Sellers choose eBay over Amazon
eBay won the Sellers Choice award for the second time in a row, beating Amazon that only came in seventh. How is that possible? We took the time to compare the two marketplaces’ significant features, like registration, creating a listing, the sales process, customer service, and how these characteristics affect brand protection.
eBay won the 2021 Sellers Choice award created by the popular US-based e-Commerce portal EcommerceBytes. This means that US sellers (or at least those who responded to the survey issued by the portal) find eBay the best online marketplace, even better than Amazon. In fact, Amazon only managed to grab the less highly coveted seventh position out of ten. How is that possible?
EcommerceBytes has been conducting the Sellers Choice survey and the corresponding award for the past twelve years. Each year, sellers can fill out a survey on the portal answering various questions, offering suggestions for improvement, and rating online marketplaces on four important aspects: customer service, ease of use, profitability, and communication.
Survey, survey on the wall…
Who’s the fairest (marketplace) of them all?
After bagging the award last year, eBay came out on top of the list again in 2021. Back in 2019, Etsy won the top spot, while in 2018 and 2017, Amazon was the first choice of sellers. Usually the same marketplaces tend to make it onto the Top 10 list year after year, namely Bonanza, Ruby Lane, Facebook, Craigslist, and eCrater.
It seems that EcommerceBytes users find eBay both the most profitable and the easiest-to-use marketplace while placing it third for both communication and customer service. In contrast, Amazon is only eighth when it comes to profitability, communication, and customer service, and comes in tenth (out of ten!) for ease-of-use.
Considering that Amazon is the most popular online marketplace for consumers with a global net revenue of $386.06 billion, it’s surprising to see how poorly it does in the eyes of its sellers. Why could that be?
EcommerceBytes acknowledges that its survey is not representative, which means that the data may not entirely mirror reality. However, it’s definitely an indication that the platform could do more to help its sellers and brands.
A look at online marketplaces from the sellers’ point of view
Marketplaces are usually rated, explained, and compared from the point of view of consumers. It’s easy to see why: there are many more of them than sellers and at the end of the day, both marketplaces and sellers make their money off consumers, so their opinion counts the most. However, marketplaces shouldn’t ignore the opinion of sellers, and by proxy, brands.
Prestigious brands and trustworthy sellers attract consumers to a marketplace, which means that marketplaces should do everything they can to keep them happy, and that includes protection against malevolent actors as well. As online brand protection experts, our main concern at globaleyez is what each marketplace does to combat counterfeiters and grey marketers.
Let’s see how the two most widely used marketplaces of this year’s Seller’s Choice awards, Amazon and eBay compare to each other in aspects that matter the most to brands and sellers, i.e. registration as a trader, posting a listing, the sales process, and ultimately, customer service.
Registering as a seller
Selling on eBay couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is create an account on the site.
Setting up an eBay account means filling out a form with basic information like your name and contact details. You can choose between a personal and a business account.
Business accounts are for businesses, charities, and individuals who regularly sell a large amount of products. Private accounts are free, but businesses can choose from various plans ranging from $4.95 to $2999.95.
On Amazon, signing up for an account is very similar to what sellers encounter on eBay.
There are fewer selling plans though: users can choose between an individual ($0.99 per item sold) and a professional plan ($39.99 per month).
To register as a seller, you’d need to give a bit more information than on eBay, including a government ID and tax information.
From a brand protection point of view, Amazon is therefore more secure than eBay. Since Amazon asks for more information from its sellers, counterfeiters or grey marketers have a harder time registering a seller account than on eBay, which only asks for basic contact information and no proof of identity at this point.
However, even Amazon’s security checks can be circumvented by seasoned counterfeiters and grey marketers, which means that none of these platforms are free from fraudulent sellers.
Creating a listing
When creating a listing, eBay sellers have to describe the item they’re selling. This includes giving some kind of identification number or a product name, the brand, and pictures of the item. Sellers also have to pick a selling format (auction or fixed price), set a price, and determine shipping and returns policies. Finally, payment options have to be selected too.
Sellers have to be aware of eBay’s policies on various topics, including prohibited items, penalties for trying to skip fees, and intellectual property protection.
As for Amazon, the rules for creating a listing are quite similar. You have to identify your product for sale with some kind of identification number, give a description, set the price, and choose payment, shipping, and returns options.
In addition to a list of prohibited and controlled items, Amazon’s seller portal gives sellers tips on how to create the most attractive listing.
