Seller's Choice: Merchants Rate Ecommerce Marketplaces
By Ina Steiner
After years of being rated by buyers on marketplaces, sellers had their turn to do some rating of their own. In January 2010, AuctionBytes asked online sellers to rate 15 ecommerce marketplaces to find out which were the best venues on which to sell.
Over 1,400 online sellers rated the marketplaces and judged them on profitability, customer service, communication and ease-of-use, and provided comments explaining their ratings. Respondents also indicated on a scale of 1-10 how likely they were to recommend the marketplace as a selling venue to a friend or colleague.
Because eBay is the largest ecommerce marketplace, we were not surprised that over 81% of respondents indicated they had experience selling there. What was a little surprising was the number of sellers with experience selling on Craigslist - 38% - almost as much as the second most-used marketplace, Bonanzle (39%). Amazon came in at 28%, followed by eCrater (22%), Ruby Lane (19%), Etsy (19%), iOffer (14%), eBid.net (12%), Blujay (10%), OnlineAuction.com (8%), Atomic Mall (7%), GoAntiques (4%), TIAS.com (4%) and CQout (1%). Note that this these numbers do not indicate the popularity or size of the marketplaces, it simply reflects where the AuctionBytes readers who took the survey sell or have sold online.
Interestingly, there was no correlation between the number of sellers who had experience selling on a marketplace and the marketplace ratings. The site with the lowest number of experienced sellers was neither the lowest nor the highest rated, and vice versa.
We created a page for each marketplace showing the results and including some of the comments that sellers left for each venue. The links to each page are found below, following a summary of the findings.
How We Chose the 15 Marketplaces
We made a conscious effort to limit the number of marketplaces included in the survey, believing sellers might not finish a survey that was too long. We were very pleased that over 98% of respondents who started the survey, completed it. As a guide for inclusion, we looked at established marketplaces that had traction, had a substantial number of users and listings, and were also chosen by merchants to be included in the EveryPlaceISell.com merchant directory (EveryPlaceISell Merchants by Venue). Some sellers expressed disappointment that we had left out their favorite selling venue, and we will take this into account in the next Sellers Choice survey.
The results show that online sellers are a tough crowd, and do not necessarily score ecommerce marketplaces highly! In fact, some marketplaces that expect sellers to be highly rated by shoppers did not themselves score highly by their own customers - sellers. We were very pleased that the overwhelming majority of respondents gave thoughtful comments, explaining the reasons for their ratings.
No marketplace received higher than an 8.5 on any criteria, and in fact, sixes and sevens were generally the highest grades received on a scale of 1 to 10, with one exception. Ruby Lane, an online antiques mall, was rated the best by respondents across all criteria, and was the only marketplace to receive an 8 or higher on any of the criteria. Bonanzle, Atomic Mall and Amazon followed.
eBay was one of the lowest ranked marketplaces, and was weakest in terms of customer service and communication. OnlineAuction.com and iOffer were rated lowest overall by respondents.
How It Breaks Down - Profitability
We asked sellers, "How would you rate your profitability as a seller on (marketplace name)?" Ruby Lane scored highest on profitability, followed by Amazon.com, TIAS.com and Etsy.
How It Breaks Down - Customer Service
We asked sellers, "How would you rate the customer service (marketplace name) provides to sellers?" Ruby Lane scored highest on customer service, followed by Bonanzle, Atomic Mall, eBid.net, Amazon.com and Etsy.
How It Breaks Down - Communication
We asked sellers, "How would you rate (marketplace name)'s communication with you as a seller?" Ruby Lane scored highest on communication, followed by Atomic Mall, eBid.net, Amazon.com, Bonanzle and Etsy.
How It Breaks Down - Ease of Use
We asked sellers, "How would you rate (marketplace name)'s ease of use as a seller?" Ruby Lane scored highest on ease-of-use, followed by Bonanzle, Atomic Mall, Craigslist, Etsy and Amazon.com
How It Breaks Down - Recommended Selling Venue
We asked sellers, "How likely are you to recommend (marketplace name) as a Selling venue to a friend or colleague?" Ruby Lane scored highest, followed by Amazon.com, Etsy, Bonanzle, Craigslist, Atomic Mall, eCrater, and eBid.net.
Marketplaces can be classified into a number of categories: auction, fixed-price, classifieds or storefronts, and some offer a mix of formats. Some focus on a particular niche. Some marketplaces have been around for a decade or more, others are fairly recent.
Online sellers looking to diversify should not select a marketplace based purely on the highest ratings, since each marketplace is unique. A marketplace may be particularly strong in one area - stamps and coins, for example - so sellers should take this into account when evaluating each marketplace.
In addition to the overall ranking, two of the most useful features of this survey are the last question - "How likely are you to recommend (marketplace name) as a selling venue to a friend or colleague?" and comments from sellers.
Respondents took the time to share their thoughts about the venues on which they have had experience selling, and those comments are extremely helpful not only to other sellers, but to the marketplaces themselves. Representative comments are included on the individual marketplace rating pages.
If there is any lesson for marketplaces, it is that free is not necessarily a winning strategy, and traffic is crucial. Ruby Lane and Amazon.com, venues with some of the highest seller fees, were at the top of the lists for profitability and recommended selling venues. Sellers are willing to pay for results.
Other takeaways from the survey are that merchants (not surprisingly) appreciate prompt customer service from a site when they are having issues, and that communication between management and customer is vital. Although profitability was one of the most important concerns for merchants, many were willing to give a marketplace a chance and invest time in a young site if it was perceived that the owners were actively attempting to attract traffic or make improvements to the platform. A common thread in the comments for the lowest-rated sites in our survey was that sellers felt there was no oversight of listings, and that certain venues had been "abandoned" by their owners.
Individual Online Marketplace Ratings
You can find each marketplace with the results of the Sellers Choice survey on the following pages.
Page 1 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Amazon
Page 2 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Atomic Mall
Page 3 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Blujay
Page 4 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Bonanzle
Page 5 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: CQout
Page 6 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Craigslist
Page 7 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eBay
Page 8 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Ebid.net
Page 9 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eCrater
Page 10 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Etsy
Page 11 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: GoAntiques
Page 12 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: iOffer
Page 13 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Onlineauction.com
Page 14 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Rubylane
Page 15 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: TIAS.com
We thank all readers who took the time to rate the marketplaces. If you have comments about the survey results or the survey itself, please feel free to post them in the AuctionBytes Blog.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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