The leading online retail websites in the world by revenue

Matthew Keogh

Jan 13, 2021

We live in the digital age.

While our grandparents pushed a trolley, we scroll and swipe our way down the shopping aisle.

But out of all our favourite online retail websites in the world, which bring in the most revenue? 

We’ll compare these e-commerce behemoths by revenue, as well as Google search volume and number of employees. We’ll also compare two of the biggest players in the space – Amazon and Alibaba Group.

Methodology

We define an online retail website as an internet-based retailer that sells physical goods exclusively or predominately online in a range of product categories. Therefore, digital online retail companies like Netflix and technology companies like Apple don’t meet the criteria. The company must also have started out as an online retailer; therefore, we excluded companies like Walmart, Target and Suning.com who later diversified into online sales.

We’ve pooled the top ten online retail websites from the 2019 Fortune.com ‘Fortune Global 500’ list. We’ve sourced the revenue data from the 2019 annual report of each company.

Revenue is defined as income from normal business activities. It’s also often referred to as sales or turnover.

 

 

Click on the companies below to see more information.

Amazon

2019 revenue: USD$280.5 billion1

Headquarters: Seattle, Washington, United States
Global reach: 100+ countries, primarily North America

Amazon is the largest (and most popular) online retailer in the world by revenue.

In 1994, Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online book marketplace.2 Today, Amazon sells over 12 million products (not including media, like books or their streaming service); including electronics, household items and more. Known for their innovation, extensive product range, fast delivery and easy-to-use website, Amazon employs nearly 1 million people in 45 countries. According to their website, Amazon’s mission is to help customers ‘discover anything they might want to buy online.’

JD.com

2019 revenue: USD$82.9 billion3

Headquarters: Beijing, China
Global reach: 105 countries, primarily China

JD.com is the largest Chinese online retailer in the world by revenue.

JD.com was founded in 1998 by Liu Qiangdong.4 Originally called Jingdong, then 360buy.com, they changed the domain name to JD.com in 2013. The largest Chinese online retailer by revenue, JD.com has a similar business model and strategy to Amazon in that they both re-sell products under their brand name and deliver via their own network. JD.com sells a range of products in the retail category and, like Amazon, espouses a ‘customer-first approach’ (e.g. wide selection, quality products, fast delivery, easy returns).

Alibaba Group

2019 revenue: Alibaba Group USD$56 billion5

Headquarters: Hangzhou, China
Global reach: 100+ countries, primarily China

Alibaba Group’s highest revenue earning websites include Alibaba.com, Taobao.com and Tmall.com.

Alibaba.com is an online marketplace where businesses can sell their products directly to other businesses. Over the last 20 years, the Alibaba Group has expanded into banking, technology, Artificial Intelligence and other areas of the online retail market. Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999 with a group of 18 friends from his apartment in China.6

Launched in 2008, Tmall is a subsidiary of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba Group. Formerly called Taobao Mall until 2011, Tmall is a B2C platform in the same vein as Amazon, where consumers can buy products from their brand (Tmall) and other brands.7

Founded in 2003, Taobao is a C2C marketplace like eBay in the United States where consumers can buy products (from other consumers) for a fixed price or via auction.8 Both Taobao and Tmall are based in Nanjing, China. Alibaba Group also have Aliexpress.com, the B2B arm of their set-up.

Vipshop

2019 revenue: USD$13.6 billion9

Headquarters: Guangzhou, China
Global reach: 11 countries throughout Asia

Vipshop or Vip.com is a Chinese online retail website.10 Founded by Eric Ya Shen and Arthur Xiaobo Hong in 2008, Vip.com partners with a range of brands, offering consumer products like clothes, sporting goods, cosmetics and home and lifestyle items. Known for their special offers and discounts, Vip.com has risen from USD$2.73 billion revenue in 2016 to USD$13.6 billion in 2019.

Rakuten

2019 revenue: USD$11.63 billion11

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan
Global reach: 70+ countries, primarily Japan

In 1997, Hiroshi Mikitani founded an online retail website called MDM. A short time later, he changed the name to Rakuten, the Japanese word for optimism.12 Rakuten recently signed multi-year sponsorship deals with the American NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, and Spanish football team, Barcelona FC, as their official uniform sponsor.

eBay

2019 revenue: USD $10.8 billion13

Headquarters: San Jose, California, United States
Global reach: 100+ countries, primarily North America

American software engineer Pierre Omidyar founded eBay in 1995. A C2C online retail website, eBay has an auction-style sales model with a ‘buy it now’ option.14 Most of eBay’s traffic comes from the United States, and the bulk of their top-selling products fall under the electronics and accessories category.

