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Marketplace Focus: Beyond eBay, Part 1

eBay alternatives for auction enthusiasts.
ebay-alternatives-auctions

With new stringent policies taking effect on eBay, hundreds of eBay sellers told The Online Seller they were looking for alternative venues on which to sell their items. Some readers said they would try their luck on Yardsellr, a social marketplace; others mentioned Etsy, an online marketplace for homemade goods. Still many more asked what viable eBay alternative sites there were, so we decided to do some research.

In this two-part series, we’ll review a handful of online auction sites as well as marketplaces for vintage and craft sellers. We’ll look at fees, the size of the marketplace, and talk to a few sellers about their experiences selling in these venues. Let’s start with auctions.

Marketplaces for auction enthusiasts

If the thrill of auctions is your style, Webstore and eBid may be good options. They were both voted top online auction sites by TopTenReviews this year.

Webstore

Webstore.com got the title of the second best online auction site, behind eBay. The site started in 2007 “when two people wondered what would happen if there was a safe place to sell items online without paying fees,” says Mike Snyder, the company’s Customer Service manager.

He notes that the founders of the site started the eBay alternative marketplace because they thought eBay fees were making it difficult for everyday people to make a profit on their sales.

“Webstore is radically transforming the way people buy and sell online, combining the best features of the top online marketplaces in an environment that’s safer than Craigslist with the familiar format of eBay,” Snyder notes.

“Webstore has been called the ‘Robin Hood’ of online marketplaces because it is supported by advertisers”

The site makes its money from advertisers, so users don’t have to pay fees to list or buy items on the marketplace.

“Webstore has been called the ‘Robin Hood’ of online marketplaces because it is supported by advertisers,” he notes.

However, store owners can pay an optional one-time fee to have their stores verified. This helps reduce fraud and encourages buyer confidence, Snyder adds, emphasizing that this is optional. The marketplace currently has more than 100,000 registered users and “is growing by the thousands,” he says.

“What started out as an idea to help people sell items in a couple of categories a few years ago has blown up into a very busy and active site with over 12,000 categories and almost 1 million items currently listed,” Snyder says.

eBid

eBid came in at No. 3 among the top online auction sites. TopTenReviews gave this site nods for its low fees, noting that it’s free to register and sellers only pay a 3-percent final value fee. Sellers can also opt to have a Seller account, which means they’ll pay between $2 and $50, depending on the length of their membership, and no other fees.

eBid has 21 sites, including sites in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany. eBid also allows Dutch auctions so that sellers can create one listing if they have several of the same items, and let buyers bid on the item and tell you how many they want.

According to the site’s Help section, buyers and sellers can both leave feedback. Sellers can even import feedback from other sites as long as they have a Seller account. This marketplace gets more than 21,000 new users every month, and has more than 5.8 million listings, according to reports.

“Not only does eBid have a solid user base, [it] also hosts a variety of useful features and tools for both buyers and sellers,” TopTenReviews notes.

The excitement of real-time

Though eBay ended its live auction service in 2008, real-time auctions have regained popularity in recent months with the launch of several real-time auction sites. These venues incorporate a social networking aspect by enabling live messaging between the seller and people bidding or observing the auction in progress.

Below we dig a little deeper into two that have gotten a lot of attention, Outbid and Tophatter.

“Just as in live auctions, the seller can see who is bidding, chat with bidders and monitor the auction”

Outbid

This real-time auction site came on the scene at the end of March. With Outbid, sellers can choose to be the host of their own real-time auctions, or they can have someone else auction off their items, notes Dan Granger, Outbid’s CEO.

“Just as in live auctions, the seller can see who is bidding, chat with bidders and monitor the auction,” he says.

Granger describes the site as an “end-to-end platform that operates like an ‘old school’ auction.” The site was funded by NASDAQ-quoted Copart, Inc., the first online marketplace for cars. In order to kick things off, Outbid is currently available for free to sellers.

Granger notes that Outbid lends itself to being a good marketplace for a lot of items, but one-off products like antiques and collectibles do well here.

