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Unlocking the Power of Online Marketplaces: Business Models Tactics and Metrics

Online Marketplaces: Definition and Types

Online marketplaces are virtual platforms that bring buyers and sellers together to facilitate transactions. These marketplaces allow sellers to advertise their products and services, and buyers to browse through a range of products to find what they need.

They function as market intermediaries, providing a secure and efficient platform that guarantees the quality and delivery of products. There are two primary types of online marketplaces: horizontal and vertical marketplaces.

The distinction between the two lies in the range of products or services they offer to buyers. In a horizontal marketplace, the platform offers a wide range of categories, from electronics to fashion to home goods.

In contrast, a vertical marketplace focuses on one category, such as furniture or books.

Horizontal and Vertical Marketplaces

Horizontal marketplaces attract a diverse range of sellers and buyers and offer a broad range of products, making them attractive for shoppers looking for variety. Amazon and eBay are prime examples of horizontal marketplaces.

On the other hand, vertical marketplaces cater to a niche or specific category, and they attract customers who are looking for specialty products. Vertical marketplaces offer an immersive shopping experience, as buyers can be confident in purchasing a product from experienced sellers who are experts in their field.

For example, Etsy is a vertical marketplace that focuses on handmade and unique items.

Chicken and Egg Problem of Marketplaces

The chicken and egg problem is a well-known challenge of online marketplaces. It arises when a marketplace has to attract buyers and sellers simultaneously.

Sellers are hesitant to join a new marketplace with no buyers, while buyers will not join a marketplace with no products or sellers. This presents a difficult problem in attracting the first critical mass of users, also called the value creation stage.

Tactics to Attract Buyers and Sellers

To overcome the chicken and egg problem, online marketplaces have adopted various tactics, including the following:

1. Monetary Incentives – Sellers may be offered financial incentives like cash bonuses, discounted listing fees, or reduced commissions to motivate them to join the platform.

2. Act as a Producer – Some online marketplaces take on the role of producer by creating their products for sale on the platform to attract buyers.

3. Appealing Mission – An online marketplace with an appealing mission statement can inspire potential users to become part of the platform.

4. Simplicity – An easily navigable platform that is user-friendly can mitigate initial hesitations and attract buyers and sellers.

5. Dedicated seller programs A dedicated seller program may offer training, technical support, faster payouts, and other benefits to its sellers, making the platform more attractive to them.


Online marketplaces are a powerful tool for buyers and sellers alike. They provide a platform for sellers to expand their reach and increase sales while offering buyers a selection of products at competitive prices.

Understanding the different types of online marketplaces and the challenges they face can help you as a user find the best marketplace for selling or buying your products. Moreover, being aware of the tactics used by marketplaces to overcome the chicken and egg problem can help you appreciate the intricate mechanisms that make these platforms successful.

Marketplace Business Model Examples: Pros and


A marketplace business model is a platform that connects buyers and sellers and facilitates transactions between them. These platforms usually charge fees or commissions to generate revenue.

The popularity of online marketplaces continues to grow as new startups emerge in different industries. Understanding the various marketplace business model examples and their pros and cons is crucial for entrepreneurs to develop the right strategy when planning their own marketplace.

Commission Model

The commission model is the most common business model used by most marketplaces today. It involves charging a commission on verified transactions that take place on the platform.

The commission can be fixed, variable, or a combination of both. Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Airbnb use this model.

One of the main advantages of this model is that marketplaces get a share of each transaction, regardless of the product’s price. The commission enables marketplaces to maintain and improve their platform’s transactional infrastructure, ensuring a seamless transaction experience.

The downside is that it can be costly and discouraging to sellers who may prefer other pricing structures.

Subscription Model

The subscription model involves charging sellers or buyers a recurring fee, usually on a monthly or annual basis. Platforms that fall under this category include LinkedIn and its B2B solutions.

LinkedIn Premium offers varying degrees of access to premium content and analytics for recruiters, job seekers, and businesses. The subscription-based business model provides a predictable, steady stream of revenue.

This model is also attractive to users since it provides access to premium features they may not have had otherwise. However, while the model provides consistent revenue, its success relies on retaining a loyal user base, a task that can be challenging in a competitive market.

Freemium Model

The freemium model allows users to sign up and use the core features of the platform for free. However, additional features and premium subscriptions are often available at a cost.

Unsplash is an example of a marketplace that uses the freemium model. The platform allows users to download high-resolution photos free of charge.

Still, it also offers paid features like custom branding, team collaboration, and collections. The main advantage of the freemium model is attracting a large user base since users can sign up and use the core features at no cost.

Besides, users usually have a clear idea of what they can get for free before committing to premium features. However, the challenge comes in convincing users to upgrade to premium features and avoid relying on the free version only.

Listing Model

The listing model involves charging a fee for each item or service listed on the platform. It works best with high-ticket items where the commission-based model would be too expensive.

The model is often used by Craigslist and eBay Classifieds to drive traffic to the platform. One of the listing model’s advantages is that it encourages large companies and individual sellers to sell high-ticket items, which ultimately leads to more revenues.

However, its downside is that it doesn’t incentivize sellers to sell more and make higher profits.

Featured Ad Placement

The featured ad placement model allows sellers or businesses to pay a fee for prime real estate on the platform asset. It is common in marketplaces such as eBay.

