Two box wrestlers hold up a championship title in the battle between shopping carts and marketplaces.

Shopping Carts vs. Marketplaces: Which Do You Choose?

Ding ding ding! Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve just stepped into the ring — the eCommerce ring, that is. In this corner, weighing just a couple of megabytes, we have everyone’s favorite autonomous daredevils — shopping carts! And in this corner, weighing in at well, just about the same, we have the other side of the same coin — marketplaces! We have to say, this match is looking pretty neck and neck. With tensions running high, who will reign supreme as the champ of eCommerce sales platforms? 

We’re expecting a good, clean fight tonight, but anything can happen. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get ready to rumble!

What Are Shopping Carts and Marketplaces?

Are you currently, or do you plan on, selling products online? Then you’re going to need a sales platform, which can take the form of either a shopping cart or a marketplace. The terminology may vary depending on who you talk to, but the gist is that they both work to make eCommerce possible by accepting payments and distributing order information to merchants, payment processors, and, yes, fulfillment centers.

Okay, but what the heck are shopping carts and marketplaces? Before we name-drop, allow us to present you with an analogy. Real estate aficionados, you’re going to like this one!

Say you’re in the market to buy a home-sweet-home, but you’re stuck between a house and an apartment. You like the freedom a house gives you but are worried the higher maintenance costs and responsibilities might bog you down. Apartments, on the other hand, are nimble and compact, but would require you to share space with others. And, while you have some options when it comes to customizing your space, you’re mostly limited to the structural confinements imposed by your building (and, if applicable, the HOA overlords).

In the above scenario, houses are shopping carts and apartments are marketplaces. More specifically, a shopping cart is a piece of software that facilitates the purchase of a product or service, while a marketplace is an eCommerce site where multiple third-party sellers are able to list their products. 

They each come with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, and finding the perfect fit for your business takes time, patience, and a little foresight.

How Do I Know What’s Right for Me?

Scout’s honor? They’re probably both right for you. If you’re planning on sticking around the eCommerce stratosphere, then sales channel diversification is a must. Just like how bees keep the bloodline going by pollinating as many flowers as possible (up to 5,000 per day, to bee exact), online businesses work best when their eggs are in all sorts of different baskets. 

Sales channel diversification basically means utilizing various platforms for heightened exposure and long-term security. Selling on Amazon is great, but selling on Shopify and Amazon is even better — it’s twice the customer base, and you’ll have a backup if anything happens to your main, side, front, or back squeeze. 

Of course, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re an eCommerce rookie, we recommend taking it slow and starting out with a platform that you feel comfortable with. Overextending yourself, especially in the beginning, has a tendency to be remarkably counterproductive.

Similarly, it’s important to acknowledge that, even though diversity is valuable, not every sales channel will align with your mission and demographic — more on that below!

What Are My Options?

If you’re looking for gizmos and gadgets, you’ve got them aplenty. ShipMonk alone integrates with over seventy shopping carts and marketplaces. That’s over seventy potential opportunities for diversification, but are they all created equally? Short answer: No.

With so many options to choose from, it’s only expected that every platform is catered  towards a specific audience. The trick is doing your research to avoid a “fish out of water” situation. Luckily, ShipMonk is here to help you out, and we know aquatic CPR.

Shopping Carts

The most popular shopping carts are Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce. Despite their status as pack leaders, there are notable differences between the four. We’ve actually written a thorough roundup of these heavyweights in another blog post, so be sure to check it out for the full, unbiased scoop!


It goes without saying that Amazon is the top dog of marketplaces (and eCommerce as a whole). With a market share of 37.3%, it’s easy to see why selling on Amazon is a smart move for the majority of businesses. However, there are downsides — namely, because Amazon is so goshdarn popular, it’s highly competitive. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of sellers are peddling the same goods as you are. All we’re saying is, it doesn’t hurt to keep diversifying.

Enter alternative marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy. Contrary to popular belief, eBay is not dead — rather, it has become a hodgepodge of discontinued items, eclectic collectibles, and killer deals you may not find anywhere else. Or, if you’re into all things handmade and personalized, Etsy could be the perfect fit. 

And that wraps up tonight’s battle royale! In an unprecedented turn of events, it looks like both shopping carts and marketplaces are leaving the ring as winners. As much as we love happy endings, we’re not waving the white flag quite yet. The rivalry is laying dormant for now, but who’s to say what twists and turns will come along and shake things up for the future. In the ever-changing landscape of eCommerce, anything is possible!

Questions? Answers. ShipMonk is your trusty resource for all things eCommerce, so don’t be afraid to hit us up! We’d love to hear from you. 🙂

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