Should I Sell on Amazon or eBay or Both?
I have been selling on Amazon for about a year with mixed results. But
recently, a colleague of mine, Steve Lindhorst, who has been successful both
on Amazon and eBay wrote a book called Selling on The
River. The "'River"' is the slang used by posters on eBay message boards
who are not allowed to mention competitor Amazon.
Steveís book really helped me increase both my sales and profit on Amazon.
After reading the book it only took me a couple of hours to tweak my Amazon
listings and the results were pretty immediate. My sales almost doubled over
the month following the changes.
I get a lot of questions asking me what are the differences between selling
Ėand making money, on eBay versus selling on Amazon. So I was chatting with
Steve and suggested he write an article for my readers.
Selling on eBay and Amazon Ė12 Points of Comparison
By: Steve Lindhorst
Many eBay sellers have wondered if itís really worth selling on Amazon.
Some feel there are too many rules and it wouldnít be worth the effort. Iíve
chosen a dozen points of comparison that may help sellers make a decision.
2. Format (Auction vs. Fixed-price)
9. Average Sale Price
10. Payment Methods
11. Return Policy
The cost of selling is just about the same. On eBay you pay to list every
item regardless of success. You have to consider unsold items, time spent
relisting items, and time spent dealing with unpaid items on eBay as a cost.
Amazon has no upfront fees, but a higher commission.
2. Format (Auction vs. Fixed-price)
Auctions are the best way to get market value for collectibles. eBay is
better if you are selling unique items and want the best prices.
Most businesses sell "'practicals,"' commodity or everyday items. The market
value is easy to determine for these items and buyers prefer and immediate
While Amazon is the fixed-price king, eBay is moving in that direction by
downplaying auctions and encouraging fixed-price listings. The advantage is
in the buyers. The Amazon buyer is more affluent, and pays a higher average
price for products.
Advantage: Auctions: eBay
Advantage: Fixed-price: Amazon
eBay sellers are very involved with eBay buyers. The transactions are
very interactive. Amazon buyers and sellers rarely interact. The Amazon
buyer tends to expect high customer service and they donít expect to have to
ask if an item has shipped.
Because of the higher interaction with customers, eBay sellers have to spend
more time per transaction. Amazon transactions take less time.
Online retailers rely on the stability of their chosen platforms to
operate smoothly. Changes cost time. Sellers have developed systems that
allow them to list, sell, and deliver items. When rules change, or things
donít work, the systems break down and profit is lost.
Amazon has had very few major changes in the past year. Even though there
are some restrictions, they generally stay the same, and are enforced
consistently. When changes have been made, they tend to stick and sellers
eBay has had major changes over the past year, including Feedback, fees,
digitally delivered items, search results, Detailed Seller Ratings, eBayís
affiliate program, and more are to be expected. Sellers have been greatly
affected in real and perceived ways. Some changes have been rolled out, only
to be reversed causing even more consternation among sellers.
Both eBay and Amazon have a feedback system allowing buyers and sellers
to record their impression of a transaction. Both sites allow buyers to
leave negative comments for sellers. Both sites allow sellers to leave only
positive comments for buyers.
The eBay culture has given much more weight to feedback than their Amazon
counterpart. Amazon buyers can see the sellerís feedback score, but tend to
overlook it more readily than eBay buyers. Amazonís A-z Guarantee may have a
bearing on this by making the buyer feel more protected when purchasing an
Amazon does not "'disadvantage"' sellers, as eBay does, by moving them down
in the results when shoppers perform a search. eBay does this by considering
the sellerís feedback score and making them less visible to shoppers, rather
than letting buyers make the choice themselves.
Advantage (especially for sellers): Amazon
Amazon restricts sellers from reaching out to buyers and marketing to
them. Traditionally, this has been an advantage to eBay since eBay allowed
sellers to link to a site off eBay from the sellerís About Me page.
Recent changes at eBay have virtually eliminated the ability to use eBay as
a lead generating tool for off-eBay business. eBay has all but forbidden any
outside links from any eBay pages including custom store pages, and About Me
pages. This has effectively neutralized eBay as a "'branding"' tool.
eBay sellers have always struggled with photos. How to take good photos,
how to get the photos to show up on eBay, how many photos. Each item, no
matter if itís exactly the same as another, gets its own photo on eBay.
Amazon is different. An individual product gets one photo, and one
description page, and all sellers use the same page.
Generally, the first photo posted on a given product, is the photo everyone
will use. Some sellers donít like the idea of other sellers using their
photo. But if "'one photo fits all"' for a particular product, itís pretty
likely that product is a commodity product. Not many photos are needed.
As an Amazon seller, I absolutely love the fact that I can list 20 items
without shooting a single photo. It saves a ton of time.
Amazon buyers will buy an item without a photo. They know that the image
they see is generally just representative anyway.
