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Different Types of Marketplaces

By
Bradley Johnson
Table of Contents

Committing to a sales channel where you can grow your audience requires real time and effort. It makes sense, then, that you shouldn’t divert energy among every marketplace that pops up. So, what is marketplace, and how can you use one to your advantage?

A marketplace is where sellers offer products and consumers buy. You can get acquainted with the best online marketplace to sell in by reviewing a marketplace app list and reading about marketplace selling in general.

Since there are so many types of eCommerce businesses, your product may be perfectly suited for one marketplace business model where another business is not. A online marketplace is useful for businesses manufacturing their own products, but likely isn’t an ideal fit for an automated dropshipping business. 

Let’s look at different types of marketplaces and the types of products that are great to sell at each one. 

Offline Marketplaces

The first general type of marketplace is offline marketplaces. An offline marketplace is any physical location where multiple sellers and buyers transact with each other. This includes new goods, accessories, used goods, and anything businesses are allowed to sell in the marketplace.

Offline marketplaces have been around for thousands of years and continue to be a primary shopping avenue for billions of people. Advantages of offline marketplaces include holding a product in your hand, in-store discounts, faster returns, and no need for eCommerce shipping.

Keep reading for details on offline marketplaces. 

Flea Markets

Flea markets are one of the oldest types of marketplaces in the world. In the US alone, flea markets have been around for nearly 150 years with an estimated 5,000 recurring markets each year. 

At a flea market, dozens or hundreds of vendors gather to sell secondhand goods and occasionally new products. Flea markets are generally open to the public, and if there is an admission fee, it’s nominal. 

Flea markets are great places to sell once- or lightly-used products. Most people who shop at flea markets are looking for a great deal, making it a perfect match for sellers who offer previously owned or refurbished goods.

Here are some goods you can sell at a flea market: 

  • Clothing, shoes, jackets, and hats
  • Soap and cleaning materials
  • Books, magazines, records, and CDs
  • Furniture, decorations, and housewares
  • Garden tools and outdoor supplies
  • Small consumables, like baked goods and candy

Crafts and Arts Shows

Craft shows are local or regional events that attract handmade goods producers and industry enthusiasts. A craft show is differentiated from a flea market by the fact that sellers make their products themselves. Vendors often run a part- or full-time business selling their products and supplement their online strategies with O2O marketing.

Here are examples of products often sold at craft shows: 

  • Blankets, quilts, and other fabrics
  • Handmade art (paintings, photos, sculptures, pottery)
  • Hats, shirts, jackets, socks, pants, scarves
  • Artistic and creative supplies (brushes, paint, canvasses)
  • Health and wellness products and beauty supplies
  • Jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, 
  • Children’s toys, games, and art supplies

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are another long-standing tradition in many urban, suburban, and rural areas. These events help local growers boost visibility for the communities they work in and give shoppers an easy way to support small businesses. 

At any farmers’ market, you’re bound to find fresh produce. This may include eggplant, kale, berries, melons, potatoes, grains, and anything else a farmer grows. 

In addition to produce, you may find the following sold at farmers’ markets: 

  • Handbags, purses, clutches, and accessories
  • Shoes, sandals, and other footwear
  • Candy, popcorn, snacks, and treats
  • Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, liquor, and fermented beverages

Events and Festivals

Many annual events, such as food festivals and concerts, offer people the opportunity to sell their products. Businesses will set up tents or booths and sell goods in a similar fashion to that of retail stores. One downside to this sales channel is that events often impose a service fee, which sellers usually pass to customers in the form of higher prices. 

Festivals and events often attract local customers that are interested in experiential or personal purchases. This means clothing, jewelry, lifestyle goods, and consumables are great products to sell. 

You may find any or all of the following sold at a festival: 

  • T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, and sweaters
  • Cups, mugs, koozies, and coasters
  • Stickers, magnets, keychains, and pins
  • Posters, artwork, framed photos, and engravings

Trade Shows

A trade show is an industry-specific event that brings businesses together so they can form stronger partnerships. Most trade shows take place at least once yearly and offer visibility benefits for businesses that sponsor the show. 

Trade shows help new businesses to get noticed by successful ones and thriving businesses to discover cross selling opportunities. A trade show isn’t a marketplace in the usual sense that consumers look for products to buy, but they’re a key part of how business growth takes place. Anyone who uses a B2B business model should afford serious consideration to their trade show presence. 

There are several trade shows in every industry, so pinning sales opportunities down to one industry is not necessary. The trade shows you take advantage of in your business depends on what products you sell. 

