Voice of the Industry

Alt-Commerce: the era of a new economy

Friday 27 January 2023 10:04 CET | Editor: Vlad Macovei | Voice of the industry

Olivia Viniss, Product Innovation Manager at Worldline, shares valuable insights into the rise of alternative commerce and how it disrupts the global ecommerce market.


Olivia Viniss, Product Innovation Manager at Worldline, shares insights into the rise of alternative commerce and how it disrupts the global ecommerce market.


Tomorrow, everyone becomes a seller

Over recent decades we have all seen the growth of ecommerce followed by mobile commerce. That means wherever you are, you can discover and buy your products online from your favourite brand. But what’s next? The term that I think describes it well is alternative commerce – a concept first mentioned at NRF 2022. I believe it could be the next big wave shaking up the way we shop today.  



Alt-commerce describes a radical shift in how people will buy and sell. On the one hand, innovation, technology, and the need for retailers to build ever-closer relationships with their customers have led to the rise of new selling channels. Social commerce offers a new form of shopping where consumers explore and buy products through social media platforms (like TikTok and Instagram) and content creation platforms, all in one app. For brands, it’s a shift from traditional advertisements to fun, engaging content that is less overtly promotional. Live shopping, autonomous stores, conversational platforms, and, recently, the metaverse, provide more ways than ever for retailers to interact with and sell to their customers.  

On the other hand, there is a clear shift from B2C transactions to C2C transactions. This is a new economy; everywhere, anyone can become a seller – us, our friends, our neighbours, and strangers. Also, anyone can become a buyer. Think about consumers reselling their secondhand clothes via Vinted, sharing your car with a stranger via Getaround, buying in bulk with your community, or selling directly the creation of your in-game assets via Patreon to another fan.



Why and how are these new economic models becoming mainstream?

Consumer behaviours are evolving. There is a huge shift in consumer behaviour towards secondhand, sharing, and renting models. Also, people are looking for more genuine connections. As a result, a new class of sellers has emerged. Four sub-trends create these new sellers.

The boom of the secondhand market and the circular economy

We’ve reached a turning point where reuse is becoming a conventional way of life, rather than the exception. In the clothing sector, the global resale market is expected to grow 16x faster than traditional retail clothing by 2026 and it is happening in all regions of the world

It’s a change that’s driven by all generations, and younger consumers in particular. Partly, this is a culture shift – where buying secondhand is now socially acceptable. In fact, 66% of consumers are more willing to buy secondhand products now than 5 years ago, according to a Worldline survey of over 300 consumers in the EU and USA. The driving forces behind this shift are the urgency to protect our planet, pushing people to reduce their consumption and waste, and the economic pressure they are facing. 

Sharing and renting vs ownership

Consumers’ attitudes are also shifting away from ownership, towards a spectrum of other consumption models such as renting, sharing, and subscription. The younger generations are driving the adoption of the sharing economy, where it’s not socially important anymore to own something. From our market research mentioned above, Gen Z consumers are more inclined to rent and share, especially for clothes and sports equipment. This explains the recent explosion of new businesses and platforms such as By Rotation (a UK P2P clothing rental platform) or Peerby (a tool-sharing app in The Netherlands). Decathlon has also started a sports equipment subscription service.

The community group-buying landscape

A price-led model that has emerged from China, led by firms like Pingduoduo, allows consumers to place orders in groups to get better deals, often directly from manufacturers. During the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai, there was a surge of self-organised community groups led by consumers who purchased food and other products to overcome supply shortages. In other countries in Southeast Asia, there are also similar examples of group-buying led by reseller agents. 

Whilst the Pingduoduo-like model is yet to be successful outside of China, there are other forms of local/community group-buying emerging in Europe, such as buying in a group together with neighbours for washing machines, cars, or even gardening tools. It’s too early to predict how the trend will evolve, but it is certainly an interesting area to watch closely.

Direct connection with creators and makers

An estimated 50 million creators make up the creator economy, including podcasters, videographers, artists, and athletes. The exact way in which creators monetise their activities varies: from selling hand-crafted goods on Etsy, to receiving advertising revenue when they are watched on YouTube, through being paid by fans directly via emerging platforms. Patreon and Twitch are probably the most famous examples that are powering this trend. 

Also helping the creator economy boom is the fact that consumers are increasingly seeking out genuine, authentic, and interesting content. The creator economy might be bigger than you would expect: according to our market research, more than a third of people considered themselves creators, meaning they have all been sellers at some point.

Market opportunities

Today, marketplaces and platforms are riding on these trends, serving new consumer needs and capturing the opportunities of C2C transactions. There are so many of them: Vinted, Depop, eBay, Leboncoin, Peerby, Back Market, By Rotation, Snappcar, Substack, Patreon, Airbnb… In the next few years, I expect platforms and marketplaces will continue to grow and respond to this shift in consumer behaviour. 

What about traditional retailers and brands? It might not be a surprise that many of them see the rise of alt-commerce as a threat. However, I believe it can also be a great opportunity. Those retailers who can leverage their existing customer base and their position as a trusted brand, should embrace alt-commerce to protect and grow their revenues. Yes, it will probably disrupt their business model, but brands need to understand that consumers now just aren’t as interested in buying new as they once were. Some brands such as Isabel Marant, a French clothing company have already started the transformation journey by successfully adding a white-label marketplace solution to their website through the support of a resale tech company like Faume. 

What’s interesting is that this shift to alternative ways to buy also creates new payment-related requirements. The pay-xperience is an essential part of this new experience. For example, paying out to sellers of second-hand goods, performing KYC on a one-off seller instead of a business, accepting and refunding deposits, and setting up recurring payments for rental and subscription.  

For brands, it will not only be a question of adapting their business models. They will have to invest in the right channels to build a close, trusted relationship with consumers. And that is what alt-commerce really is, a transformation in business models combined with a deeper connection with your customers. 

About Olivia Viniss

Olivia Viniss, as Product Innovation Manager at Worldline, focuses on understanding emerging trends and their intersections with digital payments. She leads various innovation projects from transforming a market need into proof-of-concept product offerings. Before joining the Product team, Olivia worked for 6 years in Worldline’s Customer Service, leading and managing the global accounts department. She always puts customers and consumers at the heart of her work.

About Worldline

Worldline [Euronext: WLN] is a global leader in the payments industry and the technology partner of choice for merchants, banks and acquirers. Powered by 18,000 employees in 40 countries, Worldline provides its clients with sustainable, trusted, and innovative solutions fostering their growth. Services offered by Worldline include in-store and online commercial acquiring, highly secure payment transaction processing, and numerous digital services. In 2021, Worldline generated a proforma revenue of close to EUR 4 billion. 

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Keywords: ecommerce, online platform, ecommerce platform, online payments
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: Worldline
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce


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