Amazon vs eBay: which marketplace should you sell on?

Amazon or eBay, which is better for sellers? It’s a difficult question, as each marketplace has its advantages and disadvantages.

Amazon is currently the biggest online marketplace in the world, with eBay in third place. While there are a growing number of alternative marketplaces available to sellers, these two titans of online shopping still stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Let’s take a detailed look at Amazon vs eBay, so you can make an informed decision on which one’s best for your business.

Amazon vs eBay: market size and selling potential

Let’s begin with the big question: when comparing eBay and Amazon, which platform gives you the most potential to sell your products? Which marketplace is bigger, providing the simple raw power of more possible eyes on each product?

Of course, there are other considerations too. Certain demographics might be more relevant to the product you’re selling, so let’s take into account who is using each platform. Different target audiences will each have their own expectations and standards, requiring a tailored approach to satisfy their needs.

Amazon’s market size

Amazon’s user statistics are staggering. On its own, it accounted for 13.7% of the global eCommerce retail market in 2019. In the US, that figure is a gigantic 52.4% market share.

In terms of raw traffic, Amazon brought in 2,507 million combined desktop and mobile visits in May 2020 alone.

It’s also worth noting that 44% of US homes are subscribed to the premium Amazon Prime service. Given that Amazon is so utterly dominant across the country, it makes sense that shoppers are comfortable enough to routinely pay more for faster shipping and lower prices on individual items.

eBay’s market size

eBay’s share of the US eCommerce market is estimated at around 5%. They were recently beaten into third place by Walmart, who now holds around 7% of the market.

eBay brings in around 167 million monthly users. These users are particularly discerning, preferring to only buy from sellers with the highest feedback scores. We’re talking scores of 100 or even higher. This makes protecting your reputation on eBay critical to your business.

Given eBay’s heritage, starting out as an auction site, the buying culture there revolves around price. It could be fair to say that eBay customers are interested in price and peace of mind, not necessarily the bells and whistles that come with premium subscription services.

The conclusion: market size and selling potential

The comparison here borders on unfair. Comparing Amazon and eBay in terms of raw market size is a decisive win for Amazon, who are beaten only by Alibaba and the sheer consumer might of China.

It’s not all doom and gloom for eBay, however. They’re still a major global player in eCommerce, with more than half of their annual sales revenue coming from tens of millions of buyers outside the US.

eBay’s audience are also slightly younger, with 32% aged 35 to 49. Compare that to Amazon’s average shopper age of 45 to 54 and you get a target market which is starting to come of age and really flex their buying power.

If you have a niche product and a laser-focused audience profile, eBay might be right for you. But in the majority of cases, Amazon’s market share simply can’t be touched.

Amazon vs eBay: competitiveness

The hyper-competitive nature of eCommerce puts the shopper in control. Sellers, for the most part, must compete on price or go extinct. That’s hard enough when it’s one site selling against another, but what about platforms like eBay and Amazon?

Here, where tens of thousands of sellers are pushing the same product on the same site, you need to keep your wits about you if you want to turn a profit. So, is eBay more competitive than Amazon for sellers?

Amazon’s competitiveness

Amazon runs on a product catalog, with the goal of providing one clear listing per unique product. So, a customer searching for any given product will, in theory, be guided towards the best result no matter how many people are selling it.

Only when you click through to the product page will you see more potential sellers. But by then, the winner of the Amazon Buy Box will have already secured the trust (and the money) of most customers.

Amazon doesn’t tell us exactly how to win the Buy Box, it’s done via algorithm. But price is known to be a primary factor, as is the presence of the Amazon Prime badge on the listing.

This makes it easy for shopper to get a good deal. Sellers, meanwhile, could be competing with potentially hundreds of rivals for that one prime spot in the Buy Box.

eBay’s competitiveness

As befits its roots as an auction site, eBay gives shoppers the freedom to compare multiple listings for the same item. Some will be new, some used, some in better condition than others, most will have differing options for shipping.

What’s more, eBay’s auction functionality means that ongoing item listings will compete with those available to buy now for one set price. This all combines to make eBay shopping a far more considered, nuanced experience.

