Where you sell is essential. You could have the best goods at the lowest prices, but it won’t matter if you set up shop under an overpass just off the interstate! To succeed in ecommerce, you need to know the best places to sell online, especially for what you’re selling.
In this comparison guide, we review the 5 best online marketplaces — Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Etsy, and your personal website — to see how they stack up against each other. We dive deeper into each one below, but for quick reference, here’s a chart weighing the pros and cons of each.
The undisputed leader of ecommerce, Amazon has won the hearts of millions of buyers, but what about sellers?
Amazon’s greatest advantage is that it’s the most popular online marketplace — that’s a lot of built-in shoppers who “pass by” your store, even on your first day. Of course, being the most popular ecommerce hub also means the most competition among sellers. You’ll do better on Amazon if you know how to competitively price your items and take advantage of its internal advertising.
On the plus side, the marketplace offers its own logistics service, Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), which stores and ships your goods for you. However, with all the fees you have to pay, the pros and cons of FBA tend to cancel out.
Amazon’s also strict about branding and display rules — when every page has a uniform look, it’s harder to stand out.
Many sellers say that eBay has passed its prime — and there’s certainly some truth to that — but as the original ecommerce marketplace, it still draws enough traffic to stay relevant.
In line with the auctioning past, eBay is one of the best places online to sell both vintage and used goods. eBay is a hotspot for people selling things around their house; think of it as an online antique market or garage sale. Plenty of eBay shoppers come expecting just that, which allows you to find an audience for rare and uncommon items that wouldn’t sell on other channels.
eBay’s drawbacks are mostly internal — the company has a terrible reputation among sellers, with one of the common complaints being hidden or unjust fees. If you choose to sell there, keep an eye on the fine print.
In an effort to unseat Amazon from the top of the ecommerce market, Walmart has spent the last few years developing its own online marketplace. Judging by the high traffic and sales the marketplace receives, Walmart just might succeed.
There are a few pros and cons to selling on Walmart, but all-in-all it’s the closest alternative to Amazon. One of the biggest advantages is that, unlike Amazon, there are no regular fees on Walmart; sellers only pay when they make a sale. The downside, though, is that it’s fiercely committed to the brand’s low-price guarantee, and will remove your products if they’re priced too high.
On top of that, you need to apply to sell on Walmart, so not everyone can get accepted. If you do get the green light, though, you’ll be able to enjoy that high traffic without all the competition.
Etsy is the black sheep of this list. While the other top ecommerce marketplaces offer a wide range of products, Etsy specializes in handmade products.
As one of the best places to sell handmade items online, Etsy comes with a large community of shoppers who are looking for unique and sometimes quirky artisan goods. Because crafters don’t necessarily have the same skill set as professional online retailers, this built-in customer base can save them time in marketing and advertising.
However, sellers have to pay for that traffic with listing fees (20¢ per product) on top of transaction fees and payment processing fees. This may be a fair trade-off to some, but not to sellers with a wide range of products. Furthermore, if you don’t sell homemade goods, Etsy can’t help you.
Your Own Website
Last, you can build your own online store and sell from there. This is the approach taken by hands-on retailers — it involves more effort, but can yield better results if you know what you’re doing.
Starting your own website can be simple or more involved. If you want something quick and easy, you can open up a basic Shopify store in a few minutes. But if you want to take advantage of sales tactics like UX design and branding, you’ll want to invest more time and perhaps hire outside designers.
While you’re in complete control of your store policies and site design, you’re also in complete control of your traffic. The advantage of popular marketplaces like Amazon and eBay is that they already have shoppers for you. Running your own website means you’ll have to attract those customers yourself: digital marketing, advertising, social media, and more busywork.
Hedge Your Bets with a Multichannel Solution
There’s no rule that says you can only sell on one channel. Because each online marketplace has its own particular shopper, selling on multiple channels at the same time is perfect for connecting with different customer groups and expanding your reach.
The only problem is that the more channels you sell on, the harder your business is to organize. But with inventory management software like Ecomdash, you can automate your work and collect all the information you need into one central dashboard.
Ecomdash automatically updates stock levels on all your channels every time you make a sale and lets you bulk-edit product information so you don’t have to repeat it over and over for each channel. It’s the perfect solution if you’re expanding your store to multiple sales channels. Try it today for free (no credit card required) to see how it improves your business.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published August 2016 and was updated in June 2021 to reflect more accurate and relevant information.