And it seems that the excitement of real-time bidding is drawing people in to online auction sites like this one.

“Outbid users have expressed their excitement over the fast-paced, competitive and event-like atmosphere of an Outbid auction. Hitting that Bid button on their computer screen—which instantly puts any buyer (at least temporarily) at the top of the bidding heap—is a rush for players,” he continues. “In short, Outbid is just a lot of fun.

“Outbid is providing a means for sellers and buyers to actively engage with each other in a manner that is unique, compelling and unlike anything that previously existed in the e-commerce space,” he continues. “Contrast this with eBay, where there is little in the way of customer engagement and community, and Craigslist, which is more of a ‘list and forget’ site.”

Being able to virtually mingle with bidders through live chat is what sets Outbid apart from other online auction sites, Granger notes, adding that there is an audio component to the site that allows participants to hear the patter of the seller or the auctioneer.

This can “encourage a bid, egg on a participant, describe an item up for grabs or just provide some playful color commentary,” he says.

Granger adds that bidders are rewarded for the number of times they bid on a product and “for tabling a ‘Monster Bid,’ which dramatically boosts the bid.”

Tophatter

This venue is also a lot of fun, according to two sellers who have tried it. You may have heard of Tophatter—especially if you were a fan of Heartsy, the now-defunct deal site for homemade goods, which had a similar look and feel. Some even speculate that Tophatter is by the same people who brought bargain hunters Heartsy.

The Online Seller intern Sarah Brown has sold a few items on Tophatter. She says the process was easy, and that she was happy with the price she got for her items. However, the selling fees make this site more suitable for higher-margin merchandise, or as a way to attract buyers to your listings elsewhere. Sellers pay 10 percent of the final sales price, with a $1 minimum, and this can cut deeply into profits, Brown notes.

“That’s where you really need to consider if it’s worth it for you to sell on Tophatter,” she notes. “If your item sells for under $10, then you end up paying more than 10 percent. And if you were to sell something for $300, would you be willing to pay $30 to Tophatter?”

“It’s a fun way to make some money while connecting with your prospects and customers. It’s a short-term marketing strategy”

Sellers can look at the fee as marketing expenses, though, she notes. “It’s the fresh, new, cutting-edge auction site that can get you a lot of attention for your store,” she adds. “I’ve heard people say that maybe their sale on Tophatter wasn’t so great, but traffic to their Etsy (or other) store has increased.”

To attract attendees to the live auctions, Tophatter sends out regular emails to its users, letting them know what auctions are scheduled for that day.

Mei Pak, the owner of Tiny Hands, an online store that sells small, scented jewelry, has also used Tophatter. She wrote about her experience on her blog, Beyond Handmade.

Pak says that though online auction sites are nothing new, participating in a real-time auction “was definitely a new and interesting platform for online selling,” adding that the site seems to target homemade items and crafts.

“Tophatter’s radical idea for auctioning handmade goods was what drew me in,” she continues. “The live environment of bidding, too, was appealing. It was just so different. I wanted to see what it would be like!”

She adds that there was no approval process to get the items for sale on the site; she just had to list her products with descriptions and photos. She says she would sell on the site again, though it’s not the place for sellers to make their “bread and butter.”

“Tophatter isn’t the place for you to build your entire brand, like you can with Etsy,” she notes. “But when you expect some days to be slow-sales days or if you just need some fast cash, it’s a fun way to make some money while connecting with your prospects and customers. It’s a short-term marketing strategy.”

Brown points out that sellers should be prepared to answer questions from attendees, who are shown on the site during auctions as avatars. She adds that sellers don’t have to attend their auctions while they’re happening, but that it is good idea because it lets sellers tell attendees more about their items.

If these eBay alternative online auction sites piqued your interest, click over to Part 2 of this series. We’ll review a couple of marketplaces for artisans and vintage sellers, and peek inside a social site that has been called the eBay of Facebook.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Dacy

    About 2 years ago we signed up for eBid and paid the approx. $50 for “lifetime” membership with no fees.  We started making listings.  Then about a month later we were shut down and received an email stating we had to give them our driver’s license number, social security numbers and other information which was not required when we registered.  There was no way to communicate with them or to get our account back unless we gave them the information they requested.  We requested to close the account by mail and get a refund and never heard back from them. That was a very bad experience and we feel ripped off.

