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01 September 2021 • Resources

Largest online retailers in the world: 5 must-know ecommerce businesses

Largest online retailers in the world: 5 must-know ecommerce businesses

Ecommerce growth has reached a whole new level in the past decade. Online businesses are worth trillions of dollars collectively, and most people shop online at least occasionally. 

Like with brick-and-mortar retailers, you can find both small boutiques and global brands offering their products online. Regardless if your country makes up the list of the top countries buying online, shopping on the internet is becoming increasingly popular around the world. 

Examining the biggest ecommerce sites can give some valuable insight into the state of the industry as a whole. It can also give us a peek into the history of ecommerce to see how much online shopping has changed in recent years. 

For a bit of inspiration for your own ecommerce business, let’s take a look at the top 5 online retailers in the world!


Amazon is the highest-earning online retailer. Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, this top company was originally intended to be an online bookstore. Although it was criticized by financial experts and analysts at first, Bezos quickly proved them wrong. 

By December 1996, the site had 180,000 customer accounts. By October 1997, Amazon reached a million customer accounts.

In the years since, Amazon has become the widest-reaching ecommerce platform. Virtually any item imaginable is available for customers to shop for on its website. The retail company also offers a number of innovative services, such as grocery delivery and subscription-style purchases.

This website doesn’t just sell physical items, though. The Kindle e-reader with downloadable e-books was one of its first massive successes with customers. It now offers music, video streaming, and a wide variety of other services as well, all aiding in boosting the company’s revenue.

Amazon even acquired the supermarket chain Whole Foods in 2017. In addition, Amazon has several online stores for different countries.

Two-day shipping was one of Amazon’s defining features that attracted so many shoppers and helped to boost the company’s sales. As online shopping became more and more convenient, customers were even willing to pay an annual fee for two-day shipping from Amazon. 

Today, most online shoppers expect fast and free shipping from retailers, which likely is because Amazon has paved the way for this level of convenience.


JD.com, also known as Jingdong, isn’t as well known in the West. However, this website is one of the highest-grossing ecommerce businesses in the world because of its strong presence in China. It operates from Beijing and has more than 250 million users.

The website was established in 1998 and has rapidly expanded since. As technology has advanced over the years, JD.com has kept up with the times. It uses a sophisticated system of artificial intelligence, robots, drones, and other technology to deliver purchases as quickly as possible.

Like Amazon, JD.com offers an enormous range of products. It sells electronics, furniture, food, and many other items. 

The store also has a partnership with Walmart that will likely increase their revenue in China. Most online retailers view Walmart as a major competitor, but JD.com has teamed up with the superstore to maximize its growth.


Although many shoppers don’t think of Apple as an ecommerce business, a large portion of their revenue comes from online purchases. Most of this global company’s online sales are from the United States, China, and Japan. In 2018, their sales amounted to around $26 billion, according to Forbes.

One reason why Apple achieves such high revenue is because of the value of each sale. While many of the items sold on Amazon and similar sites cost $20 or less, Apple’s products tend to be much more expensive. The business doesn’t have to sell nearly as many items to make a massive profit.

Apple is also partly responsible for the rapid rise in ecommerce shopping in general in recent years. People are almost always connected to the internet with their smartphones, which allows them to shop and browse online retail stores from anywhere.


Suning is another online retailer that you may never have heard of. It’s one of the top ecommerce stores in the world, though.

Suning was founded in 1996 and conducts almost all of its business in China. In 2009, the company started to strengthen its online presence. Today, it’s one of China's most popular retail websites.

The brand continues to have a successful brick-and-mortar presence as well. This retail company has more than 1,500 storefronts supplying in-person commerce throughout China, and it has a small presence in Japan. Forbes reports that in 2018, this retailer’s net sales were $20 billion.

The company is one of the biggest retailers in China that isn’t owned by the government. Its website sells electronics, appliances, clothing, and many other products. In addition, it offers installation and repair services for electronics purchased on its website.


Walmart is the largest company in the world. The first Walmart store opened in 1962, and they were listed on the New York Stock Exchange 10 years later. By the 1980s, the retail company achieved $1 billion in annual sales and had hundreds of stores throughout the US.

Walmart.com was founded in 2000. Although the company existed long before the internet, it took Walmart some time to catch up with its ecommerce competitors. 

This is most likely because there are so many brick-and-mortar Walmart stores, especially in the US. Most customers may prefer to take a short drive to a Walmart store to shop instead of waiting for products to be shipped to them.

Even so, Walmart.com’s net sales amounted to $16 billion in 2018, according to Forbes. It sells over a million products, and it offers in-store pickup for customers who want to receive their items right away. 

Walmart has also ventured into other services, such as music downloading and online photo orders that can be picked up in person.

Final thoughts

The percentage of retail sales occurring online will likely only increase in the future. Studying the top retailers can be a great way to learn what to do and what not to do for your own online store. 

The businesses mentioned in this article have achieved incredible success in the ecommerce industry, and they’re part of the reason that online shopping is so popular today!

Their early start may be the most obvious reason for their success. Most of these retailers were established before the 2000s and created their online stores in the very early days of the internet. 

Online businesses that launch today face much more competition. Newer retailers tend to do better when they focus specifically on a small niche rather than offering millions of products in dozens of categories.

If you run a small ecommerce website, don’t feel like you have to compete with brands like Amazon or Walmart. These retailers are the largest online stores in the world, but there are thousands of successful smaller and mid-sized businesses as well!

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