How to Evaluate an Exclusive 3P Seller on Amazon

Cassandra Shaffer

February 3, 2021

Should I sell 1P or 3P on Amazon? What about globally? How can I ensure my ecommerce distribution strategy gives me the most control of my online channels to reduce channel conflict and price erosion? These are all important questions for ecommerce businesses to consider as they evaulate their distribution strategy and decide whether to sell 1P, 3P, or use an exclusive third party seller.

Companies face multiple selling options when deciding how to go to market on Amazon. The four main ones are:

  • Sell products directly to Amazon (i.e. the traditional “1P” approach)
  • Sell through a hybrid model, with some products sold 1P through Vendor Central and others through on the Seller Central third party marketplace
  • Sell solely on Seller Central through their own storefront
  • Sell solely through Seller Central using an exclusive third party seller (“3P”)

This decision is significant for brands, and each approach brings its own unique challenges and opportunities. Indeed, this decision can—oftentimes more than any other ecommerce-related decision today—have the greatest impact on a brand’s ability to achieve its desired growth metrics, while maintaining overall brand stability and control across all other channels.

We’ll discuss in this blog how, for brands who want to maintain control over their own destiny while still reaping the sales opportunities in the Amazon channel, selling their products through an expert exclusive 3P seller can optimize sales growth while maintaining brand integrity.

Amazon challenges: Unauthorized sellers, brand equity erosion, CRaP’d products, & increasing channel conflict

The fact is, many brands engaged in a 1P go-to-market strategy are experiencing some form of brand erosion, which is often exacerbated by the presence of unauthorized resellers and the realities of Amazon’s dynamic pricing algorithm.

A typical scenario for brands across a myriad of verticals is as follows:

  1. The brand enters the Amazon channel without a clear distribution strategy, often selling directly to Amazon and allowing other customers to sell on Amazon as well (sometimes with no product segmentation strategy).
  2. Due to a lack of distribution controls in other sales channels, products are diverted or arbitrage opportunities leveraged by multiple unauthorized third party sellers, who promptly list their products on Seller Central.
  3. A battle for the Buy Box ensues between Amazon, other authorized sellers, and the free-riding, unauthorized third party sellers. Each slashes advertised prices in an effort to beat the other and maintain Buy Box control, and the downward spiral ensues.
  4. Making matters worse, if the brand also sells on other major ecommerce platforms, this spiral will quicken, with the other retailers chasing prices advertised on Amazon, Amazon chasing the other retailers, the other retailers chasing unauthorized third party sellers, and so on.
  5. Authorized customers in core brick-and-mortar channels soon begin complaining and clamoring for price concessions, and products on Amazon may end up CraPped out or Amazon may likewise demand additional concessions.

Virtually no brand, manufacturer, or product vertical is immune to this new reality. If brands do nothing, the end result inevitably is incredible downward pressure on their brand value and a significant rise in channel conflict. This can lead to what we call the Profitability Death Spiral, because as your price and brand spirals out of control online, your profits erode—on ecommerce and eventually on brick-and-mortar channels too.

The Profitability Death Spiral for Ecommerce | Pattern

Against this backdrop, executives are increasingly turning to their ecommerce and sales teams, demanding that they “fix this” right away. For the reasons below, a crucial first step towards fixing the problem—and achieving brand stability—is to take a critical look at your company’s online marketplace distribution strategy and making sure it realistically aligns with your key brand metrics.

Retaking control: Evaluating your Amazon distribution strategy

For many brands, while ecommerce sales remain a minority percentage of overall revenues, the channel conflict and erosion caused by a lack of control over online sales becomes the proverbial “tail that wags the dog” across all channels. Companies will find that their ability to protect and grow their brands in today’s retail environment will be significantly impacted by the Amazon distribution strategy they select. The chosen strategy will greatly inform whether control can be achieved, in addition to defining the additional actions that need to be taken or avoided along the way.

The following chart describes the pros and cons that need to be evaluated when considering which distribution strategy is best for your company. As is evident, for many companies seeking to maximize growth while protecting brand value, selling through an exclusive 3P seller often is the best Amazon GTM strategy.

