Understanding 1P and 3P Differences in eCommerce


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Overview of the differences between 1P and 3P strategies, roles and responsibilities and advantages and disadvantages of selling on eCommerce platforms.


In the dynamic world of eCommerce, businesses have the opportunity to sell their products through various channels, including online marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and others. Two common strategies employed by sellers on these platforms are 1P (first-party) and 3P (third-party) selling. Understanding the difference between these strategies is crucial for businesses looking to optimize their sales approach and maximize their presence in the online marketplace. This article provides a high level overview of the distinctions between 1P and 3P strategies, including their roles, responsibilities, and implications for eCommerce sellers.

1P Strategy: First-Party Selling

First-party selling, often referred to as 1P strategy, involves selling products directly to the eCommerce platform itself. In this model, the eCommerce platform acts as the retailer, purchasing products from the seller and then selling them to consumers. Amazon’s Vendor Central program is a prime example of a 1P strategy, where sellers become suppliers to Amazon itself.

Roles and Responsibilities in 1P Strategy

1. Supplier/Seller: The supplier is responsible for manufacturing or sourcing the products and supplying them to the eCommerce platform. They negotiate terms and pricing directly with the platform and are typically subject to stringent quality control standards.

2. eCommerce Platform/Retailer: The eCommerce platform, acting as the retailer in this model, purchases products from the supplier and assumes responsibility for pricing, marketing, inventory management, and customer service. They have control over product listings, promotions, and fulfilment processes.

3. Advantages of 1P Strategy:

  • Access to Retailer’s Resources: Sellers gain access to the retailer’s extensive customer base, marketing tools, and fulfillment infrastructure.
  • Predictable Revenue: Since sales are made directly to the platform, sellers have more predictability in revenue generation.
  • Brand Visibility: Products sold through the platform benefit from increased visibility and credibility, potentially leading to higher sales volumes.

4. Challenges of 1P Strategy::

  • Less Control Over Pricing: Sellers may have limited control over pricing decisions, as the platform sets retail prices based on various factors.
  • Dependence on Platform: Sellers are dependent on the platform for sales and may face challenges if the platform changes its policies or algorithms.
  • Margin Compression: The platform’s fees and margins can impact the profitability of the seller, potentially leading to margin compression.

3P Strategy: Third-Party Selling

Third-party selling, or 3P strategy, involves independent sellers listing their products on the eCommerce platform’s marketplace and selling directly to consumers. Amazon Marketplace and Walmart Marketplace are examples of platforms that enable third-party selling, allowing businesses to reach a wide audience without the need to sell directly to the platform.

Roles and Responsibilities in 3P Strategy:

1. Third-Party Seller:Independent sellers, also known as third-party sellers, are responsible for sourcing or manufacturing products, listing them on the platform’s marketplace, and managing pricing, inventory, and customer service. They retain control over their branding and pricing decisions.

2. eCommerce Platform/Marketplace:The eCommerce platform acts as a facilitator, providing a marketplace for third-party sellers to list their products. The platform may charge sellers fees or commissions for using the marketplace and may offer tools and services to help sellers optimize their listings and sales.

3. Advantages of 3P Strategy:

  • Control Over Pricing: Sellers have more control over pricing decisions, allowing them to set competitive prices and maximize profitability.
  • Flexibility and Autonomy: Third-party sellers have the flexibility to manage their own inventory, promotions, and customer interactions, giving them greater autonomy over their business operations.
  • Diverse Product Offerings: Marketplaces often have a diverse range of products, allowing sellers to tap into niche markets and cater to specific customer segments.

