For the past four years, sellers have judiciously nominated their favorite online marketplaces and rated the finalists in four key areas - profitability, customer service, communication and ease of use. This annual process gives both merchants and site owners alike an unfiltered glimpse into what each marketplace is doing right, and what they could be doing better. The results of the 2013 Sellers Choice Awards are now in - and for the first time, Etsy took the top overall spot! Ruby Lane came next, just tenths of a percentage point behind, followed by Amazon and the 13 others that make up this year's awards.
Over 11,500 online sellers participated in the 2013 Sellers Choice survey - eclipsing last year's total by over 4,000 respondents. EcommerceBytes readers first chose the final 16 marketplaces in a nomination process, so all of the venues accrued enough support to get on the final ballot, an impressive accomplishment in itself. Online sellers then rated the marketplaces to show where each one excelled - and where each one needed improvement.
As well as rating the marketplaces on a scale of 1-to-10 in the four areas previously mentioned, respondents were also asked how likely they were to recommend each marketplace as a selling venue to a friend or colleague. Respondents also provided details about the rewards and challenges of selling on each marketplace on which they had experience selling - the kind of inside information you won't find anyplace else.
Etsy took the top spot for the first time this year, followed by Ruby Lane, Amazon, Bonanza and eBay. As with previous Sellers Choice surveys, eBay received the most total votes of all 16 marketplaces, but by a much slimmer margin than in previous years. Two-thirds of all respondents had some experience selling on eBay, followed by Amazon (62%), Etsy (55%), Craigslist, (53%) and Bonanza (46%). This showed a marked increase in usage of marketplaces other than eBay. Note that these numbers simply reflect whether survey respondents had experience selling on a particular marketplace.
In 2011, no marketplace received higher than an 8.72 on a scale of 1 to 10. Last year, the highest rating was 7.4 overall. This year, the highest overall score was 6.97. Satisfaction with online marketplaces is decreasing as sellers expect more from the venues on which they sell.
Etsy placed first overall with a rating of 6.97, up from third place and a rating of 6.8 last year. It also came in first in terms of profitability, and came in first for the question of how likely respondents were to recommend the marketplace as a selling venue to a friend or colleague.
Ruby Lane (which placed second overall) placed first in Customer Service and Communication. And Bonanza (which placed fourth overall) placed first in Ease of Use. Amazon went from first place in 2012 to third place, and eBay came in fifth place overall again this year. New to the list this year was BidStart and Sears Marketplace.
How It Breaks Down - Profitability
We asked sellers, "How would you rate your profitability as a seller on (marketplace name)?" Etsy scored highest on profitability, followed by Amazon and Ruby Lane.
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 Etsy and Amazon.com.
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 Etsy and Amazon.com.
How It Breaks Down - Ease of Use
We asked sellers, "How would you rate (marketplace name)'s ease of use as a seller?" Bonanza scored highest on Ease of Use, followed by Etsy and Ruby Lane.
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?" Etsy scored highest on Recommended Selling Venue, followed by Ruby Lane and Bonanza.
Comments: Insider Information
Each year, we're delighted with the level of detail included in the comments that provide a picture of what it's like to sell on these online marketplaces. With thousands of responses, it's impossible to include every comment each marketplace received, but we include the most representative comments and the ones most interesting or useful to readers. Note that the number of comments left for a marketplace doesn't necessarily indicate its placement in the rankings.
As we note each year, it's important to keep in mind that these are not one-size-fits-all comments. It's likely that a seller of handmade goods will have a different experience than that of a seller of vintage goods on the same marketplace.
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.
More big-box and retail chains are doing a better job reaching consumers online. That competition, combined with Amazon's fierce price-competitive environment, has shoppers expecting lower prices as they use mobile devices to compare prices across all channels.
In addition, the pressure to offer free shipping combined with ever higher shipping costs cut into merchants' margins. And, every year when shipping rates go up, merchants pay more in payment processing fees and, in some cases, higher marketplace commission fees.
So it's not surprising that many sellers left comments about high marketplace fees. As we noted, for example, even when eBay doesn't announce an increase in its fee structure, sellers pay more thanks to having to pay PayPal and eBay FVF commission fees on higher shipping costs.
Greater competition also means a fight for traffic, and every year, traffic and sales are top of mind among online sellers. Compounding matters was a major development in 2012 as Google stopped driving free traffic from search results provided through Google Product Search, and instead moved to a paid model.
A number of sellers commented on the negative effect Google Shopping changes had on traffic to the marketplaces on which they sell. Sellers Choice did not survey sellers directly on this issue, but it's clear from anecdotal evidence that some marketplace sellers saw a drop in traffic to their listings.
Given the investments they make in selling on online marketplaces, many sellers again said they wished that their favorite marketplaces would do more advertising in order to help generate traffic and sales.
Many of the caveats discussed in previous years apply to this year's Sellers Choice Awards. 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.
Marketplaces can also 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 relatively new.
Individual Online Marketplace Ratings
You can find each marketplace with the results of the Sellers Choice survey on the following pages.
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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 EcommerceBytes Blog.