In summary, by selling through an exclusive 3P seller that is capable of handling large product volumes, respects MAP, and works hand-in-hand with the brand in terms of advertising, search, content, images, product descriptions and the like, brands can achieve significant control over their products in the Amazon channel and dramatically improve sales performance. The brand’s products will be removed from dynamic pricing and no longer subject to being CraPped out, all while benefiting from the exclusive 3P seller’s intensive promotional and search enhancement efforts. For many brands, this strategy can be the quickest way to resolve challenges associated with channel conflict, brand erosion, and an overall lack of control in the channel, all while realizing improved growth metrics.

Ecommerce distribution strategy pros & cons


Distribution StrategyProsConsBest Candidates
Multiple Resellers & No ControlsRequires no effort on the part of the brand.Brand will have no control over its online sales, brand image, product quality or consumer experience. Brand will likely face a high degree of intrabrand competition, significant erosion of its value, and material channel conflict. Online sellers will have no incentive to invest in a brand's growth. Companies that have no real concern for long-term brand value (i.e. those selling highly commoditized, low margin, short life-cycle products and relying predominantly on raw sales volume as a success metric).
Brand Sells All Applicable Product Line 1PRequires minimal involvement. Amazon will likely win the majority of sales in the channel given its ability to secure the greatest Buy Box percentage.Brand is unable to have a meaningful MAP program, as Amazon will typically not follow MAP policies. Products are captive to dynamic pricing algorithms, which will benchmark off of unauthorized 3P sellers and other retailers, often automatically reducing price to keep Buy Box. This creates significant downward pressure on advertised prices and, over time, material erosion of brand equity. “CraP’d” products and frequent concessions demanded. In light of recent announcements, may no longer be an option for many brands.Companies that want to actively engage with Amazon platform and have no strategic need to preserve brand value over an extended timeframe for products at issue. Again, brands whose key metric is pure sales volumes. Best suited to companies selling high volume, short life-cycle products, and companies not susceptible to intrabrand competition.
1P/3P HybridAffords the company the ability to insulate strategically important and/or new product launches through 3P distribution. More commoditized and pure volume plays can continue to be sold 1P.Company will continue to face control challenges associated with IP products.Companies that sell a differentiated mix of products, with some commoditized items and others that are more strategically important from a brand value and consumer perception perspective.
Brand Operates Own 3P StorefrontHighest margin in marketplace channel. Brand maintains full control of all marketplace activity.Requires commitment of material internal and fulfillment infrastructure to maximize potential. Brand must realistically evaluate whether its internal resources are capable of driving equivalent performance on an expert 3P seller.Companies with deep internal experience in marketplace sales and growth tactics, as well as the resources to execute on the same.
Exclusive 3P SellerCompany obtains a true “partner,” highly incentivized to protect and grow its brand. Ability to leverage true marketplace growth expertise. Typically respect MAP policies—company not subject to dynamic pricing algorithms. Company maintains control over brand image and presentation. Oftentimes growth levels achievable that are well beyond current performance. MAP stability on Amazon channel.Requires company’s dedication to restoring order to distribution channels and clearly defining how products may be sold in an authorized manner across channels. Brand must have a clear strategy for ensuring an authorized 3P seller is capable of winning the vast majority of the Buy Box.Companies that desire a “partner” in marketplace channels to which to largely outsource marketplace management. Companies facing erosion of brand equity due to presence of unauthorized sellers, competing marketplaces, or other market dynamics. Companies seeking to materially increase sales on marketplace channels. Companies seeking to reduce channel conflict and protect long term brand value.

E3P checklist: What to look for when selecting an exclusive 3P seller

As more and more companies realize the benefits of the exclusive 3P selling model, more and more 3P sellers crowd the market. The result is a significant amount of noise, with newcomers and fly-by-nighters vying for brand attention. Oftentimes, 3P seller pitches become indistinguishable, leading to confusion for companies who want to know who is best.