4. Challenges of 3P Strategy:

  • Competition: Third-party sellers face competition from other sellers within the marketplace, making it essential to differentiate products and optimize listings for visibility.
  • Fees and Commissions: Platforms may charge fees or commissions on sales, impacting the seller’s profitability.
  • Customer Service: Sellers are responsible for providing customer service and managing returns and disputes, which can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

Comparison and Considerations

When deciding between 1P and 3P strategies, eCommerce sellers must consider various factors, including their business objectives, product offerings, and resources available. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Control and Autonomy:Third-party selling offers more control and autonomy over pricing, branding, and customer interactions, making it suitable for sellers who value flexibility and independence.
  2. Access to Resources::First-party selling provides access to the platform’s resources, such as marketing tools, fulfillment infrastructure, and customer base, which can benefit sellers looking for support and scalability.
  3. Risk and Responsibility:Third-party sellers assume more responsibility for inventory management, customer service, and sales optimization, whereas first-party sellers transfer some of these responsibilities to the platform.
  4. Cost and Profitability: Sellers must evaluate the fees, commissions, and margins associated with each strategy to determine which model offers the best balance of cost and profitability for their business.

Strategies to Manage Both 1P and 3P Sellers

Managing both 1P and 3P sellers effectively requires distinct strategies tailored to the unique needs and characteristics of each selling model. Here are strategies for eCommerce companies to manage both types of sellers and differentiate their portfolio between them:

1.Segmentation and Targeting:

  • 1P: Develop specific criteria and selection processes for onboarding 1P to ensure alignment with the company’s brand values, product quality standards, and strategic objectives.
  • 3P Sellers: Implement a comprehensive vetting process for 3P sellers to assess their product offerings, reputation, and adherence to marketplace policies. Segment 3P sellers based on their niche expertise, product categories, and target customer segments to optimize marketplace diversity and customer choice.

2.Customized Support and Resources:

  • 1P: Provide dedicated account management and support services to 1P, including assistance with product listings, marketing strategies, and inventory management. Offer access to exclusive promotional opportunities, data analytics, and supply chain optimization tools to enhance collaboration and drive mutual growth.
  • 3P Sellers: Offer self-service tools and resources tailored to the needs of 3P sellers, such as intuitive seller dashboards, educational materials, and best practices guides. Provide responsive customer support channels, including online forums, help centers, and seller forums, to address inquiries and resolve issues promptly.

3.Performance Monitoring and Optimization:

  • 1P: Implement performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the sales, profitability, and operational efficiency of 1P customers. Conduct regular performance reviews and provide constructive feedback to identify areas for improvement and optimize collaboration.
  • 3P Sellers: Utilize data analytics and machine learning algorithms to monitor the performance and behavior of 3P sellers on the marketplace. Identify top-performing sellers and incentivize them with rewards, promotional opportunities, and enhanced visibility to drive sales and foster loyalty.

4.Product Differentiation and Portfolio Management:

  • 1P: Focus on offering proprietary or exclusive products through the 1P model to differentiate the company’s portfolio and strengthen its brand identity. Invest in product innovation, research, and development to create unique offerings that resonate with target customers and drive customer loyalty.
  • 3P Sellers: Curate a diverse selection of products from reputable and reliable 3P sellers to expand the marketplace’s product assortment and cater to diverse customer preferences. Leverage customer feedback, market trends, and sales data to identify high-demand products and onboard new 3P sellers accordingly.

5.Policy Enforcement and Compliance:

  • 1P: Establish clear contractual agreements and quality assurance standards with 1P customers to ensure compliance with product specifications, pricing policies, and service level agreements. Implement robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to address any violations and maintain brand integrity.
  • 3P Sellers: Enforce marketplace policies and guidelines consistently across all 3P sellers to maintain a fair and competitive selling environment. Implement automated content moderation tools and manual review processes to detect and address policy violations, counterfeit products, and unauthorized resellers.

Differentiating Portfolio Between 1P and 3P Sellers

Differentiating the portfolio between 1P and 3P sellers is essential for maximizing the strengths of each selling model and optimizing overall marketplace performance. Here are strategies for companies to differentiate their portfolio between 1P and 3P sellers effectively:

1.Product Exclusivity and Innovation:

  • 1P: Focus on offering exclusive or proprietary products through the 1P model to create a unique selling proposition and drive customer loyalty. Invest in product innovation, research, and development to introduce new and differentiated offerings that cannot be found elsewhere.
  • 3P Sellers: Curate a diverse selection of products from third-party sellers representing various brands, manufacturers, and product categories to expand the marketplace’s product assortment and cater to diverse customer preferences. Encourage 3P sellers to differentiate their offerings through product customization, bundling, and value-added services.