This is good news for sellers. You have more opportunities to tweak your listing to appeal to different audiences. Products also have broader visibility, letting shoppers rummage around for the exact deal that’s right for them.

Related article: 16 Essential Hacks to Increase eBay Sales in 2020

The conclusion: competitiveness

The difference in competition between eBay and Amazon would appear to favor eBay, at least for sellers. You simply have more opportunities to get your product seen, and an audience who are more likely to spend time deliberating.

Amazon is ruthlessly competitive, with many different sellers aiming for one single spot; the Buy Box. However, this could potentially work in your favor. If you’re genuinely offering the best products in your niche at the best price point, you could win the Buy Box more often than not and make huge sales. But in most cases, eBay provides a more reasonable experience for sellers.

Amazon vs eBay: shipping and fulfillment options

Of course, a huge market and an easy sale are only the beginning. Physically getting items to the customer’s front door is what secures you repeat business and a glowing review.

So, between eBay and Amazon, which is more firmly on the seller’s side in making that happen? Which platform provides the quickest and most convenient shipping and fulfillment for eCommerce?

Amazon’s fulfillment options

Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) is a service letting you store your products in your nearest Amazon warehouse. From there, Amazon will pick, pack, and ship on your behalf when a sale is made.

They handle customer support, remove negative feedback due to shipping, and can also ship sales made through other channels. Yes, that includes eBay.

Related article: Using Amazon FBA for eBay Fulfillment

It’s not the cheapest service, but it does qualify you for the Amazon Prime badge, nudging you closer to the Buy Box.

Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) is a cheaper option. You ship from your own facilities, but you still qualify for the Amazon Prime badge.

eBay’s fulfillment options

Right now, eBay has no shipping and fulfillment services for domestic sellers. It does offer a Global Shipping Program, which we’ll talk about in more detail a little later.

For the moment, if you’re selling on eBay to those in your own native country, you’re responsible for picking, packing, and shipping your own orders. There are plenty of service providers out there who’ll do it on your behalf, if you can take the hit to your profit margins.

This could be a particular barrier to new sellers. Having to set up shipping and fulfillment from scratch, without support from the platform, is obviously costly.

The conclusion: fulfillment options

Given that Amazon provides eBay sellers with more shipping support than eBay does, this one’s a no-brainer. Even if eBay were to start offering such a service tomorrow, it would be competing with the most advanced delivery service on Earth, starting from scratch.

There’s a possibility such a service from eBay might aim to undercut FBA on price, opening up specific markets. But until it does, Amazon wins. 

Amazon vs eBay: seller fees

We can’t address the eBay vs Amazon issue without talking about selling fees. Jeff Bezos still has to earn an honest living but, when we compare Amazon and eBay directly, who is giving sellers the better deal?

Amazon’s seller fees

Amazon charges for Professional Seller status, as well as taking a referral fee per item sold. If you’re paying for FBA, you might also think of this as an additional seller fee, albeit an optional one.

A Professional Seller subscription on Amazon costs $39.99 per month. This gives you up to 100,000 free listings, and even more if you keep making regular sales.

Amazon referral fees are very different from category to category. As a rough guide, think 15% with a $0.30 per item minimum. For media products, you’ll also be charged a closing fee of $1.80.

eBay’s seller fees

There are two kinds of selling fees on eBay. First, you’ve got insertion fees, which apply when you list your product. Then there’s final value fees which apply when you sell the product. You’re also likely to be subject to a PayPal processing fee, strictly speaking not paid to eBay but still part of the process.

eBay charges insertion fees of about $0.35 per listing and category. Setting up an eBay Store gets you an allowance of free monthly listings. Basic Store costs $28 per month and gives you 250 free listings, with packages ranging up to the $350 per month Anchor Store.

The eBay final value fee is charged as a fraction of the product’s price. The exact amount is different from one product category to another, you’re usually looking at around 10%.

PayPal processing fees for sales made on eBay are typically 2.9% of the item’s price, with a $0.30 flat fee on top. As the marketplace rolls out eBay Managed Payments, sellers won’t have to rely on PayPal and the fees that are associated with using it.

The conclusion: seller fees

Comparing eBay and Amazon on seller fees is a close one to call. Once you account for PayPal processing fees, eBay is only about 2% cheaper than Amazon.

