If you’re into selling items online, there are lots of great ways to do it. Among the fastest, cheapest, and easiest ways are to sell on either Amazon, eBay, or both. The question is, Amazon vs eBay where to sell?
Naturally, there are different pros and cons to each online buying and selling platform. Finding the right one will depend on your needs, resources, and preferred shipping methods.
Here, we’ll look at several different types of considerations to pin down which platform is best for you.
Amazon vs eBay: Which is Best for You?
The best way to answer this question might be to sell a few things on each site, compare your experiences, and drop the one you like the least. Better still would be to answer a few questions about yourself and then find out which site is best for you based on your answers. These questions revolve around your priorities, as each site prioritizes common seller and buyer needs differently.
How important to you is ease of selling?
How important is safety?
How important is it to earn a lot of money selling online?
How impacted are you by the costs of selling?
Once you’ve answered these questions, then our guide will help you finish weighing the pros and cons.
Amazon vs eBay: Where to Sell?
The first thing you should know about the difference between these two platforms is that eBay is more casual and Amazon is less casual. eBay is less formal and less strict in terms of regulations and customer service. Amazon demands more from its sellers in terms of customer service and regulations.
Which is better for selling?
The answer to this question is going to depend on where you are in your journey as a merchant. If you just starting out selling antiques or knickknacks from around the house, then eBay is the place for you. If you are a professional merchant looking to diversify and expand your business online, then Amazon is likely the place to go.
Amazon imposes more regulations on its sellers, and it is more difficult to qualify for a spot on the platform. If you’re an experienced merchant then these will feel less like barriers to you.
On eBay, the seller community is much more heavily policed by the customers who are left with the task of rating each seller they deal with. It’s a pretty good system, but it’s not fool-proof. It means buyers can get burned, and once a buyer gets burned he is unlikely to return.
If you are honest, provide good customer service, and can maintain a list 1,000 different items or more, eBay may be a comfortable home for you. If you are accustomed to dealing with marketplace protections and regulations, you may feel more at home at Amazon.
Where is safer?
To determine the relative safety for either of these major online marketplaces, we need to take a few things into consideration. Both platforms are well established. Both have long-time sellers, all of whom are happy with their online selling platform of choice.
Both platforms offer buyer protection. Both do a good job at that, with some errors which are to be expected. But the question is, which protects the merchant more effectively? Some customers will try to cheat, claim that a shipment didn’t arrive, or say that they got the wrong item.
Here are the respective policy statements from each platform on how they treat disputed transactions and customer complaints.
Amazon Participation Agreement:
“Amazon reserves the right to look for reimbursement from a Seller if Amazon, in its exclusive discretion, decides to reimburse the Buyer under the terms of the Amazon.com A-to-Z Guarantee, provide a refund to the Buyer if the Seller cannot quickly deliver the goods, discover inaccurate or duplicate transactions, or get a chargeback from the Buyer’s credit card issuer for the amount of the Buyer’s purchase from the Seller.”
eBay Seller protection Policy:
“When a buyer or seller issue arises, eBay may consider the user’s performance and use history and the particular circumstances in applying our complaint policies. eBay may opt to be more lenient with policy enforcement in order to do the right thing for both the buyer and the seller.”
You probably noticed that both of these policy statements are a bit vague, giving the company the leeway they want in making decisions about transaction issues. This is not terribly confidence-inspiring, but it is par for the course.
Both platforms may require a buyer to provide some kind of evidence such as images of a faulty product to get their money back. Both platforms will consider the customer’s history of behavior before approving a refund. There is always a chance of losing money on a transaction gone wrong. The question is where do things go wrong more frequently, Amazon or eBay? For that, we could use some statistics. Fortunately, SurveyMonkey has come through with that very thing.
According to a survey of sellers who use each platform or both, 70% responded saying that Amazon does a better job of protecting them from chargebacks and fraudulent claims. Just 30% of eBay sellers said the same thing about their chosen platform.
At the end of the day, it’s worth saying that your experience on either platform will have a lot to do with your sales practices. If you have a good reputation with customers and with the platform, chances are better that either eCommerce site will step in and act in your favor. It may take some time to build a reputation that your chosen platform will tend to act on behalf of, but your reputation and performance as a seller are the overriding metrics of quality for either platform.
Where to earn more money?