Marketplace sellers are responsible for the sales tax on any items sold
on Amazon.com, and if necessary, they generally add this cost into the price
of their items. This is a pain for Amazon sellers who are running a
eBay provides a mechanism in the Sell-Your-Item form to collect the taxes in
addition to the sale price. This way the taxes donít eat into the sellerís
It seems Amazon could add a tool like this to their process quite easily for
their Marketplace sellers and I wouldnít be surprised to see it in the
future. But until that happens, Iíd sayÖ
9. Average Sale Price
Amazon buyers have been shown to be more affluent, and more willing to
spend more on similar items. eBay buyers tend to look for bargains, and are
willing to wait through a seven-day auction to save a buck.
As a seller, Iíll pick the buyer that is willing to spend more. I have
actually used eBay to source products at rock-bottom prices, that sold for
good profit on Amazon. Amazon buyers often donít even look on eBay, and they
ultimately pay more.
10. Payment Methods
Amazon sellers must use Amazon Payments to accept payment. Thatís it.
Amazon collects the payment, and deposits it into your bank account twice
per month (more often if you choose). They collect and deposit the funds
with no fees added. eBay sellers can accept PayPal, money orders, cashierís
checks, or cash (in person).
eBay seems poised to require PayPal payments on all transactions. If that
happens, it will significantly affect many sellers. If you sell an item for
$500, you may now accept non-PayPal payments and keep most of your money. If
PayPal is required, you will fork over 2.9% + $.35 ($14.85) in PayPal fees.
Amazon sellers do not have to send invoices, payment reminders, or track
unpaid items. If Amazon cannot collect the payment, you donít have a sale,
and your item is still listed on their site. eBayís system is simply more
work, more time, and ultimately costs more to manage as a seller.
11. Return Policy
Some eBay sellers fear Amazon because of their obligatory return policy,
called the A-z Guarantee. This guarantee allows the buyer to receive a full
refund if the item is "'materially different"' from that described, for up
to 90 days. Amazon will usually side with the buyer. Sounds pretty tough.
The eBay seller is free to fight it out with buyers with a dispute
resolution. This could ultimately result in negative feedback for the
seller. They are not required to offer a refund. If eBay forces sellers to
use PayPal for payments though, your funds could be held or you may even
receive a charge-back against your account. Itís basically the same
difference, but the eBay / PayPal route is a lot messier and time consuming.
If you have a buyer that is determined to get a refund, theyíll generally
figure a way to get it.
Simply based on the time consuming mess the dispute resolution process is,
eBay sellers have long looked at shipping charges as a small revenue
stream. They bump up shipping prices and skim a little for themselves to
cover shipping supplies, labels, and pixie dust. (Okay, I added the pixie
dust.) The fact is, many sellers have turned this legitimate charge into a
way to avoid eBay fees.
eBay has now begun penalizing sellers who charge above average shipping
amounts by lowering their visibility in the default search results. They are
even giving breaks to sellers who offer free shipping, in effect hurting
those sellers who cannot afford it.
Amazon gives sellers a "'shipping credit"', based on an itemís category.
This does not always cover the full shipping amount, but usually does. The
amount is fixed by Amazon. You cannot ask for more from the customer, and
even if the shipping credit does not cover your shipping costs, you must
ship the item. Since the shipping credit is fixed, it can be figured in when
setting your price.
Which is better? I like to have control over my shipping. But if a seller is
careful, itís pretty easy to figure in the shipping credit on Amazon and not
lose money. Even if there is a loss, itís minimal.
I have found items I wanted on eBay, only to leave because of the outrageous
shipping charges. ($1.99 item + $10.99 shipping for a cell phone cover.) I
go straight to Amazon, because I know shipping is standard and I wonít feel
ripped off. How many other buyers do the same? Iíll take those buyersÖ
There is no question eBay is best for some items, while Amazon is best
for others. But the overlap is incredibly large. The vast majority of items
that sell on Amazon will also sell on eBay, and visa versa.
The important thing to remember is the shoppers are different. While you and
I may shop on several sites, many Amazon shoppers are very loyal to Amazon
and wonít even visit eBay. Some eBayers feel it would be a sin to shop on
Amazon. By selling on both sites, you are potentially getting millions of
additional eyeballs on your products.
If you are avoiding Amazon because you think there are too many rules Ė take
a look at eBayís User Agreement. eBay is moving closer to Amazonís model, in
many ways. Like it or not, this is the wave of the future. Will you be ahead
of the game, or will you be playing catch-up?
About the author:
Steve Lindhorst is the author of Selling
on Ďthe Riverí Ė The eBay Sellerís Guide to Amazon.com.
He is a former eBay employee and National eBay University instructor and
a featured speaker at eBayís largest annual event "'eBay Live!"' He is a
successful online retailer and consultant to businesses and auto dealers
around the U.S..