Etsy VS eBay: Which is the Best Online Marketplace in 2021?

Etsy VS eBay: Which is the Best Online Marketplace in 2021?

If you've got a Shopify store and are wondering whether to expand into other marketplaces, Etsy or eBay may be right for you. Read our guide to discover which one is the best fit for your business.

Written by Jason Stokes

10 min read

Do you have items to sell online? Maybe you already have a physical shop and are looking to expand your brand from bricks to clicks with a presence in the digital world? It may be the case that you already have a Shopify store, but you want to expand and explore a wider audience by setting up on an online marketplace. If so, then you may have looked into the different options when it comes to online marketplaces to sell your goods. There are lots of options out there including having your own website on an ecommerce platform such as Shopify, or perhaps utilising a marketplace such as Amazon.

Selling online is easy in 2021, but in order to maximise your sales and RoI you need to know which platforms are the right ones to trade on for your particular niche.

If you’re new to ecommerce then it can be tricky to know where to focus your energy and how to make your efforts profitable. Two of the largest services we often get clients comparing are Etsy and eBay. Here we do a deep dive comparison of the two marketplaces. We’ll evaluate Etsy Vs eBay and examine their respective pros and cons, so you can decide which one is the right choice for your online business.

Etsy Vs eBay: What Do They Sell?

The biggest difference between Etsy and eBay is that they sell different types of products and therefore attract two different audiences.

On eBay, there is an ‘anything goes’ type of policy; you can find a huge range of products that are both new and second hand. This includes wholesale items, handmade items, vintage items, antiques and much more. If you have a range of items that fit into a diverse range of categories, then eBay is much more flexible and will keep all of your sales on the same site which is useful.

Etsy allows sellers to advertise handmade items or items over 20 years of age, which gives Etsy a different, unique feel and thus attracts a specific audience. The website is generally more boutique and focuses on individualistic items rather than mass-produced ones. If your products fit in with the niche dynamic of Etsy, then you could find a distinct and relevant audience on there which will be great for generating sales. In contrast, on eBay, you may find yourself competing against a lot of mass-produced items where the audience is looking for the cheapest price, rather than a unique and original product.

Selling on Etsy vs eBay: Which Is Better For Your Business?

Is Etsy better than eBay? As previously mentioned, it really depends on what you're selling as to whether Etsy or eBay is better for you. Whether a merchant prefers Etsy or eBay often depends on:

  • the price of the item they want to sell
  • how niche the product is, and
  • how quickly a seller wants to make sales

Selling on eBay is generally quicker than Etsy; however, it tends to be more costly as there are higher selling fees. So what are the pros and cons of each marketplace?

eBay Pros:

Easy to list products
eBay makes it very simple and easy to list items. You can also duplicate product listings which is a convenient feature of the service. eBay's listing manager makes selling your items efficient and straightforward.

Huge potential
eBay is a marketplace that gives sellers access to millions of potential customers. According to Statista, eBay reached 187 million active users in the first quarter of 2021, meaning that products can be viewed and purchased by a staggering number of consumers.

Sell globally
eBay will display your listings to customers all over the world. This therefore makes eBay a great marketplace to sell products that may not be available in all countries, as well as allowing you to expand your product popularity internationally.

eBay Cons:

Expensive fees can add up
Fees on eBay can vary and depend heavily on what you sell. The start up costs are very low, with the average listing only costing 35p, but the way eBay makes their money is through the final sale charge: 10% of whatever you sell is paid to the marketplace. Putting that into revenue numbers, if you sell expensive items, you're going to lose more money on eBay than you would if you were selling your products on your own ecommerce store like Shopify.

Unreliable buyers
A buyer deciding to purchase something on eBay is not the final step in an eBay transaction. Although the buyer has committed to buy, they don't have to pay straight away which means that a buyer can commit to purchase something but fail to pay for it. This can be costly, time consuming and annoying for sellers if it happens repeatedly (which is not uncommon).

eBay favours buyers over sellers
There have been many complaints from sellers over the years that disputes over items normally result in the favour of buyers rather than the sellers. eBay has recently tried to solve this issue by equalising sellers, allowing them to also leave feedback. This has amended one part of the issue, yet in disputes about postage and missing items, there is still a bias in favour of buyers.