Although the procedures for the two marketplaces seem quite similar, there’s one interesting difference from an online brand protection point of view. When creating a listing, eBay assigns an individual product card to each seller. This means that customers looking for a product will see all the sellers offering that product.
However, Amazon assigns the same product card (called Amazon Standard Identification Number, or ASIN) to identical products offered by different sellers. Customers looking for an item don’t see all sellers automatically, only the one that is currently ranked the highest based on Amazon’s criteria (this is called a Featured Offer, or Buy Box). Customers are still able to choose a different seller; however, it’s not that easy to find the other sellers offering the same product.
While both systems have merits and drawbacks, one very important aspect is that Amazon’s way allows for counterfeiters and grey marketers to blend in more easily among honest sellers. If fraudulent sellers happen to win the Buy Box (which has already occurred on several occasions), their offer is prominently displayed over all the other sellers’ and customers who simply click “Buy” end up with counterfeited or grey marketed products.
The sales process
Both marketplaces provide a smooth shopping experience for buyers, which means that consumers can get from searching for a product to ordering it within seconds. While this is certainly convenient for shoppers, it doesn’t allow for a lot of contact between buyers and sellers.
Amazon and eBay both offer customers the chance to contact the seller (though in case of Amazon, it’s significantly harder to find the option). This is a problem for brand protection, because malevolent sellers can easily hide behind the marketplace they’re using.
Both Amazon and eBay offer fulfillment in various countries (Amazon in many more than eBay). This helps sellers store, package, and ship their products, and also customers who want fast and cheap delivery and easy payment options.
However, fulfillment provides another chance for fraudulent actors to disappear from sight. Because buyers send payment to sellers via the marketplace, customers won’t even learn the payment details of the seller. This is very problematic.
As online brand protection experts, we’re used to conducting thorough investigations based on minimal information. For example, even the PayPal username of the seller gives us enough to get started. However, with fulfillment, sellers don’t need to give buyers their payment details because the marketplace handles everything. Which means that we have even less information to get going.
Fulfillment hinders our cooperation with payment providers like PayPal, VISA, and Mastercard as well. The transaction number buyers get only leads to a generic description like ‘transaction with the corresponding marketplace’, which means that payment providers have to contact the marketplace to find out more about the specific payment.
Since fulfillment significantly grows the marketplace’s part and power in the purchasing process, it would be fair if they’d try to restore balance and ensure that buyers don’t become even more vulnerable to fraudulent sellers.
If sellers choose fulfillment (wherever that’s available), the marketplace is responsible for packaging, shipping, and - as we’ve seen above - payment. In Amazon’s case, this even includes customer service and handling of returns. The marketplace strongly suggests that fulfillment is beneficial for sellers and only advises against it in several exceptional cases, like when they sell hazardous goods or insist on using their own packaging.
Since eBay fulfillment is not available in many countries, eBay sellers have much more responsibility when it comes to customer service. The marketplace has a few helpful tips for sellers on how to handle problematic issues, and even an offer to insert themselves into the process when communication with a buyer goes awry.
For sellers, fulfillment options definitely provide for convenience. However, these can be pricey and also cost sellers the opportunity to have a direct connection to their buyers. In the long term, this lack of contact can have unintended consequences, like a certain detachment from customers. Not to mention the chance fulfillment gives to counterfeiters and grey marketers to hide from public view.
Due to fulfillment, Amazon tends to come between sellers and buyers while eBay provides more opportunities for them to connect. From a brand protection point of view, the latter is definitely better since direct contact diminishes the opportunities for fraud.
So, is Amazon or eBay better for sellers? Well, as is often the case in life, it’s impossible to call a clear winner. Both marketplaces are fairly easy to use and provide similar features for sellers and customers alike.
So the question is not whether one is better than the other in general, but rather, which one is better for you?
For some sellers, Amazon may be better with its comprehensive fulfillment services while others probably prefer eBay with its more “personal” options.
From a brand protection point of view, Amazon’s practice of providing a single product card and pushing its fulfillment service on sellers is definitely more problematic than eBay’s more individual approach that still allows for some contact between seller and buyer. However, as we said earlier, both eBay and Amazon have been used by counterfeiters and grey marketers in the past, and will most likely be used by them in the future as well.
Luckily, globaleyez has an excellent working relationship with these (and many, many other) marketplaces. Whichever platform your products appear on (whether authorized, grey marketed, or counterfeited), we’ll be able to monitor their trade and take appropriate action when needed.
Reach out to us and let us show you how we can protect your brand.