2.Brand Partnerships and Collaborations:

  • 1P: Form strategic partnerships and collaborations with well-known brands and manufacturers to offer exclusive product lines and co-branded collections through the 1P selling model. Leverage brand equity, marketing assets, and distribution channels to amplify brand visibility and drive sales.
  • 3P Sellers: Forge partnerships with emerging brands, independent designers, and niche manufacturers to source unique and innovative products that resonate with target customer segments. Facilitate brand collaborations, cross-promotions, and co-marketing initiatives to elevate the visibility and credibility of 3P sellers within the marketplace.

3.Customer Experience and Value Proposition:

  • 1P: Focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences and value-added services, such as fast shipping, easy returns, and personalized recommendations, to differentiate the company’s offerings from competitors. Invest in customer service training, technology, and infrastructure to exceed customer expectations and build long-term loyalty.
  • 3P Sellers: Differentiate the customer experience offered by 3P sellers through personalized product recommendations, unique packaging, and engaging content that highlights the brand story and value proposition. Encourage 3P sellers to prioritize customer satisfaction and invest in post-purchase support to enhance the overall shopping experience.

4.Price Competitiveness and Promotions:

  • 1P: Employ dynamic pricing strategies and promotional tactics, such as discounts, coupons, and flash sales, to attract price-conscious shoppers and drive sales volume. Leverage data analytics and competitive intelligence tools to optimize pricing decisions and maximize revenue opportunities.
  • 3P Sellers: Differentiate the pricing and promotional strategies of 3P sellers based on factors such as product quality, uniqueness, and brand reputation. Encourage 3P sellers to offer competitive prices, bundle deals, and limited-time promotions to capture market share and incentivize repeat purchases.

5.Market Segmentation and Targeting:

  • 1P: Segment the target market based on demographic, psychographic, and behavioral factors to identify high-value customer segments and tailor marketing strategies accordingly. Invest in customer acquisition and retention initiatives, such as loyalty programs and referral incentives, to drive repeat purchases and maximize customer lifetime
  • 3P Sellers: Differentiate the product offerings of 3P sellers to target specific niche markets, microsegments, or trending consumer preferences. Leverage data analytics and market research to identify untapped opportunities and source products that fulfill unmet needs or solve pain points within the target market.

Managing both 1P and 3P sellers requires tailored strategies and approaches to leverage the strengths of each selling model effectively. By segmenting sellers, customizing support and resources, monitoring performance, and differentiating the portfolio between 1P and 3P sellers, eCommerce companies can optimize their marketplace operations and drive mutual success. By fostering collaboration, innovation, and value creation across the entire seller ecosystem, companies can create a thriving marketplace that delivers exceptional customer experiences and sustainable growth opportunities for all stakeholders involved.


In summary, the difference between 1P and 3P strategies lies in the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between sellers and eCommerce platforms. While first-party selling involves selling products directly to the platform itself, third-party selling entails listing products on the platform’s marketplace and selling directly to consumers. Both strategies offer distinct advantages and challenges, and the choice between them depends on factors such as control, access to resources, risk tolerance, and profitability goals. By understanding the nuances of each strategy and carefully evaluating their options, eCommerce sellers can make informed decisions to optimize their sales approach and succeed in the competitive online marketplace.

author avatar
Alan Yong CEO / Founder
Alan Yong is a distinguished eCommerce expert with an impressive career spanning over 30 years, primarily focusing on the consumer goods sector across multiple global markets, including the two largest consumer markets, China and the United States. With a deep expertise in multi-channel eCommerce, big data & analytics, performance marketing, and consumer-based supply chain and logistics, Alan has held pivotal roles as CEO and Global General Manager for multinational consumer packaged goods companies, driving significant digital transformations and eCommerce success.