    • Kornkountrytreasures

      Well, I am surprised that the article did not mention OnlineAuction.com. I started there a little over a year ago. Left the bay because of the “top seller” program. Found out that I didn’t have to sell as much to make as much as what I did at the bay!! And they LOVE to tell people how to run their business!! It’s not your business, it’s an extension of eBay’s business!!

      Plus, you never get a straight answer. Well, at OLA.com, we have LIVE, yes, folks, LIVE, customer service reps! You can call them ON THE PHONE AND THEY ANSWER!! Great people, great chats and tutorials!!

      It depends on what you sell, I suppose, as to how fast it’s going to go. We have one member that has been on OnlineAuction.com for a year and has over 10,000 feedback!!! And guess what they paid in fees??? $196.00 for their first year, $96.00 each year thereafter!! Awesome!! And if you check it out, you’ll see them on the front page!!

      We have several options-NO final value fees, NO listing fees!! You pay $8 a month for basic but I would advise getting the OLA house. You pay $196.00 the first year and $96.00 a year thereafter!! Never increasing!! No more fees!! Plenty of people to get you started!! Even if you sell the same thing!! At OLA.com, we are FAMILY!! If YOU succeed, we ALL succeed!!

      So, for those of you looking for a different venue, come check it out!!! I don’t know if I can put a link in here but here goes: http://www.onlineauction.com/store/kornkountrytreasures

      Come check us out!! If I can do it, so can you!

  • Jimbo

    Great that Auctiva isn’t being a shill just for feeBay, and there are indeed other ways to make money selling online without being solely a slave to their policies & rules. I have planned on giving Etsy a try for my vintage items for a while, and the June 1st date for the greedBay Top-Rated Seller status THEFT is fast approaching.

    I am also in the processs of moving more than 1/2 of my hundreds of eBay Store items to Amazon, Etsy, or another site. They will sell for more money there, and I won’t have to feed their piggy bank 20 cents per listing every month. Can’t wait until perhaps Zuckerberg with his Facebook billions from the upcoming IPO starts his own auction site, with the infrastructure of feePay, without the bungling idiots.

    The real solution is to have a site that compares prices from ALL auction or online sales sites in one place, so a buyer can look easliy for the best deal. I know there are small sites that do this somewhat (only including just a few sales venues, but not eBay AND Amazon AND eBid AND iOffer, AND everyone else- you get the idea).

    Therefore, the items from the sites that charge the highest fees would most likely have the highest overall prices to the consumer. More operating costs affect a (big, small, or otherwise) companies bottom line, and therefore they must be passed along. Then the greedy companies that are just out to satisfy stockholders will either have to change with the marketplace, or fade away.

    • Anonymous

       The real solution? You want to “mash” an unlimited number of ecommerce sites with a variety of currencies and variable buying regulations (ebay amazon etsy ioffer and ….) not to mention differing shipping costs and compare prices. I’m guessing you’d want to pull in the manufacturer(s) descriptions, photos and comparables (ie completed listings) and get this “real solution” of a website to spit out a ready rolled eBay ad, order several of the item(s) at the cheapest supplier, submit and sell – preferably with some cross-promotion of products to save on fees… ;)

      Hehe you should list this on elance.com. Or get coding some json and html and css and read some of the mozilla source. It’s do-able but not as a freebie IAC it’s time and tears and it’s what lots of sellers worldwide aspire to, the technical barrier is too high and retail is time consuming, only 24 hours a day :( .

  • http://twitter.com/SoftwareWorlds SoftwareWorld

    No auction site comes close to ebay in terms of traffic and sales.
    However I have found ioffer and bonanza to be quite useful.

  • Sayonara eBay!