In the 2000s, eBay was so ingrained in western culture that ‘sell it on eBay’ became a common phrase.

Wayfair

2019 revenue: USD $9.1 billion15

Headquarters: Boston, United States
Global reach: North America and selected European countries

Wayfair is an American online retail company – based in Boston – that sells mostly furniture and home goods to online consumers. Founded in 2002, Wayfair was originally called CSN Stores until 2011.16

Although most of their business is in the United States, Wayfair also operates in Canada and European countries like the UK, Ireland and Germany. Furthermore, Wayfair owns a range of other retail websites like Birch Lane.

Zalando

2019 revenue:

Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
Global reach: 17 countries throughout Europe, primarily Germany

Zalando was founded by Rocket Internet in 2008.

Based on the same business model as Zappos.com in the US (selling shoes online), Zalando expanded its offering to a range of consumer products, including clothes and cosmetics.  Zalando is exclusively European and only currently available in  countries like the UK, Italy, Spain, Ireland and France.

Over the last nine years (2011-2019), Zalando has experienced at least 20% revenue growth year on year.18

FlipKart.com

2019 revenue: USD$6.1 billion24

Headquarters: Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Global reach: 100+ countries, primarily India

FlipKart is an online retail website that offers a range of products, primarily books, movies, electronics and consumer products. It was founded by two Indian technology entrepreneurs, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (no relation). Interestingly, the two men worked for Amazon in 2007 before creating FlipKart in 2008.

American retail giant Walmart acquired FlipKart (77%) in 2018 for 16 billion. As of 2020, they hold an 81% majority stake.25

Wildberries.com

2019 revenue: USD$3.2 billion23

Headquarters: Moscow, Russia
Global reach: Russia and seven other eastern European countries.

Russia’s biggest online retail website, Wildberries sells mostly clothes, shoes and cosmetics.23 In 2004, Tatyana Bakalchuk founded Wildberries while she was on maternity leave from teaching. In 2019, Bakalchuk became only the second Russian female to become a billionaire.

As per their mission statement, Wildberries aim to make online shopping convenient and affordable.

What is an online retail (or e-commerce) website?

It’s a company that sells products via a website rather than a traditional brick and mortar store.

Online retail websites arose during the dot.com boom in the 1990s. Over the last 20 years, many online retail websites have flourished as internet usage has grown and consumer buying behaviours have altered.

There are three main types of online retail business models:

  1. Business to Business (B2B). Websites that offer a marketplace where (mostly) businesses buy from one another (e.g. Aliexpress.com).
  2. Business to Consumer (B2C). This is the most common online retail business model on our list and has taken a chunk out of the traditional in-store buying market (e.g. Amazon).
  3. Consumer to Consumer (C2C). This business model enables everyday people to sell custom-made or second-hand goods to one another (e.g. eBay).
N.B. There is some cross-over. For example, Amazon allows both businesses and consumers to sell products using its website – so they’re technically B2C and C2C.

 

Comparing the largest e-commerce retailers in the world by multiple data points

Sources: 1,3,5,9,11,13,15,17,23

Why does China have so many booming online retail websites?

China is the world’s biggest e-commerce market, with over 50% of global online transactions taking place in the country.21 However, their enormous population is not the primary reason for this astounding statistic, but rather their first-class delivery services in conjunction with their lack of established brick and mortar stores.

Furthermore, the online retail market is booming because over 900 million of China’s 1.4 billion population are internet users.22

Big online retailers understand that Chinese consumers desire convenient electronic payment methods, premium products and competitive prices.

Amazon v Alibaba Group

We’ve decided to compare the two biggest online retail entities in the east and west.

Key similarities

 

Key differences

 

Amazon and Alibaba, along with the other leaders in online retail, are showing the world what’s possible with shopping and technology.

From third-party payments to virtual assistants, the future is full of innovation. However, with business growth comes risk; that’s why it’s important to have insurance.

If you’re an Australian business owner, then you understand the everyday risks that come with running a business. Use our free online comparison service to compare multiple types of business insurance from a range of providers.

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