Amazon vs eBay

Posted by Paul on March 22, 2013

Amazon and eBay are the biggest online sales channels by far. If you're serious about selling products online you'd need to have a very good reason indeed not to be selling via these channels. It no longer makes sense for retailers of any size to shut their eyes and hope these rapidly growing online marketplaces will go away.

Reasons for not selling on these channels (especially eBay) in the past might have included that the retailer wanted full control of the distribution of their products, or that appearing on eBay would somehow devalue their brand. Well that's just not true any more and many of the big boys have their own eBay shops, even Tesco who spend millions of pounds on the marketing of their own ecommerce website have an eBay store. Yes really, it's here:

Advantages of Amazon

  • You won't need to spend a lot of time creating detailed listings, finding or taking photographs of your products and writing descriptions if your products are already sold on Amazon. As long as they have an EAN, UPC or ASIN code (a bit like an ISBN for products) they will just get linked to the product's main entry.
  • As a seller you're protected from fraud because the payments go through Amazon Payments. On eBay or via PayPal you may find that after your goods are shipped a chargeback happens and you're effectively the victim of theft.

  • You are selling on one of the biggest marketplaces in the world, instantly putting your products in front of millions of consumers. Your own website would never get this on its own.

Disadvantages of Amazon

  • Amazon seller fees. They're relatively high and although you get all of their benefits, these do of course come at a price.
  • The flipside of the first advantage above is that you don't have control over the listings. This means that even if you could write a better one with better photography and your own branding - you can't.

  • You have to comply with their strict customer service terms but although this may seem like a disadvantage, it's not such a bad thing to provide a speedy and reliable service to your customers. The processes this will force you to put in place should also improve your customer service via other channels.

Advantages of eBay

  • Access to so many consumers. Your listings will be seen!

  • You're able to create your own listings that do pretty much anything you want and look exactly how you want, complete with your own branding. Make sure you get a designer to do them or they'll probably look cheap and nasty!

  • If you look after your customers you'll build up good feedback and the more of this you get the more customers you'll get.

Disadvantages of eBay

  • There are fees of course, but eBay do need to be paid for what they do and the fees are probably just about fair.

  • Some people do still see eBay as the place to get things "dirt cheap". And while there are bargains to be had for consumers, you can find inexperienced sellers set themselves ridiculously low margins, making it very hard for good businesses to complete, before realising that they aren't making a profit.

  • Negative feedback can be a problem. There have been some recent changes allowing better feedback from sellers about buyers but previously it had been all too easy for customers to threaten negative feedback when they didn't get their way. 99% of eBay users are probably honest and trustworthy but the 1% definitely existed who would abuse the system to get free goods at the expense of the honest seller.

  • There's a lot of admin work to be done, you have to answer questions and provide feedback about transactions so you'll probably need someone to spend a fair amount of time managing the eBay account.

Where to start?

If you're already selling through your own website or if you're not selling anything online yet, eBay is probably the easiest and quickest way to start. You'll soon find out how to create good listings, how to get them to the appear in listing results with the right keywords and what things sell best. Building things up on eBay should work nicely with your own website and Amazon channels that you can add later. To get all three working in harmony, a central management piece of software such as Linnworks could be useful at that stage.

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