The average Brit spends £3,041 a year online – more than the average total amount spent by American and Chinese consumers. With over 62 million active monthly internet users, the UK ranks third globally when comparing online sales to GDP. Last year, UK e-commerce retail sales totaled $180 billion – that's 6.7% of the UK's total GDP of $2.7 trillion.
Britain has a sophisticated digital infrastructure and a staggering amount of selling potential for those looking to find the best e-commerce platform for a small business. British consumers drive a lot of traffic to global e-commerce stalwarts like Amazon and eBay and are very used to placing trust in international brands. However, Brits also drive a lot of revenue towards smaller, more localised marketplaces, like Etsy and Aviarto – which attract a lot of talented artisan sellers.
Read on as we run through some of the best e-commerce platforms the UK has to offer...
Amazon's UK site attracts an average of over 400 million views per month. In a population of only 67 million, that's a staggering number of visits from UK customers. The sheer amount of UK Amazon traffic makes it the top website for online sellers looking to break into the British market.
Amazon operates in 180+ countries and sells pretty much every product you could imagine – from books and home appliances to wigs for your pet dog.
You can find out more about getting set up with Amazon in this seller’s guide. In summary, you need to provide your business details (including VAT number) and ID. Next, you need to meet the packaging requirements for shipping your products to your local Amazon warehouse, and finally, you need to input clear product descriptions and photos.
Amazon seller charges vary. For merchants, it costs approximately £25 a month to list products, as well as a flat fee of 75p for every item sold. Amazon also takes a referral commission fee of around 15% (depending on the item). And if you use Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), the site charges for storage and shipping – depending on your products' stock levels and size dimensions.
eBay is the second heaviest hitter in the UK e-commerce landscape, attracting over 24 million site visits a month. It operates in over 20 countries, and it is most well-known for allowing casual sellers to sell one-of-a-kind items in an online auction format.
However, business e-commerce sellers can also list their goods at set price points. eBay, like Amazon, also offers a click and collect service – making it super convenient for UK customers to place an order and collect their goods from a secure pick-up point.
The site also has the advantage of offering lower merchant fees of around 15% of your total eBay sales. In 2020, eBay raised the limit on its free listing service. So, if you are looking to test UK demand for certain products, eBay may be the right marketplace for you.
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Etsy lags behind its competitors (eBay and Amazon) in global sales, but it still attracts over 36 million UK visitors a month. Known as a marketplace for casual sellers, many people rate Etsy as the best e-commerce platform for small businesses that specialise in artisanal goods. On Etsy, you can find clothes (both new and vintage), art, homewares, toys, craft supplies, mobile accessories, and much more.
One of the advantages of selling on Etsy is that it attracts customers who specifically want to buy from small businesses rather than more prominent brands. So, it is the ideal platform to try if you are just starting out in e-commerce. The Etsy app has a great recommendation algorithm and allows customers to message sellers if they have any questions about their products.
To list on Etsy, you pay a 15p listing fee per item, plus a 5% payment processing fee. Further, if you use their onsite and off-site advertising service, they will charge you a 15% commission fee on any sales made through their ads.
Founded in the UK in 2014, OnBuy aims to level the playing field for independent sellers – whether they’re a big international brand or a family-run business. All merchants on the platform use the same tools to list and promote their goods in the marketplace. This democratic approach to online selling makes OnBuy arguably the best e-commerce platform for small business owners.
OnBuy is also rapidly expanding. Currently, the site has 8 million customers. But, with 600% growth year on year, by the end of 2023, OnBuy aims to launch in the US, Canada, Singapore, India, and Nigeria.
OnBuy lists over 35 million products in over 17 categories, including electronics, home, garden, fitness, pet care, entertainment, and more. If you are a seller looking to host on the platform, you can enjoy ultra-low fees of 9% commission on products sold and no listing fees. A flat-rate subscription package for sellers starts from £19 +VAT per month, and you collect the sales funds directly to your PayPal account.
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