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The state of online marketplace startups and projects in 2021

Arateg is a custom software development company based in Minsk, Belarus. We take care of tech, so you can focus on core business.
・5 min read

Online marketplace platforms have been witnessing rapid growth over the past years. Digital Commerce 360 informs that the volume of sales on marketplaces such as Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon accounted for 62% of global sales made on the web in 2020.

Healthcare, e-learning, and gaming marketplaces are also gaining popularity, especially under the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report published by Dealroom in 2020, marketplaces have a combined value of $814 billion worldwide.

There are many benefits of marketplaces for stakeholders. Customers enjoy having the possibility to compare products and services from multiple providers, check out reviews and ratings to find the most attractive offers.

Vendors take advantage of getting access to a convenient sales channel and large audience. They also reduce marketing and operating costs. Marketplace owners generate revenue from system monetization while investors can earn profit by supporting online marketplace startups.

To explore more dividends of marketplaces for all parties, read our article on this topic.

Let’s take a look at the key market drivers and see what online marketplace platforms were in demand last year. You will also learn what tendencies are prevailing in 2021.

Key factors affecting fast growth of online marketplace startups

  • Retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to about $4.3 trillion while e-retail revenues are anticipated to rise to $5.4 trillion in 2022 (Statista).

  • Online transactions have already become the default for most consumers across numerous sectors, from retail and e-commerce to housing and food service.

  • Business-to-business e-commerce in the USA is projected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023 and account for 17% of total B2B sales in the country, in comparison with 12% at the end of 2018 (Forrester).

  • Today nearly 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service rather than in-person sales, which results in the fast growth of B2B marketplaces (McKinsey & Company).

  • Due to lockdowns imposed by governments during COVID-19, many organizations were forced to move online, including service delivery via marketplaces. Since the majority of companies had to ensure business continuity during the pandemic, the use of marketplaces became an important part of their strategies.

  • Online marketplace platforms provide access to a range of products and services from different vendors while enabling users to make payments and orders without leaving the app or website. Customers appreciate the ease of scheduling and savings on travel expenses provided by online shopping.

As the demand for marketplaces is exponentially growing, their development may become a great investment opportunity, which is especially of current interest due to the coronavirus outbreak that accelerated digitization and influenced consumer preferences.

Impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the business world. While travel and transportation agencies had to implement business recovery strategies, some sectors took advantage of new opportunities, for example, e-commerce and e-learning.

With changing buying habits, online marketplace platforms experienced a significant climb . In 2020, $2.67 trillion was spent worldwide via the top 100 marketplaces such as Amazon, Tmall, and Taobao while platforms like Etsy and Ozon grew 100%.

It is noteworthy that 50 out of the top 100 marketplaces are based in the USA and they improved sales by 40% in 2020. First Insight revealed that now 30% of millennials are shopping online more frequently than it was before the outbreak.

Driven by lockdowns imposed worldwide, the popularity of on-demand food delivery significantly rose, which triggered increased demand for online marketplaces. As a consequence, the number of Grubhub app downloads jumped by 23%, Deliveroo—by 21%, and Uber Eats—by 13%, according to Dealroom.

Now, marketplace applications offering grocery, meal kits, and farm-to-table services, had to put in great effort to meet changing consumer preferences. For instance, the number of Cortilia installs grew by 139%, Ocado—by 99%, Picnic—by 65%, and Blue Apron—by 29%. MilkRun, an online marketplace connecting chefs and consumers with local farmers, raised $1.75 million on July 17 and $125,000 on August 25 last year.

Dealroom reports that virtually 90% of consumer spending went to housing, healthcare, food service, mobility, and education. Some domains and organizations are still largely offline but are on the way to digitization driven by the coronavirus outbreak.

The rise of e-learning marketplaces

As people were forced to stay at home due to imposed lockdowns and social distancing, their educational habits changed, which led to increased demand for online education. According to The World Economic Forum, about 1.2 billion children were out of classrooms because of closed schools.

Offering various courses and programs, e-learning marketplaces such as Coursera and Udemy enabled users across the globe to acquire new skills and knowledge remotely. With engaging video content, gamification, and performance monitoring, marketplace apps and websites are helping businesses and institutions to train students during the pandemic.

In the light of COVID-19, Hone—an e-learning marketplace startup for home training—raised $2.75 million in April 2020. Providing live online classes led by expert coaches, the platform has already attracted customers such as World Remit, Casper, and GoFundMe. Overall, Hone invited investments of $6.4 million during two funding rounds.

However, coronavirus just accelerated the adoption of online course marketplaces. American Society for Training and Development surveyed 2,500 organizations and found that the use of online training programs may lead to 218% higher profit per employee and 24% higher profit margins.

It is worth noting that US ed-tech companies managed to raise $803 million of investments in the first six months of 2020. Increased consumer demand shapes excellent opportunities for e-learning marketplace startups.

The rapid growth of B2C healthcare marketplaces

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the healthcare industry. Aiming to prevent the disease from spreading, hospitals and healthcare practices often were not able to hold in-person visits with non-coronavirus patients. Furthermore, since clinicians had to resolve numerous emergency cases while reviewing multiple daily requests, it became very difficult to deliver the required timely care.

According to the survey conducted by Survivor Views, 51% of respondents experienced treatment delay or cancellation due to COVID-19. In this context, demand for online consultations and appointment scheduling significantly increased. Doctolib informs that 80% of the surveyed patients and 74% of doctors say they will continue using video consultations after the end of coronavirus.

Thanks to online healthcare marketplaces like ZocDoc, people can find doctors, check out reviews and ratings, receive help from medical professionals, and make payments.

Recently, our team built a marketplace platform that connects healthcare experts with patients while providing video conferencing and doctors’ search by symptoms.

At Arateg, we also created an online healthcare marketplace that brought together over 1,500 pharmacy chains with users who received the possibility to buy medical goods online. The system allows vendors to analyze data on sales and user behavior, as well as control the range and availability of medicines. Using this solution, organizations can easily identify customer preferences, make demand and supply forecasts, plan procurement.

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