Over 12,000 sellers participated in the fifth annual Sellers Choice Awards for Marketplaces, and the 2014 results are now in: Bonanza took the top overall spot. eBay made it into the top three spot for the first time, and - also for the first time - eBay came out ahead of Amazon, though by a miniscule margin.
EcommerceBytes readers chose the final 16 marketplaces in a nomination process, and then rated the finalists in four key areas - profitability, customer service, communication and ease of use. Respondents were also asked how likely they were to recommend each marketplace as a selling venue to a friend or colleague.
Sellers also supplied comments about the marketplaces, revealing details about the rewards and challenges of selling on each marketplace - the kind of inside information you won't find anyplace else.
For the first time, EcommerceBytes opened up Sellers Choice nominations to social networking platforms, and sellers nominated two of the three top social networking sites - more on this below, after the results.
Bonanza came in first place overall, and while it scored lower for the Profitability criterion than other top marketplaces, it was rated the highest for most likely to recommend as a selling venue to a friend or colleague.
Etsy placed second overall, eBay third, Amazon fourth, and Ruby Lane fifth in the 2014 Sellers Choice Awards.
What are arguably the top three online marketplaces in the U.S. - eBay, Amazon and Etsy - made it to the top of the list this year beat out only by Bonanza (which has tried to leverage Google Shopping and eBay to gain exposure for its listings). This may be due in part to the "Google effect," discussed in greater detail in the accompanying EcommerceBytes Blog post.
New to Sellers Choice this year is a small niche specialty site, Aquabid; an Australian marketplace called Zibbet that capitalized on Etsy's controversial policy change last fall by attracting Etsy artisans; and social networking sites Facebook and Pinterest.
How It Breaks Down - Profitability
We asked sellers, "How would you rate your profitability as a seller on (marketplace name)?" eBay topped the list for Profitability, followed by Etsy, Craigslist and Ruby Lane.
How It Breaks Down - Customer Service
We asked sellers, "How would you rate the customer service (marketplace name) provides to sellers?" Amazon topped the list for Customer Service, followed by Bonanza, Ruby Lane and Etsy.
How It Breaks Down - Communication
We asked sellers, "How would you rate (marketplace name)'s communication with you as a seller?" Bonanza topped the list for Communication, followed by Ruby Lane and Amazon.
How It Breaks Down - Ease of Use
We asked sellers, "How would you rate (marketplace name)'s ease of use as a seller?" Etsy topped the list for Ease of Use, followed by Bonanza and eBay.
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? Bonanza scored highest on Recommended Selling Venue, followed by Etsy and Craigslist.
The Rise of Social Commerce: How Sellers Use Pinterest and Facebook
For the first time, EcommerceBytes opened up Sellers Choice nominations to social networking platforms to see if sellers were using them as an ecommerce channel. Pinterest and Facebook (but not Twitter) received enough nominations from readers to make it into the final 16.
While not a marketplace, social networking site Pinterest is a channel on which sellers promote their product listings, and the company and third-party developers are exploring ways to monetize the site. Overall sellers seemed enthusiastic about the site and eager to learn how they could leverage Pinterest more directly as a sales driver.
Various developers and merchants have built ecommerce tools and apps to create storefronts on Facebook, the majority of which send shoppers to another site to complete the transaction (Payvment, acquired by Ecwid, being a notable exception).
Nevertheless, many respondents use Facebook as a marketing vehicle but have difficulty tracking the results of their efforts. And many sellers expressed frustration over the site's push towards pay for exposure through advertising, seeing it as a roadblock rather than an opportunity.
Some sellers do have success either through their own group or through community groups. One respondent said she sells via "local" Facebook groups. She suggested putting the term "Yard Sale" into the search box on Facebook. Doing so results in various choices, including "Find all groups named "yard sale."" Clicking on that brought me to this results page showing various open and closed groups and displaying which of my Facebook friends belonged and the total number of members in each group. See this AuctionBytes Blog post by Julia Wilkinson to learn more about selling via local Facebook groups.
However, many sellers don't see Facebook as a viable channel. "It is extremely difficult to actually "sell" on Facebook! I've had a few sales, but there are no guidelines to actually MAKE a person pay the invoice if you DO sell," wrote one seller.
At this point, many sellers use Facebook and Pinterest solely as a way to drive traffic to product listings on other platforms.
While social networking site Twitter didn't make it into the top 16, it would like retailers to think of it as a way to move inventory. This Twitter blog post highlights ways Amercan Apparel runs Flash Sales on Twitter - the retailer uses Twitter advertising to promote tweets to potential shoppers.
Social networking sites are exploring ways to attract retailers, but for the small seller, they remain a challenge.
Comments: Insider Information
Each year, sellers share comments about the marketplaces 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.
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: Bonanza
Page 2 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Etsy
Page 3 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eBay
Page 4 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Amazon
Page 5 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Ruby Lane
Page 6 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Zibbet
Page 7 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Craigslist
Page 8 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eCrater
Page 9 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eBid.net
Page 10 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Addoway
Page 11 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Pinterest
Page 12 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: ArtFire
Page 13 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Webstore.com
Page 14 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: AquaBid
Page 15 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Facebook
Page 16 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: OnlineAuction.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 EcommerceBytes Blog.