The competition for worldwide e-commerce marketplace dominance is leading to a showdown between the empires of Amazon and Alibaba.

Like a life-size game of Risk, the world can be seen as a global battlefield in which e-commerce empires slug it out for dominance. A recent analysis found the “Amazon Empire” comprises 58 countries and more than 1.2 billion people, making it the global leader in online reach.

Measured by online “population,” Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is not far behind, with nearly 1.1 billion online users in 15 countries. But no other marketplace comes anywhere close to the reach of Inc. (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000), according to the analysis by Website Builder Expert (WBE).

WBE gathered data from 174 countries and 8,700 websites. It then identified the most visited online marketplace in each country and ranked those against each other. Other large e-commerce empires, notably Walmart Inc. (No. 3), were not included or they did not emerge as the most popular online shopping site in any of the 174 countries WBE looked at. However, U.S.-based eBay Inc. made the list, despite being eclipsed at home by Amazon. WBE found eBay to be the most visited online marketplace in eight countries, including Australia.

Based on its findings, WBE created a world map of e-commerce marketplace empires (see below).

EBay Inc. CEO Devin Wenig has said he wants the marketplace to grow to 500 million active users, nearly three-times the 175 million on it today. He plans to rebrand eBay as the place online where consumers can find the exact item they’re looking for. The repositioning starts with plans to significantly boost its marketing spending in the second half of 2018 and into 2019.


But, even at that level, eBay’s empire would be small, compared with the leaders. The WBE analysis says the combined land area of Amazon’s 58 countries “puts it just behind the British Empire at its peak” in 1920. Meanwhile, Alibaba’s online population and its combined area make it just a bit smaller than China’s Qing dynasty in 1790.

The third-biggest e-commerce empire is MercadoLibre, which dominates Mexico and most of South America. MercadoLibre, the WBE says, “comfortably outstrips the Spanish Empire at its peak in 1810,” in terms of land area. While the Soviet Union is long gone, fourth-ranked Naspers dominates most of the USSR’s former territory.

“E-commerce is heading for an Amazon vs. Alibaba showdown, as they dominate the two biggest markets, China and U.S.,” says Jessica Laporte, lead researcher with WBE. “China is going to be a really interesting case to follow due to its colossal population [and] rapidly growing number of internet users.”

The fact that western companies like Amazon can’t operate there creates “a massive opportunity for Alibaba to stand in the way of Amazon’s total domination,” Laporte says. “Aside from China, Alibaba’s presence across the rest of East and Southeast Asia is huge—though a little more discrete as it operates under several names in different countries.”


Going forward, Laporte says she expects Africa to be the next e-commerce battleground.”Unlike other global regions, there are several e-commerce giants all vying for the top spot in the continent but at this stage, no one brand is dominating, so it’s going to be pretty exciting to see how the market evolves over the next few years,” she says.

In six African countries, the top online retail site was Be Forward—a Japanese used car dealership that exports cars internationally. That suggests “the main use of e-commerce in those countries is buying cars,” the WBE analysis says.

WBE provides advice, reviews and other information about online website builders such as Wix and Squarespace. It compiled the study using data from Alexa Internet.