Etsy Pros:

Large (yet targeted customer base)
Etsy doesn't quite match up to eBay in audience size but still has 40 million active members who are specifically looking for unique handmade or vintage items. Customers shopping on Etsy don't tend to mind paying a little bit more for products whereas eBay shoppers are usually more thrifty and hunting for a bargain.

Etsy has more of an ecommerce feel
Sellers can quickly set up a brand, payment options and generate shipping labels for orders without any knowledge of HTML or CSS. The platform also has forums and easy customer service options which make selling on Etsy a breeze.

Etsy Cons:

Fees are still high
Much like eBay, there are listing and final sale fees on Etsy. Unfortunately, one may also have to contend with PayPal processing fees which can start to make selling costly.

If you have a fantastic brand and product creation, there's a possibility that when you put it up on Etsy, you may start to see copycats replicating your work. Etsy is full of creative people and if you can be successful there, chances are that they can too - this makes competition rife throughout the site. Some sellers are sneaky to the point where they even copy descriptions, titles and photos.

Lack of customisation
Despite the fact that Etsy is a very creative marketplace, the listings are relatively unimaginative. Every item listing looks the same apart from the photos and descriptions. This makes it a tough place to stand out without putting in work on the aesthetics of your brand such as photography and graphic design.

Customer Base Comparison

As mentioned earlier, Etsy and eBay allow the sale of different types of products and therefore attract two different audiences.

If your range of items fits a diverse range of categories, then eBay is much more flexible and the broader audience reflects this.

Etsy allows sellers to advertise creative, vintage or handmade items, or goods over 20 years of age, attracting a more specific and niche audience.

This is backed up by the stats which shows the audience is larger for eBay, with 187 million active buyers in Q1 of 2021, compared to 81.9 million buyers on Etsy throughout the whole of 2020.

Remember Etsy has a niche dynamic, so if your products then you could find a distinct and relevant audience on there which will be great for generating sales. In contrast, on eBay, you may find yourself competing against a lot of mass-produced items where the audience is looking for the cheapest price, rather than a unique and original product.

Items You Can’t Sell on Etsy and eBay

It’s worth knowing about some of the restrictions both marketplaces have in terms of specific items that you’re not allowed to sell.

eBay has a long list of restricted items - the full policy is available here but here are some of the main ones:

Adult only category, alcohol, animal and wildlife products, autographed items, contracts, counterfeit currency or stamps, drugs, event ticket resale, firearms, food, knives, jewellry, medical device, perfume and cosmetics, plants and seeds, property, tobacco, used clothing, virtual currency and vouchers.

Here are some of the items you can’t sell on Etsy - and as you might expect, there is some crossover.

Alcohol, drugs, tobacco, animal products, dangerous items, hate items, illegal items, pornography, violent items.

There is a full Etsy prohibited items policy available on the site.

Etsy and eBay Shipping Comparison

Both Etsy and eBay make it easy to ship for merchants, but there is a difference in cost to you as a merchant.

On eBay, in order to be competitive with other merchants you may need to offer free shipping - most purchases on the platform include free shipping. Whether you offset your product prices to make this more acceptable is up to you, but it’s a competitive landscape, so it’s something your customers will be considering.

When it comes to Etsy, they’ve made order fulfilment easy thanks to tools like postage labels, calculated postage and shipment tracking using many of the main carriers. You can check out their shipping profile pricing on their website.

Etsy vs eBay: Fees

Selling on Etsy and eBay incurs fees for merchants who want to use the platforms. Let’s see how each one works.

eBay Fees
eBay merchants are charged two main types of fees when selling on eBay - a listing fee (also known as an insertion fee) and a final value fee when the item sells. For a monthly subscription, you can also run your own eBay Shop. (The fees and benefits for shops vary depending on the type of subscription.)

When you list an item for sale on eBay, the platform charges a fee per listing. Listing fees (also known as insertion fees) are non-refundable, even if your item doesn't sell. The amount you're charged per listing depends on whether or not you have a Shop subscription, and the level of Shop you subscribe to, if you do have a subscription.

