New analysis from iBe, a pan-European financial services advisory firm, found that online marketplaces could be worth as much as $7 trillion in sales by 2024.

Currently, marketplaces contribute $1.7 trillion to the economy each year and in retail e-commerce, accounts for as much as half (50%) of sales annually. However, sales driven from marketplaces are likely to exceed $7 trillion in the next five years, hailing a new era in e-commerce.

This rise is driven by more and more companies embracing marketplaces as a platform to facilitate online sales, expedite cross-border expansion, increase product range and improve logistics, costs and operations.

Complemented by an estimated annual growth of 8% in global online sales, this will fuel the uptake of the marketplace model by a broad range of businesses, according to the research.

Generally, marketplaces fall into three broad categories—business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C) and peer-to-peer (P2P). Currently, over half (56%) of European marketplaces are global companies, but there is also significant local marketplace choice in Europe, and the local platforms’ market share is continuing to grow as they become established and build loyal following amongst domestic and international consumers.

B2B marketplaces present the biggest growth opportunity. Currently only $600 billion, a mere 7.5% of the annual $7.9 trillion worth of online B2B sales, are made via marketplaces.

The research shows that this could reach $12 trillion by 2024, with B2B marketplaces’ share of online sales growing significantly to 30%. As a result, B2B marketplace sales can grow to $3.6 trillion by 2024.

Similarly, iBe forecasts that B2C marketplaces, which form the most developed sector, is currently responsible for $1.1 trillion of marketplace sales, and could be worth an estimated $3.5 trillion by 2024, accounting for over 70% of all online B2C sales.

P2P marketplaces are the best known to consumers, but are significantly lower in sales volumes than the other two categories due to the nature of their business. Current P2P marketplace sales represent 60% of that category’s overall online sales and are presently at $30 billion. In iBe’s estimation, these types of marketplaces are expected to generate over $240 billion by 2024, accounting for 90% of overall online P2P sales.

“Our analysis shows that marketplaces hold a wealth of opportunities for companies large and small, from the financial services sector to the retail, travel, digital, manufacturing and service industries,” says Francesco Scarnera, chief executive officer. “Navigating new paths to business growth can prove challenging, however by enlisting the help of trusted advisors, solutions to roadblocks can be found. Marketplaces have the potential to be a new era in e-commerce, and we look forward to continuing to explore this with our clients.”

“Marketplaces represent a staggering opportunity for businesses across a variety of sectors,” adds Masha Cilliers, specialist payments partner. “For example, retailers can build global sales via an existing marketplace platform and they can broaden their range of products very quickly by allowing third parties to sell via their website rather than scaling up in-house. As for businesses selling to businesses, they can improve their operations by replacing legacy paper reconciliation processes with state-of-the-art marketplace platforms, consequently increasing liquidity, improving speed to market and saving costs. More needs to be done by the financial service players to ensure that businesses better appreciate the myriad of benefits and understand the specific restrictions and can find the most fitting technological solution. However, those financial institutions who understand the marketplace potential sooner will be those who will realize most of its potential.”