The Pros and Cons of Marketing Your Products on E-commerce Channels

By Jeanette McMurtry

The two biggest e‐commerce outlets are of course Amazon and eBay, and both are great for marketing your products to the masses. But they’re different. Amazon offers you a retail structure and will often fulfill your sales as well as offer your products on its site for a fee. eBay is mostly a marketplace provider and offers you the tools to help you better promote your products to its site visitors. With both sites, you have access to a lot of shoppers, while of course having to overcome a lot of competition. For example,

  Amazon eBay
Active users 244 million 157 million
Annual income 2014 $88.9 billion $17.94 billion
Number of independent sellers 2 million 25 million
Number of products available 480 million 1 billion

As you can see, a lot of selling takes place on these sites, and your product will be one of dozens, or rather nearly 1 billion if you choose eBay. However, it often pays off. For Amazon, some merchants report that their sales went up when selling on Amazon and that the volume of sales outweighed the costs of selling fees.

So the question: to eBay or to Amazon? The main differences eBay offers are really quite simple:

  • The atmosphere is different. It’s more of a market for individuals to list and sell personal goods at discount.
  • eBay doesn’t offer to take inventory of your goods and sell them for you as Amazon will. eBay provides you with guidelines and tools for selling your items successfully, but you do the rest. With Amazon, you can sell your products with Amazon.com as the payment processing system for your shopping cart or Amazon’s; or you can become an Amazon seller, paying a monthly fee for Amazon to list and fulfill your product.
  • The selling fees are lower with eBay; so, too, is the volume.
  • Consumer perception is that eBay is like a big garage sale with a few new items mixed in, and Amazon is a trusted brand with everything new and trendy and easily returnable.

Regardless of where you sell your products, the key is to get your product to pop up on the first page or two of the search results. Here are some tips that can help you get noticed.

  • List your product in two categories. Some customers may not know which category to search in, so list your products in the categories that make sense. For example, if you’re selling a winter coat, list it as a jacket and a winter sports coat and see what happens. You should be able to track which listing made it to the shopping cart as well. It may cost more to do this, but if you don’t get noticed, you don’t get sales.
  • Offer free shipping. eBay prefers listings with free shipping and gives them preference in its rank ordering of search results. Amazon offers free shipping to Prime customers, so it’s becoming more and more expected. If you offer free shipping, make sure you cover at least the cost of standard shipping in the overall price you list.
  • Avoid keyword spamming. Keyword spamming is when you slip a popular keyword into your item description that doesn’t really belong there. For example, saying, “If you love Ralph Lauren’s designs, you’ll love these bath towels,” is against eBay policy and may get your listing — and you — kicked off if the towels aren’t actually Ralph Lauren towels.
  • Become the top seller. Both sites rate independent sellers and list reviews. Be sure to offer fast, responsive, and honest transactions at all times to maintain a high seller rating. Just one bad review can send shoppers to the next item listed, and because it takes only seconds to move on in a digital store environment, they most assuredly will.

Also consider advertising on both eBay and Amazon. Because both sites attract millions of shoppers per day, if you place relevant ads with strong incentives and offers, you’ll likely get a positive return. With Amazon, a product search produces both catalog items and sponsored links advertising off‐site web stores (which can be enabled to sell to Amazon customers), so you can troll for those millions of Amazon customers in multiple ways by listing in the Amazon catalog plus advertising products and special offers from your own web store.