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The future of online marketplaces

Sanjay Nand
17 Jan 2023

This blog explores how more retailers will use ever-evolving marketplaces to bolster sales, connect buyers with sellers and offer services not previously possible. And, also how retailers will use next generation marketplaces to create value and new assets while driving sales for buyers and sellers alike.

In the booming world of retail, online marketplaces have become a force to be reckoned with. In the region of 67% of global eCommerce sales come from marketplaces with $3.23T spent on the top 100 online marketplaces globally in 2021.

For those unfamiliar, marketplaces are a type of e-commerce site that connects customers to multiple retailers, all in one place. Most major online retailers have their own, often curated marketplace where shoppers can browse a range of products from different (usually independent) sellers without having to hunt across individual web stores. While eBay and Etsy are perfect examples of an online marketplace in its purest form, the likes of Amazon and Asos, who have their own inventory, have also taken advantage of hosting a curated marketplace to run alongside their own offerings.

But what’s the real benefit? Because online marketplaces don’t have to own the inventory before offering it to consumers, they can connect buyers and sellers with a much broader assortment of products, some of which can be more niche or specialist. It’s their convenient nature that’s meant marketplaces have quickly become a consumer favourite and consequently, have exploded. But as this growth continues, what can we expect to come next?

Here are our predictions of what we’re likely to see from the world of online marketplaces in the year ahead according to Sanjay Nand, Capgemini’s Head of Innovation & Ventures.

More brands creating their own marketplaces

As marketplaces prove increasingly popular, we’re only going to see more brands – big and small, old and new – launching their own marketplaces as a way to drive traffic. Take, for example, how Macy’s recently launched its own marketplace in a bid to add value to its online offering and drive clicks it wouldn’t have originally had. According to reports, the US department store giant is going in strong, and will add up to 400 brands to its arsenal through the addition of the marketplace, enabling its customers to explore niches that Macys couldn’t have offered previously.

In a similar vein, the UK’s biggest health and beauty store Boots is due to launch its own online marketplace in Spring 2023, connecting its current customers to a host of boutique brands. It’s clear there’s a real drive for niche interests at present and online marketplaces are enabling buyers and sellers to connect over this without the need for additional physical real estate.

A greater focus on sustainability

Sustainability has become a major focus for all industries of late, so it’s only natural we’re seeing this reflected in the world of the online marketplace, too, demonstrating the growing consumer demand for products and services to be as eco-friendly as possible.

Currently, platforms such as DoneGood, which will only list services that tick a certain ‘green’ criteria, and apps like TooGoodToGo — a European service that connects customers to restaurants and stores where they can buy have surplus unsold food at a discounted rate — are leading by example.

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Expect this trend to continue over the coming years, with new platforms offering a dedicated focus on sustainability and more green options becoming part of already well-established platforms, as standard.

New types of marketplaces coming

Non-fungible tokens or “NFTs” have become a major buzzword in the last few years and while they fit their place within the world it’s safe to say they’re set to make an impact but in what form exactly and to what scale, the jury is still out. One way we will see this unfold is in the textbook market. The chief executive of textbook publisher Pearson, for example, recently said it plans to profit from second-hand sales by turning its titles into NFTs. This would allow the company to track the ownership of a book even when it changes hands – questions around the morals of this start to raise rapidly.

One blockchain-driven marketplace called SingularityNET allows developers to publish and monetise their AI algorithms easily thanks to a public API and decentralised system. However, the biggest player in this space is AWS, a huge AI marketplace where algorithms can be purchased to allow easier creation of things like real-time voice cloning through to image capturing.

Generative AI is reinventing the game altogether; buying cognition

Generative Artificial intelligence (AI) is another innovation defining the future of the marketplace, and in more ways than one. The biggest trend we’re likely to see in this world is the democratisation of AI, where new platforms will enable anyone, even those with very limited experience, to take better advantage of AI algorithm services.

Generative AI is enabling the creation of images, videos, scripts, websites and much more with nothing more than a few prompts.

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Looking to create a custom image and not looking to go to an illustration marketplace or Fiverr? No problem, simply visit an image generator platform such as DALL·E 2, type in your prompts and you’ll be presented a photo realistic image without even a brush stroke required from the user.

Looking to create personalised video to help increase your recruit efforts, simply record one video using Tavus and it will automatically create rich, highly personalised videos to be sent to future recruits – giving a personal touch in seconds.

And finally, if you’re looking to give your development team a leg up, why not pair them up with a AI programmer in the form of GitHub CoPulot, which uses the OpenAI Codex to suggest code and entire functions in real-time. It’s autocomplete for developers.

Further down the rabbit hole, we’re seeing the development of marketplaces for these gernerative AI platforms like PromptBase, which help users figure out what the best keywords or “prompts” are to create better, more suited results from the AI image generators. This means less money might then be spent on paying these platforms to generate images that don’t quite hit the mark, while also helping you to reduce thinking time and time to market.

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This reduction in cognitive need is where marketplaces are going, essentially, allowing you to “buy” thinking and make life easier.

While it may feel we’re at the peak of customer marketplaces serving almost any needs, it’s safe to say – thanks to key advances in AI and a drive for democratisation of services – we’re only at the beginning of what will be the next evolution of marketplaces.

Sanjay Nand

Head of Innovation & Ventures at Capgemini UK
Sanjay leads Innovation & Venturing within our Applied Innovation Exchange in London. He has a passion for solving complex problems and leveraging emerging technology and start-ups as catalyst for success.