Sellers Choice 2016: Merchants Rate Top Online Marketplaces
By Ina & David Steiner
Each year, sellers judiciously nominate their favorite online selling venues, and for the second year in a row, over 12,000 sellers participated in the Sellers Choice Awards. With only .17 points separating the top five marketplaces, this was the closest balloting in the seven year history of the awards.
Sellers 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.
In the initial nomination process, EcommerceBytes readers chose 10 finalists. 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.
eBay took first place in this year's Sellers Choice for the first time in the seven-year history of the awards. While winning by a scant .02 points, what set eBay atop the field this year was a clear advantage it had over the other marketplaces in Profitability, an award eBay has won each of the last three years.
Etsy, a perennial favorite, came in second place - it also picked up an award for Ease of Use. Amazon came in third, followed by Ruby Lane, which picked up an award for Customer Service.
Bonanza followed in fifth place, winning an award for Communication. It earned the distinction of being rated tops in terms of recommended marketplace for selling.
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 Amazon, Etsy, 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 topped the list for Customer Service, followed by Bonanza, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.
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 again this year, followed by Etsy, Ruby Lane, Amazon, and eBay.
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 again this year, followed by Bonanza, Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon.
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 Ruby Lane, Etsy, Craigslist, and Amazon.
This Year's Results: Large Equals Traffic, Small Equals Satisfaction
For the first time in 7 years, eBay came in first place in the Sellers Choice awards - only the second time it has broken into the top-three placement (in 2014, it came third). Even though sellers cited plenty of challenges in areas such as fees, customer service, and feedback, eBay wins thanks to its ability to draw shoppers to the site.
Survey respondents stated that they get traffic and sales on the large venues like eBay and Amazon, but feel fees are too high, competition tight, and buyers are favored over sellers. On smaller platforms, sellers are generally more satisfied with fees and said they can operate without interference from the venue and with more fairness.
This was in evidence with the results for Bonanza. While coming in after the larger marketplaces overall, sellers were most likely to recommend it as a selling venue over any other marketplace in the top-10.
Contrast this statement from a user: "Bonanza lets me run my own business my way" with a comment about the number-one eBay: "eBay is fine but it has many rules and restrictions and their customer service people do not know how to correctly address and respond to questions that I have."
The impact of Google's move to turn its shopping platform to pay-to-play is still being felt by smaller marketplaces. In 2012, Google stopped driving free traffic from search results provided through Google Product Search, and instead moved to a paid model, hurting smaller marketplaces with smaller advertising budgets.
In compiling this year's comments, it became clear that fans of smaller sites were eager for the companies to advertise in order to attract more buyers to the sites. One seller said of eBid.net that if the site put more resources into advertising, it could rival eBay and could probably surpass them in sales.
Pinterest continues to be a marketing tool for online sellers trying to attract shoppers, but it has yet to see any meaningful ecommerce transactions take place directly on its site. That's no longer true of Facebook, however. That social networking site has become popular with small sellers thanks to Facebook Sale Groups - but sellers say it's more like Craigslist than eBay or Amazon.
One major development that could impact next year's Sellers Choice awards is the postal rate increase that went into effect on January 17, 2016. Higher shipping costs affect all sellers, particularly those selling low-margin goods.
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. 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: eBay
Page 2 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Etsy
Page 3 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Amazon
Page 4 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Ruby Lane
Page 5 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Bonanza
Page 6 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eCrater
Page 7 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: eBid
Page 8 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Pinterest
Page 9 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: craigslist
Page 10 Sellers Choice Marketplace Ratings: Facebook
Leave Your Comments about the Sellers Choice Results
We have more thoughts about the 2016 Sellers Choice Awards on the EcommerceBytes Blog, and please leave your own comments about this year's ratings.
About the author:
Ina and David Steiner are publishers of EcommerceBytes.com and have been writing about ecommerce since 1999.
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