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.’
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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: