The different types of online sellers

Setting the scene


GS1 is a global standards organisation, bringing members together to transform the way they work and serve their customers through the power of open, global standards. The UK arm of this global organisation is a community of more than 32,000 members and a significant number of these businesses are SMEs.


In 2016/17, 67% of GS1 UK’s members joined to trade on marketplaces and overall, 9,000 members have indicated they use online marketplaces to trade their products – using GS1 product identifiers.

To better understand the needs of these companies that sell online via marketplaces and how GS1 UK could better serve them, be it through standards or services, GS1 UK carried out market research.


Conducted by White Space, an independent strategy consultancy firm, the research combined primary research, analysis and consultancy methodologies to better understand businesses selling
products via online marketplaces.


The findings paint an interesting picture and reveal some key trends, illustrating why businesses use online marketplaces, the challenges they face and their different approaches to incorporating third party platforms into their business strategies.

What was discovered is that there are many reasons and factors driving why and how businesses use online marketplaces to sell their products including motivation, focus and access to international markets.


The research clearly illustrates that different businesses use online marketplaces in different ways and for different reasons. These businesses range from those who dabble into online sales simply as a hobby all the way up to larger businesses who use online marketplaces to access international markets. The research found that marketplace sellers broadly fall into six categories or profiles based largely upon their scale and complexity


What type of seller are you?



Typically, Creatives need to seek out how-to advice on using marketplaces and listing items. They require guidance on marketplace regulations and barcoding. By focusing on producing targeted content and formatting they can drive more traffic to listings.

  • Usually new to marketplaces/online selling
  • Turned their own hobby or passion into a business
  • Operate a manual sale-by-sale strategy
  • Tend to focus on a single marketplace
  • Products are typically second-hand or handmade
  • Operate out of their own home
  • Business maybe a side project or second source of income for them



Many Traders need to work on their back-end process optimisation. They can grow their business by increasing efficiency, typically by trialling automatic listing software for marketplace platforms. High volume sales strategies could lead to investment in digitised stock management solutions. And as their product range expands they should seek out further advice on how marketplaces differ in terms of pros cons, fees and requirements.

  • Spotted an opportunity to make money quickly and easily
  • Source lower cost products from aboard at high volumes
  • Sell through multiple online marketplaces, rather than their own website
  • Online marketplaces are their primary channel
  • Traders have an eye for the latest product trends and crazes, which they buy in bulk and sell fast
  • Brand identity is not a priority l Actively monitor product success on different marketplaces



To be successful Innovators need to concentrate on channel integration and their marketing and sales. They need to focus on how best to build their brand and developing their seller profile. They should also prioritise linking marketplace profiles to their own website and integrating sales and product stock updates.

  • Focused on building a brand
  • Started out online and looking to increase awareness
  • Typically target niche markets
  • Adopt a ‘start-up’ culture and trade through their own website to develop their brand
  • Focus on a niche idea or a smaller range of products, often invented by them
  • Employ a small team with the same mind set
  • Committed to deliver their vision and take the business forward



Growers need advice on how to most effectively use marketplaces alongside physical channels and integrating offline stock management with new online sales. Growers might also look to invest more time and effort on how best to improve data collection to review and compare online and offline sales.

  • Typically started offline, like a family run business and recognised the need for change in order to reinvigorate their business
  • Focused on growing their use and sales through online marketplaces
  • Use online marketplaces to reach new customers and test the e-commerce waters
  • Their brand is important to them and they will develop their own website



To get the most out of marketplaces, Pioneers should invest time and resources into automated solutions that reduce cost. They also need to give more focus on marketing and sales, leveraging brand awareness and maintaining brand appeal

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