Companies evaluating 3P sellers should carefully probe and evaluate the following criteria before selecting the exclusive seller for their products on Amazon:

  • What major brands are they already selling? You don’t want to be a “guinea pig” or the seller’s first foray into partnering with a major brand. The ideal 3P seller will already represent multiple major brands and be able to quickly provide references.
  • What level of sales is the seller generating in marketplace channels on behalf of its partner brands? The most successful 3P sellers are selling in excess of $300 million of their partners’ products annually.
  • Do they have the ability to distribute into and sell your products on international marketplace platforms? The best 3P sellers have the ability to distribute products into major international online marketplaces, providing a global one-stop marketplace solution.
  • What is their average customer annual growth rate? The best 3P sellers will be fully transparent with respect to their average brand partner growth rates, which should significantly out-pace industry average growth rates.
  • **What is their average brand partner MAP compliance rate? **In the US, the best 3P sellers will be similarly transparent regarding the overall MAP compliance rates for the products they sell.
  • Will they pay for the legal foundation necessary to achieve control over your online sales and stabilize your channels? Will they pay for the unauthorized seller enforcement truly needed to clean up your channels? The best 3P sellers happily pay these costs because they know that this work is critically important for them to realize the value of channel exclusivity through maximized sales.
  • What marketing and advertising support will they provide? The best 3P sellers contribute significantly to these efforts and provide detailed analytics regarding the efficacy of various approaches so that resources can be focused on tactics that will generate real growth.
  • What is their relationship with the major marketplaces? Are they able to access services available directly from marketplaces on behalf of their customers? The best 3P sellers will enjoy overall positive relationships with Amazon and have meaningful contacts within the organization.
  • Does the 3P seller have inherent advantages with respect to Buy Box ownership? This includes: large number of units sold over time, a very high seller rating, high sales volume across multiple product categories, low defect scores, and the ability to purchase and maintain large amounts of inventory. The best 3P sellers share this data and clearly explain how it benefits their ability to win the Buy Box over lesser sellers.
  • What investments has the 3P seller made in personnel who have deep experience growing brands on marketplaces? What specific marketplace expertise do these individuals or teams bring? The best 3P sellers have retained high level ex-Amazon and other marketplace executives, they have top notch data and technology teams, and they have first in class distribution processes around the world.
  • What enhanced quality control measures will the seller implement with respect to your products? The best 3P sellers will go the extra mile to provide enhanced quality controls, inventory auditing procedures, and other testing to ensure the highest quality product in-channel and to best support legal claims against unauthorized sellers.
  • What data and analytics can the 3P seller provide? The best 3P sellers provide robust monitoring and data that enhances the ability to drive sales rather than simply report on “vanity” metrics.
  • What is the 3P seller’s customer retention rate over time? The best 3P sellers have extremely high customer retention rates across a number of different product categories and will be fully transparent with that information.
  • What case studies is the seller able to present? The best 3P sellers will have case studies clearly explaining how their efforts lead to material shifts in business success for their partner brands.
  • What top tier references can the seller provide? The best 3P sellers will be able to provide multiple references at diversified businesses for which they have delivered superior results.

3P seller red flags: When to keep looking

As discussed above, as the Amazon marketplace continues in its dominance, new “professional” 3P sellers pop up all the time. Each has a slick website and makes largely indistinguishable promises concerning increased sales, channel management, and the like. However, in the world of 3P resellers, all are NOT created equally.

When you identify the issues, consider looking elsewhere:

  • The 3P seller represents only a few smaller brands or a series of obscure brands about which you have no knowledge or familiarity.
  • The 3P seller is unable to present clear, comprehensive case studies demonstrating their partner brands’ successes over time.
  • The 3P seller is unable to commit to regular product purchases at market-appropriate levels.
  • The 3P seller lacks true internal thought leadership in terms of marketplace strategy, data and analytics, and fulfillment processes.
  • The 3P seller is actually a former diverter or gray market 3P seller and is now simply dabbling with direct buying relationships.
  • The 3P seller lacks any distribution or fulfillment capabilities.
  • The 3P seller cannot offer services on international marketplaces.
  • The 3P seller is unable to provide sophisticated data and analytics around marketing and advertising spend and/or enforcement efforts.
  • The 3P seller is unable to provide enhanced quality controls for products sold into the marketplace channel.
  • Finally, the 3P seller can’t or won’t fund the legal work needed to support this model.