Here are some prominent industries and products to find trade shows in: 

  • Consumer electronics (phones, headphones, accessories, computers)
  • Fashion and clothing (shoes, purses, outerwear, clothing)
  • Arts, media, and entertainment (publishers, marketing services, videographers)
  • Health and wellness (beauty products, nutrition, weight loss, cosmetics)
  • Housewares and furniture (room furniture, garden tools, pottery, decorations)
  • Appliances and utilities (washers and dryers, lighting, HVAC equipment)

Online Marketplaces

The second general type of marketplace is online marketplaces. An online marketplace is a website or app where many sellers and buyers exchange products. The products sold in an online marketplace may be physical, digital, or both. 

Benefits of online marketplaces include lower operating expenses, faster storefront customizability, little or no need for inventory management, and being able to reach customers at a massive scale. 

Let’s break down different types of online marketplaces and what they offer to sellers. 

eCommerce Marketplaces

eCommerce marketplaces, usually from companies with the same name, are the most common online marketplace you’ll come across. Most consumers today refer to sites like Amazon, Etsy, and Walmart as eCommerce marketplaces, and this is correct. 

That said, some of the first online marketplaces had names few of today’s consumers would recognize. Businesses like Commerce One, VerticalNet, and Covisint were some of the first B2B marketplace companies on the Internet. 

There are a couple defining factors of any eCommerce marketplace: 

  • Both buyers and sellers transact through the Internet
  • Sellers can customize and update their product listings at a moment’s notice
  • Sellers offer shipping, in-store pickup, or both
  • Buyers can easily compare and contrast thousands of products
  • Convenience and speed are usually the top two concerns for both sellers and buyers

Here are some of the most popular eCommerce marketplaces: 

  • BlueCart
  • Shopee
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Mercado Libre
  • Taobao
  • AliExpress
  • Walmart
  • Rakuten
  • Etsy
  • Target
  • Pinduoduo
  • Trendyol
  • Wayfair
  • Zalando
  • Americanas
  • Flipkart
  • JD.com
  • Mercari

As far as what’s sold on an eCommerce platform, like BlueCart eCommerce, the answer is just about everything. Make sure to get your eCommerce business license and review all relevant laws before you sell online

C2C Marketplaces

A consumer-to-consumer, or C2C, marketplace is any Internet service that facilitates the exchange of goods between private individuals. Most C2C marketplaces are informal, meaning a polished business presence and custom eCommerce marketing usually aren’t required.

C2C marketplaces are best suited for one-off exchanges of products or small business owners that manufacture products in small batches. If you’re hosting a yard sale, or you run a part-time business selling cookies online, C2C marketplaces are a perfect fit. 

Examples of C2C marketplaces include: 

  • Craigslist
  • OfferUp
  • Taobao
  • Etsy
  • Airbnb
  • Mercari
  • eBay (this marketplace straddles the line between C2C, B2C, and B2B)

People can sell virtually anything on a C2C marketplace, as long as it’s not an illegal product or against the marketplace’s policy.

Wholesale Marketplace

A wholesale marketplace is an offline venue or online location where material suppliers sell their goods to businesses and consumers. Wholesalers are a key link in product supply chains and make it possible for distributors and retailers to bring high demand products to the public. 

Just about anything can be sold wholesale, as long as you have a reliable supplier on your side. Here is a short list of wholesale items to sell:

  • Vehicle parts and accessories
  • Raw materials (lumber, cotton, steel, corn, plastic, minerals)
  • Clothing, shoes, outerwear, and accessories
  • Baby and newborn supplies (diapers, baby wipes)
  • Food and drinks (sell wine online, dry snacks, gift baskets, selling baked goods online)
  • Medical supplies (hand sanitizer, cotton swabs, IV bags, masks, needles)

BlueCart’s wholesale marketplace offers access to over 92,000 buyers who are looking for your products. Our platform is also SEO- and mobile-optimized, runs on bank-level security, and comes with as many digital catalogs as you need. Schedule a demo today to learn more.

One Marketplace to Rule Them All

Reviewing different types of marketplaces and choosing one for your business is an important decision. You’ll be funneling a percentage of your profits towards building a new audience, which is a regular responsibility. 

When you’ve found a marketplace you’re interested in, research the types of products and businesses that do well there. If your products don’t match, that doesn’t mean it won’t work out, but it is something to consider. 

Once you’re all set up, remember to drive customer satisfaction with immense value and friendly service. As prospects discover how confident and reassured you are by your own products, they’ll be lining up to buy.