A former colleague of mine recently encouraged me to apply for a role at eBay. She’s very happy there and has a highly attenuated sense of cultural fit so I trust her judgement. I decided to experiment with selling on Ebay as a way of exploring the company.
While I used to buy and sell camera equipment on Ebay it had been awhile. To get reacquainted I listed a purse on Ebay and a bag on Facebook Marketplace (FBM) to also understand one of the competitors.
Here are a few things that I learned from these experiments first from the buyer’s point of view and then from the seller’s.
Standard of Comparison: Ebay vs Amazon
First time eBay buyers aren’t comparing today’s eBay experience with prior experience on the platform. Buyers today will more likely compare the eBay buying experience to Amazon’s. The buying process may hold surprises for them. For example, there’s no “pick up site”. Buyers have to have packages delivered to their front door step. Also, unless the seller chooses to offer free and expedited shipping there’s no free 2-day shipping like you get with Prime.
Listing is super easy with a smart phone. Just take pictures, write a keyword rich title and description, select the shipping service you want to offer, set your price and you’re off! eBay has a step-by-step guide.
The guide is text only. The lack of video quite surprised me. A helpful concierge persona or person in conjunction with text would have made the learning experience much more fun. Maybe eBay chose text only because of the difficulty of choosing a person(a) that all users would identify with and because video content is more difficult to update.
eBay’s platform is available via a browser and a mobile app. While I experienced some messaging sync issues between the two platforms, overall I found them easy to use. It was definitely nice to get mobile notifications and be able to respond quickly.
Pictures: Take lots. Select intentionally.
In each platform you can use nine or more photos to help set the buyer’s expectation about the condition of the item, particularly if pre-owned. I took 15 photos and used seven showing wide view, medium view of individual features and close-ups of areas of wear and indicators of brand authenticity. While pictures are worth a thousand words, a 90 second video overview could really help.
Item Description: eBay autofill / FBM manual
eBay will autopopulate detailed specs for your item based on previously sold similar items. This saves you time and increases accuracy through crowdsourcing. You can update any of the details you wish. FBM does not offer this feature.
Pricing: eBay pricing recommendation engine/ FBM current listing comparisons
eBay will show you what similar items sold for and will give you a recommended selling price. On eBay you can select different pricing models.
- An auction means the item will go to the highest bidder. You can specify the number of days the auction is going to be open up to seven days.
- A “buy-it-now” price model is used in conjunction with an auction model. The price is usually higher than the starting price for the auction. If a buyer wants to pay this higher price, the auction will end.
- And there are fixed price listings where the price is the price. Negotiation happens within the Ebay platform via messages.
FBM has no history review or recommendation engine although you can look at the prices of other similar items currently for sale. FBM has fixed price listings and easy communication for negotiation via Messenger.
Fees: Ebay/Paypal 13% / FBM 0%
eBay charges an insertion fee to “insert” or list the item in a category like “bags and purses” and a final value fee. The final value fee is 10% * (sale price + shipping) up to $50. If you get a track record of “item not as described” you pay an extra 4% in final value fees added on top. For my experiment, the insertion fee was free and the final value fee was $4.33. (*Your first 50 listings as a personal seller are free of insertion fees.)
Also, Paypal charges 3% fees on the transaction or 3% * (sale price + shipping). For my experiment, Paypal fees were ~$1.29
Bottom line, you’re looking at 13% of (the selling price + the shipping cost) in fees.
FBM charges no fees. However, exchanging payment for the item with the buyer may require meeting in person.
Shipping: eBay partners with USPS and FedEx
If you chose USPS as your shipper of choice for a listing you get
- a discount from regular USPS rates
- automatically calculated shipping cost
- a shipping label to print at home
- the tracking number is automatically populated and hyperlinked in your view making it easy for you and the buyer to trace progress.
Competitive Landscape: Lots of options with different service levels. Also lots of overlap in the products available on competing platforms.
Local: While FBM, Craigslist and the traditional garage sale compete for the local market, eBay also has a listings filter for “local pickup only”.
Used/New: eBay, Amazon, FBM and Craigslist list offer a marketplace for used and new items.
Specialized: There are specialized marketplaces for used and new designer label clothes like Thred Up, The RealReal and Rebagg and for electronics like Glyde, Swappa, Gazelle, uSell and Decluttr. I have not tried any of these.