An exclusive 3P seller could be an advantage & help control online channels

Many companies can significantly alleviate—if not solve—their biggest pain points in the marketplace channel by moving towards an exclusive 3P strategy. The alternative is to do nothing (which could be a disaster), or keep products solely 1P and face consistent downward pressure on your brand value. By placing your products with a strong 3P seller on Amazon and conducting robust enforcement against remaining unauthorized sellers, brands can stabilize their brands on Amazon and across their other channels all the while realizing increased growth.

Pattern is a global exclusive 3P seller, data provider, and strategic partner. If your company is considering using an exclusive 3P seller, confused about the best go to market strategy for your products, or has marketplace challenges you want to solve with an E3P solution, get in touch today to learn what Pattern can do for your brand.

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Sept 6, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 6th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon announces new inventory and distribution service, AWD Amazon has launched Amazon Warehousing and Distribution (AWD), providing inventory and distribution services to its sellers as a means of addressing current supply chain issues. AWD is now available for sellers using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA), i.e. outsourcing their fulfilment to the platform. Amazon has plans to expand the service outside the platform in 2023. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/02/amazon-introduces-new-service-to-help-solve-supply-chain-challenges/) Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in the UAE AWS, Amazon’s cloud-computing platform offering, has launched its second region in the Middle East and now provides its services in the UAE. The move will now allow anyone in the UAE who utilises cloud technologies to harness AWS’s advanced platforms and APIs. An estimated $11 billion USD is expected to be added to the UAE’s GDP thanks to the implementation, with an average of 6,000 external vendor jobs to be created annually. AWS is now available in 87 zones across 27 regions, with sights set on expanding further across Australia, Canada, India, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/30/amazon-web-services-launches-region-in-uae/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Lazada to launch in Europe Alibaba-owned ecommerce platform Lazada is set to launch in Europe, marking a refreshed internationalisation push from the company. The move follows toughening economic conditions and performance in Southeast Asia, advancing the need to tap overseas markets. In Europe, Lazada will face tough competition from giants like Amazon and Zalando. Lazada’s exact entry strategy is to be confirmed and will be reliant on macroeconomic and market conditions, according to Lazada CEO James Dong. [Read more on DigitalCommerce360](https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2022/09/01/alibabas-lazada-to-take-on-amazon-zalando-in-europe-push/) Chinese ecommerce giant Pinduoduo to launch cross-border platform in the United States Pinduoduo, a Chinese ecommerce giant rivalling Alibaba and JD, has announced it will be launching a new cross-border ecommerce platform. The marketplace is set to launch in the United States next month, as part of the company’s larger push into new markets. Pinduoduo found success in China thanks to its rock-bottom price offerings and harnessing of social commerce marketing, emulating strategies similar to fast-fashion giant Shein. [Read more on Yahoo Finance](https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/pinduoduo-launch-international-e-commerce-034129263.html) Alibaba launches its biggest B2B sales event, ‘Super September’ China ecommerce giant, Alibaba, has now launched its month-long B2B sales event ‘Super September’. The event provides 40 million buyers and 200,000 suppliers with the ability to connect on the platform, showcasing a ‘virtually unlimited’ number of products. The event hopes to foster new cross-border business relationships to tackle supply chain challenges currently faced by businesses. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/alibaba-launches-super-september-b2b-sales-event/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Klarna’s losses quadruple in first half of 2022 BNPL provider, Klarna, has reported losses of $581 million USD for the first half of 2022. This figure is almost four times larger than a year earlier, where $129 million USD in losses were reported. The company attributes the losses to employee costs, technology investments, and rising credit losses. Klarna’s figure reporting comes amidst worsening economic conditions, fresh legal and regulatory scrutiny, and pressure from Big Tech competitors. [Read more on The Financial Times](https://www.ft.com/content/483451db-9221-4ca4-83a6-b4ddc6bfcfbb) [Read more on the Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/31/klarna-losses-more-than-triple-as-consumer-spending-slows) One fifth of Snap employees to be laid off amidst poor financial performance Social media platform Snap (‘Snapchat’) has announced it will be laying off 20% of its employees and closing out a number of projects following a year of poor financial results.The move will see 1,200 employees globally lose their jobs, saving the company an estimated $500 million USD in costs. Snap is currently valued at $20 billion, an 84% decrease from its valuation of $130 billion last year. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/01/snap-to-lay-off-20-of-its-workforce-and-wind-down-a-number-of-projects/)
Aug 30, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 30th August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon set to shut down Amazon Care Amazon is closing its telehealth service, Amazon Care, which launched in 2019 as a trial program for its headquartered employees. Later the service was rolled out nationwide for employees and other companies. The ecommerce giant has now made the decision to move away from the healthcare space, believing it was not the right long-term solution for its enterprise customers. [Read more on CNBC](https://www.cnbc.com/2022/08/24/amazon-is-shutting-down-amazon-care-telehealth-service.html) Peloton closes new deal to sell on Amazon Following a recent deal, Amazon customers will soon be able to buy Peloton fitness equipment on the marketplace, marking Peleton’s first move outside a direct-to-consumer model. According to Peloton’s CCO, there are already around half a million searches on Amazon for Peloton products every month, despite having no presence on the marketplace. Some key products include the original Peloton Bike, retailing for $1,445 and Peloton Guide for $295. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/24/peloton-strikes-deal-to-sell-fitness-equipment-on-amazon/) --- Other Marketplace News --- 60% of Malaysians are buying from local sellers on Shopee A recent survey of nearly 3,500 respondents found that nearly half of the shoppers prefer to purchase from local sellers due to shorter delivery times. Other shoppers decide to shop locally due to the quality of the products made in Malaysia and an interest in keeping the economy running. As a result, smaller local merchants have been able to grow their businesses, and shoppers benefit from shorter delivery times, products of high quality and supporting local businesses. [Read more on The Malaysian Reserve](https://themalaysianreserve.com/2022/08/25/around-60-malaysians-are-buying-from-local-sellers-on-shopee/) Flipkart’s social commerce platform Shopsy crosses 100 million users Flipkart launched a social commerce arm, Shopsy, in July of last year, which has now surpassed 100 million users, ahead of its target timeline being the end of 2022. This acquisition of new users has made Shopsy one of the largest platforms of its kind in the country, and is expected to onboard a further 100 million by the end of 2023. The platform is centred around boosting local entrepreneurship and powering ecommerce for consumers across tier 2+ regions where users face challenges around trust and navigation when shopping online. [Read more on Business Standard](https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/flipkart-s-social-commerce-platform-shopsy-hits-100-million-users-1220828006851.html) Meta joins Amazon and Walmart in bid for Indian ecommerce market Amazon mentioned earlier in the year that it would be building a logistics division in-house through its purchase of a 51% stake in Ecom Express, an end-to-end logistics firm, to make ecommerce deliveries more efficient in the country. Walmart operates Flipkart in India and is set to continue its investment in the marketplace. In an effort to compete in the Indian ecommerce market, Meta has partnered with Indian ecommerce company, JioMart, to offer customers a grocery shopping platform within its WhatsApp chat feature. [Read more on Pymnts](https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2022/meta-joins-amazon-walmart-indian-ecommerce-market/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Ecommerce in Spain worth €57.7 billion in 2021 Spanish ecommerce saw 11.7% growth compared to last year, largely attributed to cross-border sales. In the final quarter of 2021, ecommerce sales in Spain were at €16.9 billion euros, at least 60% of which came from cross-border sales. Transactions from foreign locations to Spain generated a turnover of €1.56 billion in Q4, a growth of 27.7% compared to Q4 a year before. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/ecommerce-in-spain-was-worth-e57-7-billion-in-2021/)
