If you’re looking to scale your e-commerce business, adding new marketplaces can be a low-risk way to increase sales and move toward an omnichannel strategy.
But adding a Shopify store or major online marketplace like Amazon or Walmart may or may not be the best move for your business — especially when you consider the hefty fees and marketing campaigns needed to stand out and capture ROI.
If you’ve already considered all the best e-commerce marketplaces and are still looking for the right fit for your business, you may want to look into some smaller, newer, or more unique options.
Here are some of the most compelling niche and emerging marketplace platforms to consider as you scale your business.
7 Niche Marketplaces To Boost Sales in 2024
- MakerPlace by Michaels
Why Sell On Niche Marketplaces?
Taking advantage of niche and emerging marketplaces can be a simple, cost-effective way to expand into new sales channels and grow your reach. Niche marketplaces often have lower fees and less competition, helping you reach your target audience without a large capital investment.
Types Of Marketplaces
Multi-vendor marketplaces usually fall into two categories: vertical and horizontal.
A horizontal marketplace caters to a wide range of product categories, but might have a more specific user demographic (Gen Z shoppers, B2B buyers, conscious consumers, etc.). The main advantage of horizontal marketplaces is they tend to be lower in cost, with less competition than their more established counterparts.
A vertical marketplace deals in one product category or a much smaller group of categories, like electronics, home furnishings, or outdoor supplies. Their primary advantage is that shoppers are actively looking for specific products and are highly motivated to purchase.
What Are The Advantages Of Selling On Niche Marketplaces?
Here are some of the key benefits of diversifying your sales, with the help of both types of niche and emerging online marketplaces:
- Access to your target audience: Specialized marketplaces help you meet specific needs, sell specific products, or reach specific demographics.
- More credibility: Niche sites often vet sellers more carefully, with rigorous application processes and verification procedures.
- Better visibility: Unlike running your own site or competing with sellers on high-traffic marketplaces, visibility on niche marketplaces often comes organically through the platform’s efforts to increase its customer base.
- Less competition: With fewer sellers than the big-name marketplaces, you don’t need to spend big on sponsored ads to stand out.
- Potentially lower fees: Many niche marketplaces are more affordable for sellers, with low or no fee for product listings.
- Fewer rules: Niche marketplaces can be less demanding when it comes to rules and requirements for keeping your listings active.
- Customer experience: Depending on the marketplace, you may be able to offer personalized or curated brand interactions not yet seen on high volume channels.
- Sense of community: Some small and niche marketplaces have strong social media followings and a base of loyal fans that could help take your brand viral.
7 Niche Marketplaces To Boost Sales In 2024
The list of niche and emerging marketplaces is extensive and growing. To help narrow down your options, here are some of the top niche marketplaces that might be worth your time.
With over 80 million registered users, Poshmark is well-known for its apparel, accessories, and home decor deals. Many individual sellers use it to re-sell products, but it’s also home to a host of professional brands and businesses.
- Successful sellers say it’s easy to grow a following and boost visibility, due to the built-in social features and community engagement both on and off the platform.
- Poshmark doesn’t accept returns except in extreme cases, namely when a buyer claims the seller has misrepresented a product. Poshmark sellers can save on returns processing, logistics, and customer service.
- Poshmark is especially thrift- and used-item friendly, so some sellers use it to earn a profit on returned items that can’t be re-sold on conventional marketplaces.
- Though Poshmark’s fee structure is simple and listing is completely free, the site charges high commissions: $2.95 for items under $15 and 20% for everything else.
- The company has recently decided to scale back, closing shop in the UK, Australia, and India — which could be a sign of tougher times to come. (On the other hand, its recent acquisition by Naver could signal stability for US-based sellers.)
- Shipping options are limited and the buyer always pays.
Successful Poshmark sellers can capitalize on the site’s social features, making daily updates and “sharing” items to gain more views and follows. All of this can be done via a mobile app, so if you already have a social-savvy person on your staff, Poshmark can easily bring you more sales.
Many sellers considering Poshmark turn to Mercari as an alternative. Its customer base is smaller, with only around 20 million users, but this is also reflected in its low fees.
- Listings are free and transaction fees are much lower than other marketplaces at 10% per transaction, plus a variable 3% payment processing fee. Low-cost, weight-based shipping options also make it easier to save.
- Users can opt for “Instant Pay,” which lets them receive their funds in minutes, almost as soon as a buyer pays for their item.
- Recent releases, like beta-testing a ChatGPT-based AI search bot and offering ultrafast local delivery with Uber and Dolly, show promising growth potential.
- Sellers have complained of slow sales, especially compared to Poshmark and eBay.
- Some sellers report increased challenges with buyer scams and poor support from Mercari, despite robust seller protections.
- While there are many shipping options, figuring out the most cost-effective choice for your products may require some careful math.
When used in conjunction with other similar marketplaces, Mercari may be a low cost way to boost sales for sellers of pre-loved goods. Pay close attention to your marketing strategy and shipping to make it worthwhile.
Acquired by Etsy in a $1.62 billion dollar deal, Gen Z resale hub Depop has kept its own domain and retained its hip aesthetic — and around 30 million users. But the platform isn’t just useful for one-time unique thrift finds; it’s open to growing sellers across all categories.
With a built-in global audience and low fees, Depop can be a relatively low-cost/high-ROI channel for certain sellers.
- Depop has users in the US, UK, and Australia, making it an easy place for small businesses and growing brands to test the waters of international expansion.
- Sellers can choose their preferred carrier or ship with Depop, purchasing shipping labels through its platform.
- After relying solely on PayPal for years, the platform is planning to introduce new payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and credit/debit cards.