Featured ads are displayed in more visible positions, usually with pinned items, making them more noticeable to buyers. The advantage of the featured ad placement model is that it offers sellers a competitive edge over others by increasing their visibility and ultimately leading to more sales.

However, it can generate revenue for businesses but bring uncertainty for users, as the most visible items are not always the best deals.

Pros and

Cons of Marketplace Models


One of the most significant advantages of a marketplace business model is the network effects. As more users join the platform, it becomes more valuable to all users.

This can lead to a defensible position in the market. Successful marketplaces can create a pricing monopoly, raise competitors’ entry barriers, and allow marketplaces to capture higher margins.

Marketplaces provide high user engagement, leading to high user acquisition and retention. The model also generates transactional data, which can lead to more monetization opportunities for the platform.


One significant disadvantage of the marketplace business model is the high setup costs. These include the marketing costs of acquiring the first critical mass of users, building the technology, and ensuring compliance with regulations.

Marketplaces also depend on other platforms, like search engines, to gain visibility, making them vulnerable to sudden changes in algorithms. Competition can be intense, leading to a struggle for both users and sellers seeking a successful marketplace.

Finally, the quality of sellers on the platform can vary, and spam and low-quality inventory can lead to network pollution.


The marketplace business model is undoubtedly the most dominant business model in the online ecosystem today. Nevertheless, it is relatively complex and can involve different types of models.

This article has highlighted some of the primary marketplace business models and their pros and cons. Understanding these models can help entrepreneurs develop the right model for their platform or make a strategic decision when joining existing marketplaces.

Marketplace Metrics & KPIs: Understanding Key Performance Indicators

Online marketplaces offer platforms that enable buyers and sellers to connect and facilitate transactions. Marketplaces rely on a variety of metrics to measure their performance, such as

Gross Merchandise Value (GMV), Rake or Take Rate,

Net Revenue,

Average Order Value (AOV), Gross & Contribution Margin,


Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC),

Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR), and

Net Promoter Score (NPS).

These metrics help measure and optimize the platform’s performance.

Gross Merchandise Value (GMV)

GMV tracks the total sales generated by the platform. It is calculated by adding the total transaction value of all products sold on the platform.

Gross merchandise value is a critical metric for marketplaces because it helps determine the revenue the platform makes.

Rake (Take Rate)

The rake or take rate represents the percentage of commission and fees charged by the platform on total sales. Rake is a critical metric for marketplaces such as Fiverr and eBay because it helps determine the platform’s revenue.

For example, if the take rate is eight percent, and the GMV is $1 million, the platform would earn $80,000 in commission.

Net Revenue

Net revenue represents the revenue generated by the platform after deducting the cost of customer acquisition and other expenses, such as employee wages, server maintenance, etc. Net revenue is a crucial metric for investors as it gives them an idea of the overall profitability of the business.

Average Order Value (AOV)

The average order value represents the average transaction value of each order on the platform. Measuring the AOV is important for marketplaces as it measures the overall value of a transaction in comparison to the competition.

Higher AOVs suggest that the platform is attracting high-value customers. Gross & Contribution Margin

Gross margin is the difference between the revenue generated by the platform and the costs required to obtain that revenue, including customer acquisition costs.

Contribution margin represents the difference between the revenue generated by the platform and the variable costs, such as shipping and handling fees, paid to fulfill orders. These margins help determine how profitable the platform is.


Liquidity measures the ability of the marketplace to provide a market for sellers to sell their products and for buyers to buy them. Higher liquidity means more listings, more purchases, and returns, and more geographic diversity.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC measures the total cost of acquiring a new customer. CAC is an indication of how much money the platform needs to spend on marketing and sales to acquire new customers.

CAC is an essential metric for marketplaces, especially as they seek to expand their user base.

Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR)

RPR measures the percentage of customers who return and make additional purchases on the platform. It helps determine how effective the platform is at retaining its existing customer base.

It also helps identify cost-effective marketing strategies.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net promoter score is the probability of a customer recommending the platform to others. NPS measures the customer satisfaction and loyalty to the platform.

It helps determine the likelihood of customers promoting the platform among their friends and colleagues.


Key performance indicators are essential for online marketplaces in tracking the platforms’ performance and growth. Understanding marketplace metrics like

Gross Merchandise Value (GMV),

Rake (Take Rate),

Net Revenue,

Average Order Value (AOV), Gross & Contribution Margin,


Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC),

Repeat Purchase Rate (RPR), and

Net Promoter Score (NPS) can help both startups and established marketplaces take the correct actions to optimize growth and profitability.

By tracking KPIs, marketplaces can identify areas of strength and weakness, make informed decisions, and drive long-term success. In conclusion, understanding marketplace business models, metrics, and key performance indicators is crucial for the success and optimization of online marketplaces.

By exploring various business model examples, such as the commission, subscription, freemium, listing, and featured ad placement models, entrepreneurs can determine the most effective approach for their platform. Additionally, monitoring and analyzing metrics like GMV, rake, net revenue, AOV, gross and contribution margin, liquidity, CAC, RPR, and NPS offer valuable insights into a marketplace’s performance and growth potential.

By leveraging these metrics, marketplaces can make informed decisions, drive profitability, and enhance the user experience. Overall, mastering these concepts is essential in the highly competitive marketplace landscape, helping businesses stand out, attract users, and foster long-term success.

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