On eBay, you have 25 million sellers competing for the business of 183 million buyers. On Amazon, you have just 2 million sellers competing for the business of 300 million buyers. In other words, there are 12.5 times fewer sellers on Amazon than there are on eBay.
There’s a reason for this huge disparity, and it has everything to do with how each site does quality control.
On eBay, quality control is done in a more democratic way. If a seller gets even one bad review, it will drop the seller’s rating from 100% to 98%. These satisfaction ratings are one of the biggest factors that experienced buyers look at when deciding whether or not to buy from a given seller. So eBay lets the customers police the sellers. That’s not to say that eBay doesn’t have customer protections. They do. They will refund a purchase where a seller doesn’t take action to remedy problems with an order. But the site is much more reputation-based than Amazon.
On Amazon, quality control is much more top-down. The platform itself uses its own regulatory power to keep sellers in line. What this means is that the customer experience is a little less hands-on for the customer.
For the customer, going to eBay is a bit like going to a garage sale whereas Amazon is more like a swap-meet. It’s up to the buyer to judge the quality of the product on eBay. On Amazon, there are more safeguards in place. However, on Amazon, if customer service fails, appeals can take longer and it is a lot easier to fall through the cracks.
In short, eBay is easier to get started on, but you have to list more items to make decent sales. Amazon is much more restrictive but gives you access to a bigger marketplace. You can earn more money on Amazon if the platform will have you.
Selling Costs Comparison
Naturally, the cost of selling on either platform will be a major part of your final choice. The charges you’re going to pay for different types of items will vary on either site. So, for the purposes of control, we looked at the fees for selling the same DVD. Here’s what we found:
Value Fee: eBay charges 77 cents / Amazon charges 68 cents
Closing Fee: eBay charges 19 cents / Amazon charges 19 cents
Listing Fee: eBay charges 36 cents / Amazon charges 36 cents
PayPal Fee: eBay charges 60 cents / Amazon charges 0
So on the whole, you will save a total of 60 cents by selling the same DVD on Amazon rather than selling it on eBay. However, looking at another survey, we find that sellers who work on both platforms say that eBay is quite a bit lighter across the board on fees than Amazon.
Pros and Cons
At the end of the day, the fact remains that both online sales platforms are the premier sites of their kind for a good reason. All of this back and forth can be a bit disorienting. So how about some good old fashioned pros and cons?
The overall feeling of Amazon is one of a higher level of professionalism and security. While this may be a feeling only, when it comes to security, it is true that far fewer second-hand items are being passed off as new on Amazon.
-Detailed reviews are readily available giving customers easy access to information about the quality of a product including images and ratings.
-Best-seller lists give you the chance to earn high visibility and show off your most popular items.
-Personal sections give buyers the chance to let sellers know exactly what they are looking for before they go shopping. This lets you make listings that are more likely to sell.
-At Amazon, you get access to a much bigger buying audience, roughly 12x the amount you get on eBay.
-Amazon FBA handles your shipping and most customer service issues.
-You get access to paid advertising benefits to grow your exposure with superior rankings.
-Because Amazon has earned a reputation for higher quality products, they have a much broader audience to sell to.
-Prices tend to be somewhat higher on Amazon compared to similar items on eBay. This might give Amazon sellers more opportunity to underbid their competitors, as long as Amazon allows it. This may be one reason why eBay buyers tend to stay on eBay.
-Free shipping is more limited. This is a major drawback to selling on Amazon since one of the first things savvy buyers look for is free and low shipping costs.
-Amazon customers are “Amazon” customers, technically, not your customers.
-The competition is functionally higher since there are fewer niche products on Amazon.
-Paid advertising is sold as optional, but you won’t be able to keep up with the competition if you don’t leverage it.
-Seller support can be poor and suspensions can seem to come out of nowhere, even if you feel a customer has reported you unfairly.
-Customers on Amazon have much higher rates of returning items and requesting refunds.
-Low tolerance for conflict, Amazon punishes sellers for any turbulence whether it’s the seller’s fault or not.
Many people say eBay is a friendlier environment for both buyers and sellers. With fewer regulations and fewer restrictions, it can certainly seem easier to start up and use an eBay seller’s account. But does that pan out to a better platform overall?
-Prices tend to be lower on eBay for all kinds of items. This makes you more likely to retain customer loyalty.
-Sellers have more freedom to choose the prices they wish to charge.
-There is a greater range of customizable settings allowing eBay sellers to appear to specific customer demographics.
