Global marketplace sales increase to $2.68 trillion in 2020 from $2.08 trillion the year before. Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall and U.S.-owned Amazon drive much of this growth.

Consumers worldwide spent nearly $4.29 trillion online in a pandemic-fueled 2020, up from almost $3.46 trillion the prior year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. The 24.1% year-over-year jump in global web sales was an increase from 17.9% growth in 2019.

Much of that spending took place on marketplaces.

The Top 100 online marketplaces in the world collectively grew gross merchandise value (GMV) 29.0% to $2.68 trillion in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated growth above the 19.1% GMV growth in 2019 as marketplaces attracted more consumers to their sites last year when traditional retailers had low inventory or long delivery times. 62.7% of the $4.29 trillion in global ecommerce sales in 2020 was spent on the Top 100 marketplaces, up from 60.1% in 2019.

But the rankings in the Top 100 marketplaces are top-heavy. The top three marketplaces—Taobao, and Inc.—represented 62.6% of the Top 100’s total GMV and 39.1% of global ecommerce last year.


Specifically, more than 40% of global marketplace spending took place on two shopping portals operated by Alibaba Group, China’s largest ecommerce company. During the 12-month period ended March 31, 2021, Chinese consumers purchased a combined $1.14 trillion worth of goods on Taobao (No. 1), China’s dominant shopping site where millions of small Chinese sellers compete largely on price, and Tmall (No. 2), a brand-friendly marketplace. An astonishing 80.5% of online sales in China flowed through these two marketplaces last year, and collectively, they represented 23.3% of global gains in ecommerce.

Behind Taobao and Tmall is the U.S.-dominant Amazon (No. 3), which runs a hybrid marketplace, unlike the two Alibaba-owned giants. In 2020, the web giant’s global first-party revenue surpassed $302.99 billion, up 41.4% from nearly $214.22 billion the year before.

Including purchases made through third-party sellers, the value of goods sold on Amazon reached a Digital Commerce 360-estimated $475.00 billion in 2020, a 40.1% jump from $339.00 billion the year before. As consumers leaned heavily on Amazon during the pandemic, the marketplace accelerated both first-party revenue and total GMV growth to roughly double its 2019 upticks.

It’s worth noting that Amazon grew far faster than the overall global market last year and accounted for 16.3% of all worldwide ecommerce gains. It also increased total GMV at roughly double the rate of Alibaba’s pure-play marketplace competitors.


But the explosion of online marketplace growth doesn’t belong to these three giants alone.

In 2020, Etsy’s sales—which include GMV from its musical instruments marketplace Reverb—jumped 106.7% to $10.28 billion from just under $5.00 billion in 2019. Prior to 2020, growth was between 14% and 26% for six years. Etsy’s sales momentum continued in 2021, with 132% year-over-year growth in the first quarter. Digital Commerce 360 estimates Etsy will end the year with 45% growth.

The perception of marketplaces in the eyes of the consumers, retailers and brands has continued to evolve. For instance, 59% of the Top 500 North American online retailers sell on marketplaces as of 2021, up from less than 50% in 2017. Marketplaces are also positioned to quickly adapt to circumstances—and lure in shoppers—because the business model allows for flexibility that the traditional retail model does not.

One example of shoppers turning to marketplaces last year is veteran U.S. marketplace eBay. The marketplace added 11 million new customers in 2020, and those buyers contributed to the highest annual sales growth for eBay since at least 2013. Global GMV increased 16.9% to $100.00 billion in 2020. The $14.49 billion incremental GMV eBay added last year was more than the marketplace’s GMV gains in the previous seven years combined.


Included in the 2021 Online Marketplaces Report:

  • A full ranking and analysis of the Top 100 online marketplaces including growth, total sales, which marketplaces Top 1000 retailers are selling on and more
  • Exclusive consumer and retailer survey insights into marketplace buying and selling
  • An overview of the ecommerce market in 2020, including a specific look at the U.S. and China
  • Tips for marketplace sellers
  • Breakout sections of niche and hybrid marketplaces
  • View the table of contents

This article is an excerpt from the just-launched sixth edition of Digital Commerce 360’s 2021 Online Marketplaces Report. To purchase the report for $499, you can click here. Digital Commerce 360 Gold and Platinum members receive this report for free.