How to Sell Successfully on eBay and Amazon Marketplaces

What’s the Opportunity? estimates that 178,000 users run a business or use the platform as their primary or secondary source of income[1] and that there are 10 million live listings on the site at any one time. On Amazon 29% of sales are via third parties.

Why do it?

eBay and Amazon have deep pockets spending millions on marketing themselves and driving visitors to their marketplaces. Just look at the amount of times Amazon or eBay adverts or organic results appear at the top of the listing when you search for products in Google.

Visitors to marketplaces are there to source products and spend in an environment which they feel comfortable. So the hard part of getting prospective buyers to view your products and build a level of trust in which they are happy to hand over their hard earned cash is already done for you.

There are many compelling reasons why you’d choose to use a marketplace, but ultimately it comes down to the presence of quality traffic.

Why not?

This fundamental benefit is also the biggest weakness. Because it is so easy to start up, there is a regular supply of new competitors, many of which operate as a home business with few overheads. They work on the principle of striving to be the cheapest supplier around, putting pressure on everybody’s margins. eBay has started displaying the number of items sold for any given product and the previous selling prices so this might favour sellers who are more established and have a trading history.

What does it cost?

Amazon has two choices for selling on its platform.

A basic option if you sell less than 35 items a month with no monthly subscription and charge of £0.75 + VAT per item sold. 

  • Or if you sell more, there is a monthly subscription of £25.00 and a sales commission of 15% for books, music and video and a variable fee from 7% for other items. For more information see Amazon Pricing

For eBay you are charged an insertion fee (which varies depending on the format used) for either a ’auction’ or a ’buy it now’ style listing, as well as the category and price of the item you are selling. If you choose additional listing features these can also be extra. For more information see the

How to get listed

Anything sold on Amazon has to already have an international article number (EAN) barcode which will then be mapped to an ASIN (Amazon Single Identification Number).

By typing in the EAN, if it is available in the Amazon database, you will retrieve the specification, product images and description so listing products is quick and easy but makes it difficult to distinguish your product listing from the next one.

For eBay if you’re selling an item associated with a product that is in their catalogue, you can use those details or you can create your own brand new product, description, images and specifications.

Get service right

Great service cannot be emphasised enough as being critical for success – and it’s all about unrelenting attention to detail and hard work.

  • Communicating with customers is essential to keeping them on your side. Provide order status updates for when the order is received and shipped, ideally with a link to tracking information.
  • If you do get questions respond to them quickly. Remember feedback on how you are performing is available for all to see and can sway a potential buyer either way.
  • Prompt customers to give you feedback, ideally once you have dispatched their goods and you know they have been received. Resolve any issues and reiterate that you are eager to hear of anything else which does not meet their expectations.
  • Provide contact details in your delivery to make communication easy, particularly as Amazon only provides sellers with customer address details not their phone number or email.

Other secrets of success

The best way of gaining online success is by offering something different or unique and that still applies on these two platforms.

But if what you offer is identical to others in the marketplace you need to compete on service not just price. Deliveries do go wrong, goods can be lost, delayed or damaged in transit and it takes time and money to resolve the problem. Therefore to offer great service you must either be prepared to take a loss, or you need to charge enough so you can provide excellent service while making a profit. When working out what to charge remember listing and transaction fees will take a significant proportion of your profits.

Respond as fast as you possibly can to orders and ensure that you have in stock all items that are for sale.

Invest in good packing materials and do the job of packing really well – nothing destroys more value than broken goods arriving at the customer where everyone is a loser.

Offering a no quibble refund within a decent period of time covers issues that you may not spot and avoids negative feedback, so is worth the cost.

Is it worth it?

Many online sellers consider eBay and Amazon as their main competitors, but taking into consideration the ease in which products can be listed and the marketing benefits they should be seen as complementary to an existing ecommerce site, or a way to test product ideas or sell surplus/older stock.

Managing orders from multiple channels can become a challenge, so ensure your ecommerce platform can cope and you can run all your channels from a single back office system.

Find out more

For more information on the opportunities and benefits of selling on eBay or Amazon, Actinic’s white paper can be downloaded free – Selling on eBay and Amazon

Useful links

  1. ^ Ebay Company Overview

Simon Armstrong is marketing manager for cloud-based ecommerce provider, Actinic.

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