Aug 23, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 23rd August 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to add mental health support to primary-care service Amazon is set to move into mental health therapy with its primary-care division, following its recent acquisition deal of One Medical. The plan is to partner with virtual behavioural therapy service, Ginger, to offer its Amazon Care users with on-demand access to mental health services, licensed therapists and psychiatrists. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/11/amazon-plans-to-add-mental-health-support-to-primary-care-service/) GMB union calls for £15 an hour minimum pay at UK Amazon warehouses Amazon recently offered its warehouse workers a 3% pay rise, which in comparison to the June inflation rate of 9.4% left employees disappointed. Following this, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers stopped work last week, protesting against the minimal pay increase, seeking a minimum of £15 an hour. Recent protests consisting of employee walkouts and sit-ins aim to get a better offer out of Amazon. [Read more on The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/aug/09/gmb-calls-for-15-an-hour-minimum-pay-at-amazon-warehouses-in-uk) Amazon third-party sellers have received their first-ever holiday fee hike Amazon’s third-party marketplaces account for close to half of the company’s online sales. The company introduced a 5% fuel and inflation charge to its third-party sellers earlier this year, and has now implemented another inflation increase charge. Commencing 14 October, any seller who uses Amazon’s fulfilment service is subject to the price hike, which is set to be an additional 35 cents per item for products sold in the US and Canada. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/17/amazon-third-party-sellers-have-received-their-first-ever-holiday-fee-hike/) Amazon puts a pause on UK grocery shop roll-out as the cost of living increases Amazon has slowed down on its UK roll-out of till-free Amazon Fresh grocery stores following disappointing sales and the rise in cost of living. Allegedly, the company is no longer looking for potential sites to expand and if more stores are opened, they will likely no longer use a till-free system, as consumers become more cautious about spending. [Read more on The Telegraph](https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/08/21/amazon-pauses-uk-grocery-shop-roll-out-following-disappointing/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopee overtakes Alibaba across international markets Shopee has surpassed Alibaba and taken the top spot for sales outside of China. Singapore-based marketplace saw a year-on-year increase of 51.4% at the end of Q2 of this year, while Alibaba saw a 3% drop during the same time period. This can be seen as a promising development for start-ups and their ability to compete with some of the largest ecommerce giants in the market. [Read more on Exchange Wire](https://www.exchangewire.com/blog/2022/08/18/shopee-surpasses-alibaba-in-international-sales-amazon-searches-for-entertainment-exec/) H&M reopens its official store to Alibaba’s Tmall ecommerce platform It has been nearly 18 months since Alibaba removed H&M from its Tmall platform, following H&M’s criticism of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. It is estimated that over a million people, predominantly minorities in the area, have been unlawfully detained in camps across the city. Brands including Nike, Adidas, Burberry and Converse were swept up in the controversy, however H&M was one of the first to be targeted for speaking out about the issue. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/16/hm-returns-to-alibabas-tmall-platform-16-months-after-xinjiang-controversy/) Klarna launches new feature allowing UK consumers to view full online order history Buy-now-pay-later company, Klarna, has launched a new feature on its shopping app, which allows UK consumers to view their full online order history, regardless of whether they purchased the product using Klarna. The feature also shows delivery tracking and aids consumers in managing their online purchases more conveniently. [Read more on The Industry](https://www.theindustry.fashion/klarna-launches-new-feature-allowing-uk-consumers-to-view-full-online-order-history/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Online marketplaces responsible for £280 billion business turnover in the UK Nearly 900,000 UK businesses are currently selling on online marketplaces, generating an estimated £282 billion worth of sales each year. This figure represents 6% of the UK’s annual business turnover, highlighting the notable contribution that marketplaces make to the UK economy, along with the potential for further growth in this area. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/08/09/online-marketplaces-responsible-for-280-billion-business-turnover-in-uk/)