You don't need to have a Shop subscription to sell as a business on eBay. However, an eBay Shop can help you reach the right customers, manage orders and build your brand. Your buyers can learn about you and your business and can browse your items through a customisable shopfront, and you can benefit from reduced fees. You can read more details on eBay’s fees for business sellers page. (This is applicable if eBay is managing your payments. If it isn’t, there is an alternative fee structure for business sellers.)

Etsy Fees
For those selling on Etsy, joining and starting a shop is free. There are three basic selling fees: a listing fee, a transaction fee, and a payment processing fee.

It costs £0.14 to publish a listing to the marketplace. A listing lasts for four months or until the item is sold. Once an item sells, there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the delivery price you set). If you accept payments through Etsy Payments, it also collects a 4% + £0.20 payment processing fee when an item is sold.

Listing fees are billed for $0.20 USD, so if your bank's currency is not USD, the amount may differ based on changes in the exchange rate. The payment processing fee may also vary by bank country.

Merchant Experience Comparison

The way Etsy and eBay treat sellers is quite different. Etsy is very much focused on customer reviews and fostering a sense of community among merchants, whereas eBay is more competitively structured and allocates ‘seller levels’ to merchants to reassure customers that they are a reputable seller.

Advertising on Etsy vs eBay

Etsy Ads allows you to advertise your products in Etsy search results and other pages on the platform. You just set your budget and choose the listing you’d like to advertise. The system will then optimise your budget to advertise the listing in the places on the platform where they generate the best results. You pay when someone clicks on your ads - the amount depends on how many people click and how valuable the place where your ads are being shown is. Once your daily budget has been used, the ads will stop being shown. Each day the amount is added to your Payment account.

On eBay, you can advertise your products through promoted listings (which pushes your products to the top of the results). These listings vary in price - you select the budget for a sale and are charged when a sale occurs. It can be anything between 1% and 20% of a sale and the higher the bid, the more likely your listing will appear higher up.

Getting Started on Your Platform of Choice

While Etsy caters for more niche businesses that sell individual, handmade, creative and vintage products, eBay has a broader reach because of its broad audience and more diverse listings.

Both platforms make it very easy to get started. On Etsy, you need to fill out some account information before you can start adding listings to your store. eBay just requires an email address to get started and has made it easier by allowing you to create your account using Facebook, Google and Apple.

Why It's Still Important To Have An Online Store

Although we love Etsy and eBay, these marketplaces are often an initial way to get your products out into the online selling world before opening a website on Shopify or another purpose-built ecommerce platform. Etsy and eBay are a quick and easy way to get your products online, however the corporations profit from your hard work rather than all the money going into your pocket.

Growing your brand and a customer base that specifically visits your website is the ultimate goal of ecommerce and this is not always the end result of trading on Etsy or eBay.

Advantages Of A Shopify Store

Total Control Over Customisation Of Your Store
There is no other marketplace which allows you to express your brand like your own website does. You can choose exactly how your brand is portrayed, from design to functionality and there's no limit to how big your site is. Adding multimedia content like videos, 'meet the team' pages and your own blog can really solidify the style of your company and its branding. You can also split multiple products into collections and create a basket that is specifically for your store.

A Thriving App Ecosystem
Further adding to the bespoke nature of Shopify is the App store, which has thousands of plug-ins designed to make life easier for merchants. From enhanced functionality and inventory management, to SEO or behind the scenes quality-of-life improvements, the store has an app for almost every need.

Offers, Discounts and Shipping Promotions
On your own Shopify store, you have the ability to run promotions and offer discounts in order to increase conversions. You can also set different shipping rates and discounted, or even free shipping.

Future Marketing
With your own Shopify store, you can allow customers to create their own accounts with you which is great for future marketing, customer loyalty and retargeting. You can also integrate email marketing apps into your design to capture visitors' details in exchange for discounts. If you need support with your online marketing strategy, we have a team of experts who specialise in a whole range of marketing tactics so drop us a line to discuss further.

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