/ebay-wraca-do-polski-chcemy-rozwinac-sprzedaz-globalnych-produktow-6754563802417696a, accessed 2024-01-12


[12] Investor Relations, Zalando, https://corporate.zalando.com/en/investor-relations, accessed 2024-01-28


[13] Leading online marketplaces in Europe as of April 2023, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/288056/leading-retail-websites-in-europe-based-on-unique-visitors, accessed 2024-02-01


[14] Kaufland.de profile, Similarweb, https://www.similarweb.com/website/kaufland.de/, accessed 2024-01-17



[16] Monthly number of visits to Cdiscount.com, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1312751/number-visits-cdiscount/, accessed 2024-01-31


[17] Bol.com profile, Similarweb, https://www.similarweb.com/website/bol.com/#overview, accessed 2024-01-25


[18] Amazon.fr profile, Similarweb, https://www.similarweb.com/website/amazon.fr/#overview, accessed 2024-02-01


[19] 12+ leading marketplaces in Europe, Ecommerce Germany News, https://ecommercegermany.com/blog/12-leading-marketplaces-europe, accessed 2023-12-25

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