-With a far greater range of niche products available on eBay, you are more likely to get customers looking for your shop if you sell out of the ordinary items.
-The cost to advertise on eBay is much lower than the cost to effectively promote your store on Amazon.
-eBay is better for branding as the platform gives you more room to customize your store, communicate with buyers, and to advertise within your budget.
-While it depends on who you ask, there is good reason to suppose that eBay is kinder to sellers during disputes than Amazon is.
-Character limitations, similar to those used on Twitter, make it hard for customers to give their full feedback. This can hold you back from making important changes to increase sales. However, you have the option to reach out via email to get more complete comments on your performance.
-eBay has fewer customers, which may affect your sales depending on your product categories.
-Shipping is completely up to you, with no fulfillment support from the platform. This gives you more freedom but it also means more work.
-By the majority of accounts, it looks like eBay’s seller fees are higher.
How Many Sellers are on eBay vs Amazon?
One way to judge how each eCommerce platform will break down is to look at the seller to buyer numbers objectively. On eBay, there are far more sellers and fewer buyers. That means on eBay you’re competing with your fellow sellers much more. On eBay, there are far more listings that are similar than there are on Amazon. This is because there are so many more sellers on eBay and fewer restrictions as to who can sell what and in what volumes.
eBay: 25 million sellers / 183 million buyers
Amazon: 2 million sellers / 300 million buyers
If you’re new to selling online, or if you’re looking to expand to one of these eCommerce sites, it might help to do a little thought experiment.
First imagine being a shop owner in a large mall with 25 million other merchants, each serving about seven to eight customers at a time. Then imagine a similar mall with just two shops, including yours – but each shop must service 150 customers!
Consider each scenario carefully. Whichever one induces less anxiety, in all likelihood is the platform for you. The one factor that wasn’t taken into account when looking for these numbers is the fact that eBay customers tend to be far more loyal than Amazon customers.
When an eBay buyer finds a seller that he likes, he tends to stick with that seller for similar products. This is partly because eBay encourages return shopping. But it’s also because the seller reputation quality control system makes customers somewhat averse to trying out sellers they are not familiar with.
So once again, we find that it is the selling practices of the seller that will determine whether you will find more success on one platform or the other. The major difference is that Amazon expects sellers to mind their regulations, whereas eBay lets the crowd judge sellers. So it’s really all about what type of authority you respect more, the crowd, or the people behind the desks.
Which is Easier to Set up eBay vs Amazon?
If you’re looking for a faster, simpler process for setting up shop in an online platform, eBay is undoubtedly the place to go. The most significant restriction you’re likely to run into on eBay is the initial waiting period.
There will be a limit to the number of things you are able to sell on eBay during your first year. As good customer ratings trickle in, these restrictions will be lifted and you will be able to sell more and more things.
Over the years, eBay has made things easier on sellers by simplifying its setup structure and for the process of calculating fees for selling products.
Amazon’s fee structure is more complex and quite a bit harder to understand. There are varying referral and closure fees- the latter of which being based on the weight of the product sold. The listing feature on Amazon can be simpler since it’s possible for buyers to make purchases directly from the website.
Amazon makes doing business full time much easier with its complex fulfillment infrastructure all over the globe. Chances are, there’s an Amazon fulfillment center in your home town- even if you live in a small city. You may also have noticed that if you expect to receive a package from either UPS or USPS, there is a chance that an Amazon van will end up delivering it. That’s because Amazon has been able to pick up the slack and to make some extra money doing so.
eBay offers more customization in its listings which makes it easier to promote your business. eBay even lets you ask them to help you put together some listings.
eBay requires you to have a PayPal account in order to get paid, whereas Amazon is more amicable to making deposits directly into your bank account.
All in all, getting set up on eBay is much easier than it is on Amazon. But doing business long term on Amazon is much more seller-friendly and much more streamlined.
Finally, the choice between eBay and Amazon will come down to how much experience you have, what types of items you intend to sell, and how much footwork you are willing to put into it.
You can think of eBay as the DIY-er’s answer to selling merchandise online. You make the trips to the post office and you do all your own customer service. Amazon, on the other hand, takes care of all this busy work for you, but they ask quite a bit more from you upfront.
If you go with eBay, get ready to work for your money, and to benefit from the reputation that you earn from delivering good products and friendly service.
On Amazon, you’ll have to jump higher to get in the door, but you’ll be scrambling less often if you deliver the goods.