True, those fees are on their way out, but eBay also charges extras to make a listing truly competitive, like the subtitle upgrade. If you choose to pay for FBA, the difference between eBay and Amazon’s selling fees could be negligible.

This one’s a draw, with the right option depending on the type and volume of products you sell.

Amazon vs eBay: advertising options

It always helps to gain an edge over your rivals, and that’s often worth paying for. Amazon and eBay both provide additional services to push your products ahead of the competition. But which is the seller’s choice?

Advertising options on Amazon

Amazon Sponsored Products secures your products a first-page spot for specific keywords. You can dictate which keywords to target yourself, or let Amazon do it for you automatically.

This is a pay-per-click (PPC) service, so you pay every time your ad gets clicked. Because of this, it’s important to keep an eye on how much you’re spending. However, it’s an advanced service with lots of apps and tools to help manage your campaigns in more detail.

Sponsored Products is just one of Amazon’s advertising options, with other services aimed at promoting brands and affiliates.

Advertising options on eBay

eBay offers Promoted Listings, which boosts your products in search. You ‘bid’ an amount to be paid on top of your final value fee, usually around 5-10%, and your product is boosted alongside other sellers’ products, each with their own bid.

eBay Promoted Listings are nice and straightforward, you only pay when you sell an item. It’s not a particularly advanced program, but it does the job of attracting attention and boosting sales.

The conclusion: advertising options

In terms of comparing Amazon and eBay’s services to help promote products, it’s actually closer than it first appears.

eBay provides a relatively simple service, but the platform is less competitive to begin with. A little nudge at a fair price could be all you need. Amazon Sponsored products is years ahead of Promote Listings, but takes time to get to grips with and charges a fee even if you don’t make a sale.

Overall, the narrow win goes to Amazon for giving sellers more options and more control in how they promote their wares.

Amazon vs eBay: international expansion

International eCommerce opens new horizons for sellers to engage fresh audiences without the need to make radical changes to their business model. But is Amazon better than eBay at helping sellers make the jump from domestic to global sales? Or does the auction platform go the extra mile?

Amazon’s international expansion options

You’ll need a separate account to sell in each of Amazon’s 14 international marketplaces. The exceptions are Europe (covering the five European marketplaces) and North America (covering the US, Canada, and Mexico), these are each grouped together.

Because you’re using one account per marketplace, feedback is kept separate for each. This could make it more difficult to build a local brand, or protect happy markets from the influence of troubled ones.

Amazon’s Global Store service, meanwhile, makes sure your products are shown to shoppers in their own currency, including shipping and import fees. Speaking of which, FBS offers international extensions across Europe and North America.

eBay’s international expansion options

Just one eBay account lets you trade across 23 sites in over 100 countries. It takes very little special effort to start making international sales on eBay.

We mentioned eBay’s Global Shipping Program (GSP) earlier. This lets you ship internationally via a warehouse in your country. eBay handles customs, imports, the works. The buyer is shown one clear price, including all extras, right there on the product listing.

Best of all, GSP is free to join. You only need to pay to send products to your local warehouse, as you would with a customer in your home country.

The conclusion: international expansion options

Here, eBay’s maturity as a global network lets it scoop a late win. It’s simply easier to sell internationally using eBay than Amazon.

If you only ship throughout Europe or North America, for example, you’re still selling globally but the difference between the two platforms there would be smaller. It’s very possible that Amazon might still be the right option for your business, given its monster share of some global markets.

eBay vs Amazon: the overall conclusion

So, let’s review. As we’ve seen today, Amazon supports sellers by:

  • Offering them a vastly larger audience
  • Providing superior shipping and fulfilment support
  • Giving more advanced advertising options

eBay, meanwhile, is great because it:

  • Provides a less hyper competitive marketplace
  • Makes it much less hassle to sell internationally

Both being about equal in terms of seller fees, that looks like a 3-2 win for Amazon. But think about the situation critically and assess what’s best for your business. If you’ve got a more niche audience in a lot of global markets, eBay might be right for you.

Now you’re armed with the facts, you can make the right call and win more business than ever before.

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