- While fees are much lower than on some other platforms, at 10% on every sale, Depop includes the cost of shipping in the “total transaction amount.” Because Depop is UK-based with a global audience, those shipping costs can be high. On top of that, there’s a standard PayPal or Depop Payments fee of 3% or more on every transaction.
- Customer service reviews aren’t great, which can have a negative impact on your brand reputation. Some users complain of poor buyer protections and more scammers than seen on similar marketplaces.
Some users complain of random, unexplained account suspension or deactivation, with some saying they’ve been flagged for things like using the word “PayPal” in a message to a customer.
For sellers whose target demographic barks, meows, or chirps, you can’t get more visible or credible than Chewy. Robust brand loyalty, reputation, and a built-in customer base make the site an ideal marketplace for sellers of pet toys, food, and anything else furry-friend related.
- Chewy’s above-and-beyond acts of customer service have repeatedly caused the company to go viral. Chewy is beloved by users and that customer loyalty is bound to have a positive effect on your business.
- Registering as a Chewy vendor is fast and all you need is an email address. Chewy will review your products and send you its trade terms.
- Chewy’s subscription-based model could mean steady, consistent sales.
- Chewy is less transparent about fee structures and other seller terms. Commissions, shipping terms, and the quantity of each SKU you can list may vary considerably.
- The platform requires vendors to have a certificate of insurance that meets certain requirements.
- Chewy’s revenue has been declining, along with its user base. Its recent deal with CommerceHub may also mean increased competition from other brand and sellers.
Chewy sits somewhere between a marketplace and traditional retailer, but if the niche fits, it’s probably the best bang you can get for your bark — err, buck.
For sellers who deal in furniture, home decor, lighting, art, and vintage items, Chairish is a strong contender — especially for larger, high-end items. If you have a variety of unique products that fit the site’s criteria for listing, you may find Chairish a convenient, seller-friendly option.
- Listing is free and sellers have total control over their pricing. Chairish doesn’t delist items, so you can leave them up for as long as you like. You also have the option to let customers negotiate prices.
- You don’t have to worry about optimizing your listings for search visibility, since Chairish takes care of reviewing listings and SEO keywords. It’s easy for customers to find you, and since it intentionally avoids selling too many similar items, there’s less competition.
- Sellers can choose from a variety of shipping options, including drop-shipping and white glove in-home delivery. According to one Reddit user, “Some guys come to my shop, pick up a dresser, and then I just sit back and wait to get paid.”
- The site charges a tiered commission on every item, which can be up to 40%, depending on the type of item and your seller plan. High-volume sellers are eligible for sliding scale plans, with lower rates on high-ticket items over $2,500.
- Chairish’s production team reviews, edits, and optimizes every product listing, which means it can take up to 3-5 days for a new product to appear on the site. They may reject listings at their discretion and some sellers complain that this happens too frequently.
- There have been shopper complaints around poor customer service and shipping/delivery issues.
Chairish’s commission-based model means the site has almost as much to gain from your sales as you do. They aim to make things simple for the seller, but you’ll need to be selective about which products you list in order to preserve your ROI.
Currently the largest livestream shopping platform in the US, Whatnot’s valuation doubled to $3.7 billion last year when it raised $260 million in a Series D round. It also ranked ninth on Andreessen Horowitz’s list of top 100 marketplaces for 2023. So why haven’t you heard of it? Because livestream shopping has yet to see its big moment in the US.
- At just 8% per transaction, commissions are incredibly reasonable compared to other niche marketplaces in similar categories.
- There still aren’t many sellers on the platform, which means less competition for your brand and high earning potential. Whatnot says more than 100 of its sellers have exceeded $1 million in sales.
- With backing from high-profile investors like Y Combinator, Andreesen Horowitz, and Steve Aoki, nabbing a spot on Whatnot could help your brand gain the right kind of attention.
- Sellers must go through a comprehensive application process, where only about half of all applications get approved.
- Livestream video production can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. If viewership or sales are low, you’ve lost your one shot at ROI.
- Despite its success in other markets, there’s no guarantee livestream shopping will take off in the US. If you’re a US-based seller, landing a spot on the platform could win you a big visibility boost, but it’s still not clear if the investment will deliver profits long-term.
Livestream shopping can be a risky investment, but Whatnot seems better poised than others to succeed. The buzz could translate to major profits for sellers willing to take the chance.
7. MakerPlace by Michaels
Brick-and-mortar arts and crafts powerhouse Michaels recently announced the launch of MakerPlace by Michaels, an artisan marketplace to rival Etsy. Michaels says there are already “hundreds of thousands of SKUs” on the platform. But is it right for you?
- Individual product listings are free and referral fees are very low at 2-4% per sale (plus a 3% transaction fee) depending on membership tier. There is a monthly or annual membership fee, currently only $110 per year for the highest level.
- Michaels already has a tremendous following, with millions of customers and billions in revenue. MakerPlace is linked directly from the main Michaels.com domain.
- MakerPlace is designed to integrate with Shopify, so if you’re already a Shopify seller, moving over to MakerPlace will likely be a straightforward process.
- Despite earlier promises not to charge, one source says MakerPlace has recently decided to start charging an integration fee for Shopify, which could signal increased fees to come.
- Michaels will not be accepting MakerPlace returns in its stores, but that doesn’t mean customers won’t try it anyway. This and other usability glitches could make for an unpleasant user experience and increased customer service issues for your business.
- MakerPlace says they’ll pay sellers “no later than nine days following the close of each fourteen-day period,” meaning it could take over three weeks to see funds after a sale.
A marketplace this new is always a risk, but with Michaels history and reputation, it could be a strong alternative to other crafty contenders like Etsy.
Dominate Your Niche This Year
When you’re ready to branch out and experiment with new markets, the right emerging marketplace can help make it happen. Take the time to research and carefully weigh your options to ensure a profitable expansion.