Amazon is the golden child of ecommerce, but eBay has been around for almost just as long and has amassed a loyal following of its own.
eBay’s seller base of seven million U.S. merchants (25 million globally) now includes well-known brands, including Reebok, Dyson and Keurig. And while both eBay and Amazon can prove to be valuable additions to your sales mix, it’s important to note what makes each unique.
After all, even if you hit it big on Amazon doesn't mean you’ll hit it big on eBay. The two channels are very different, and you’ll want to know how exactly they compare to one another before getting started.
Table of Contents (Click to Jump to a Section):
- Ecommerce Market Share
- The Importance of Mobile
- Selling Fees
- Onboarding and Listing
- Shipping and Fulfillment
Ecommerce Market Share
Amazon undoubtedly takes the cake when it comes to ecommerce market share; it’s now estimated to generate 50% of ecommerce GMV (up another 10% since the last time we reported it). The post-pandemic era is also being called the “golden age” for Amazon, whose net income tripled to a record $8.1 billion from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.
“Amazon’s US ecommerce sales will grow by 15.3% this year to $367.19 billion after a meteoric 44.1% rise in sales during 2020,” predicts eMarketer, saying that food/beverage and apparel/accessories will likely be its fastest growing categories.
There’s still much to be seen in terms of Amazon’s growth. Despite its dominant presence in the industry, it hasn’t yet peaked—and will likely continue growing at an unconventional clip, now that more and more consumers are getting comfortable with online shopping for a majority of their needs.
eBay is the third-largest marketplace in terms of market share. It was seated as the number-two largest channel up until 2020, when Walmart dethroned it. (That said, eBay still gets far more web visitors than Walmart, according to Statista.)
eBay accounts for just around 4.7% of U.S. ecommerce share, which translates to over 10 billion in revenue. It is a destination for 159 million active users worldwide. This may look measly compared to Amazon's 300 million active customer accounts globally, but eBay’s advantage is in its niche audience.
The typical eBay shopper is characterized as an “enthusiast buyer” who finds value in older models of products, collectables or vintage items. They are not, by contrast, “efficiency buyers” who seek competitively priced current-year items.
The Importance of Mobile
Mobile commerce is a huge focus for eBay, but on Amazon, more than half of shoppers (67%) still prefer to do their shopping on desktop. This is largely driven by the cohort of shoppers that are 55 years or older.
Meanwhile, just around 24% of Amazon shoppers prefer mobile. Many of these shoppers are 35 years old or younger. It’s also worth noting that while purchases are largely completed on desktop, browsing is often done on mobile. Multi-screen shopping is becoming more common-practice as buyers research for products and cheaper Amazon alternatives on-the-go.
An impressive 34.9% of all U.S. mobile users (around three out of every 10 people) use eBay’s mobile app. This ranks behind Amazon and Walmart in terms of downloads, but more than 60% of eBay GMV involves a mobile touchpoint.
Another 59% are multiscreen shoppers, who reportedly use a number of devices to check on their auctions or favorited listings.
A professional selling plan costs $39.99 a month. Aside from this, you’ll have to pay a referral fee that typically ranges from 8% to 17% of the final price (your item price, plus shipping cost and any gift-wrapping fees) or a minimum fee, whichever is greater.
If you choose to take advantage of Amazon’s FBA services, then you’ll have to factor in fulfillment fees that are charged on a per-unit basis. There are also storage fees to keep in mind, as well as long-term storage and/or removal fees if your inventory lingers in Amazon’s fulfillment center for too long.
All other fees are purely optional, including advertising costs and premium account services.
eBay collects several fees, some of which are optional and some of which are not. These include:
- Insertion fees - Fees for each listing you publish on eBay. However, every seller has at least 250 free listings each month (or more if you subscribe to a bigger subscription). The insertion fee for most categories is $0.35 per listing.
- Final value fees - A commission fee for every time you sell, similar to Amazon’s referral fees. This typically ranges from 2% to 12%, and is charged with a $0.30 transaction fee.
- Listing upgrades (optional) - You can choose from a variety of upgrades that help to boost the visibility of your listings, such as larger photos, more photos, or tagging one listing in multiple categories.
- eBay Store (optional) - While not required, an eBay store lets you organize and showcase your products on one branded page. It also gives you access to exclusive benefits, like more free listings, 50% off final value fees, and marketing service. You can choose from four annual plans, which range from a Starter plan ($4.95 a month) to an Enterprise plan ($2,999.95 a month).
Onboarding and Listing
It’s always nice to know that when it comes to Amazon, you can get started any time. You don’t hop on a call or sit through a formal sales conversation—you simply have to pick a selling plan and set up your Seller Central account.
You can then create ASINs manually, via a template, or via an integration partner like Zentail. The latter will help you to automatically format and categorize your products according to Amazon’s unique taxonomy. The most advanced solutions will additionally simplify the process for editing your listings if, say, you sell on multiple channels or don’t have a solid strategy in place to manage Amazon’s constantly changing listing requirements.
If you’re a brand owner, you’ll definitely want to enroll in Amazon’s Brand Registry. This program offers access to additional protections, branding opportunities and other benefits, like the ability to gate your brand or police your own ASINs.
eBay similarly offers an easy, touchless signup process. Simply sign up for a business account, set up your account preferences, then create your first listing(s). There are two types of listings that you can create:
- Fixed price listings (aka, Buy It Now) - This is a standard listing with a fixed asking price. You can choose to accept offers and/or only keep your listing up for a short period of time. In general, though, you’ll likely be creating fixed price listings that are ‘Good Til Canceled.’
- Auction-style listings - This is eBay’s claim to fame. With auction-style listings, you can set a minimum price, then keep the auction running for up to 10 days. Your item will go to the person with the highest bid at the end of that period, or you can offer a Buy It Now option in conjunction with your auction.
eBay offers a quick listing tool, whereby you enter a keyword that describes your product (eBay will then pick your category for you) and fill in the required data. It’ll give you the option to add to an existing listing, too. This tool, however, is best for beginners.
Your brand will likely want to utilize the business tool or eBay’s new listing tool. Both offer more advanced features than the quick listing tool, like being able to templatize your listings or give them more flair with custom design.
Generally speaking, listing on eBay is a very manual process. To upload a large catalog at once, you’ll want to tap a multichannel listing solution like Zentail. Zentail can automatically translate your product data for eBay, so that all you have to worry about is customizing your titles and descriptions if you want to.
Note that just like with Amazon, eBay is regularly updating its listings requirements to better service its shoppers, so you’ll want to have a reliable change management solution.
Not too long ago, Amazon quietly eliminated its policy that prohibited sellers from offering their products at a lower price elsewhere on the internet. Until then (and honestly still now), the marketplace wanted to ensure that its merchants observed price parity.
For this reason, you’ll still want to offer a competitive price, especially since buyers are conditioned to expect lowest-possible prices on Amazon. It additionally pays off to maintain stable pricing across your ASINs, unless you’re running a temporary promotion or repricing for the buy box on a competitive listing.
The buy box itself can feel like a constantly moving target. For some listings, we’ve seen the buy box winner change almost every hour. (It doesn’t help that Amazon makes it difficult for anyone to guess the exact science behind winning the buy box.) Most sellers will employ an automated repricer to keep up with the competition, while setting min and max prices so that they don’t wind up shooting themselves in the foot.
eBay is a bit more flexible when it comes to pricing. It’s less likely that your listing will be delisted because of price, given the diverse makeup of its sellers (individuals that sell items for a little extra cash, plus large brands) and product types.
Many users may even be willing to pay more for discontinued or specialty items. That said, if you’re experimenting with auction-style listings, you’ll want to set a low starting price to attract more bidders. (In this arrangement though, your buyers ultimately determine your final price, not you.)
For other listings, you can check out eBay’s pricing recommendations and scope out of the competition. Keep your price reasonable without necessarily undercutting your competitors every time, which is a surefire way to trigger a race to the bottom.
Shipping and Fulfillment
An overwhelming majority of Amazon sellers use FBA, at least in part, to secure the highly coveted Prime badge on their items.
“If you're looking to actually turn Amazon into a meaningful sales channel, you need to be Prime eligible,” says James Thomson, one of Amazon’s first-ever FBA account managers. Thomson recommends that even if you have the means to ship your own products at the speed Amazon demands, you’ll still want to evaluate FBA and consider it a cost of doing business on Amazon.
Thomson mentions how the Prime badge increased conversion rates by a staggering 70% to 75% for some products. Turning a blind eye to FBA could throttle your ability to maximize your sales on Amazon.
At the same time, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t rely on Amazon entirely for shipping. If recent years have taught us anything, it’s that Amazon can pull the plug on its FBA services whenever and to whomever it wants.
Third-party logistics partners (3PLs) can help to get the job done if you’re not able to fulfill on your own. With a more diversified portfolio of fulfillment options, you can ensure that you always have a backup plan if one line of service goes down.
eBay is keenly aware that fast, free shipping is important to its buyers. Until recently, it offered a Fast N’ Free badge that highlighted sellers with some of the best shipping speeds. But those badges have been replaced with tags that showcase the actual delivery speed, from next day up to four business days.
To earn this banner, you’ll still have to offer free shipping, same-day or one-day handling, tracking details and an estimated arrival within four business days.
In 2019, eBay flirted with the idea of offering its own fulfillment services. It launched a pilot program called eBay Managed Delivery that picked, packed and shipped items on merchants’ behalf. However, this program was closed in December 2021 (eBay never explicitly said it “ended,” just “closed”).
Despite the absence of a fulfillment program, you can still take advantage of other services like eBay Label—a tool where you can print shipping labels directly from eBay at discounted shipping rates. There are other services, too, that you can choose from, including QR codes and a Global Shipping Program.
The Key Takeaway
Amazon and eBay operate very differently. Both can provide big opportunities for your growing brand, but hardly anything—from how products are listed to how they’re shipped—is the same between these two platforms.
eBay is very much the underdog in the ecommerce arena. However, eBay is certainly worth your consideration, especially if you’ve got a multichannel listing tool that makes it easy to test the waters. If you want to learn more about multichannel automation, holler at us! See how a centralized command center can simplify your life.
Related Reading: Walmart vs. Amazon: What Sellers Need to Know