    Great article and options. eBay is truly the pits now – beyond their outrageous ever-changing policies – they are SO anti-small seller….pretty much anti-seller period. I have happily moved my listings to ecrater. Yes, eBay seems to have trained the public into making them the “go to” venue for bargains — so you do have the traffic there without doing a lot of the work…BUT if you are willing to market yourself (or have the time), network on free social sites (example: I have a collectible from a soap opera for sale – I found their fan page in Facebook, posted a link, and it sold in a day — it had been on eBay,on and off, for over a year!) — tweet, there’s free directories online, comment on blogs, participate in forums. It can be slow going, but it will pick up momentum, and you’ll start making sales. Best of all, you’ll feel FREE!!!! Free from those tyrants at eBay who simply do not want the smaller seller and are doing whatever they can to get us to leave (it would be much more honorable on their part to just say “we’re going in a different direction…” so they can compete head to head and have the same policies as an Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart) — to instead place the same across the board expectations (ship in a day, take back returns 14 or more days) on a one person seller of made to order/handmade, one of a kind, special occasion dresses, etc….that they would on a multi-employee, giant warehouse full of products….it’s ridiculous and it will bring about even more scammers/abusers of the system and can end up costing sellers money and their products. I’m glad you’re posting about the options outside of eBay. I use ecrater and have had no issues so far, the community is helpful, they submit your items to google search, and it’s free – but as the article pointed out, there are several others that may work better for you. The important thing is, if you are fed up with eBay and tired of feeling raked over the coals, etc….go somewhere else!!! Use ebay for their 50 free listings even – then you can promote your new store in your packaging and send your customers to your new site – make ebay work for you!! Trust me, you’ll feel better!! Also, if you buy from eBay too, maybe start venturing to other venues to shop — support your fellow boat jumpers!!

  • Lorikss

    I’m a powerseller on feebay.. With all these changes coming
    up I’m looking to find somewhere else to sell. Feebay is getting way to greedy
    for me !!!

  • Starbrite

    I see eBay sellers going to Bonanza. That’s where I went.  No fee to list and a moderate fee for items sold. It is both auction and fixed price.

  • Gaylene J

    Thank you for this information.  I think many online sellers are searching for alternatives to ebay.  The fees have gotten out of control.   I have been considering Auctiva — do you have any information about this site?  They offer an e-commerce store also and I would love to hear of anyone’s experiences of running one of these.  Thx!  Gaylene

    • John_a_k

       Hi Gaylene,

      Auctiva will work well if you know how to market your site and get traffic, otherwise it’s not worth the effort of setting it up just to have little/no eyes on your products.

  • emjayuu

    I,too, amm looking for alternatives to eBay. I’ve been with them for 12 years and it gets worse and worse. I primarily sell used sporting goods. I tried Sports Only Auction but nothing is going on. I’m with Bonanza and have made a few sales, but not near enough. Any ideas for me for spoting goods? Roger.

  • Tojm

    I’m willing to try anything to get off ebay.  I primarily sell movies, video games and books.  I’m not about to offer returns so bidders can buy my item and watch/play/read it and then return it used for a full refund 2 weeks later!  Ebay has been sticking it to sellers for years, but now taking away the 20% discount unless I agree to open myself up to even more buyer abuse with the return option is one step to far.

  • JosephK

    I’m tryingto find a new selling venue…. eBay has just gone too far (because they can) and I cannot sell just to sell, I need profit, duh! It appears that Bay is trying to push out the small seller, and the collectible seller off their site with their latest round of fees. Really, how can they take a profit percentage of what it costs to ship an item unless I list “free shipping” or eliminate an auction entirely if they deem it overly high to ship. I’m not sure if that is even legal?

  • Paulanna12

    I’ve been using the Webstore and eBid auctions since 2009. Although I almost don’t pay any fees between both of them, at the same time, in all these years I’ve sold through both auctions as many items as I sell in 2 days using eBay. I am still using both auctions, however the traffic there is much-much less than on eBay. So, if you are an occasional seller, have some patience. I’ve been selling jewelry using the eBay services since 2003, and all I can say about that behemoth, is that the situation there is becoming worse and worse for the sellers… Thanks to such person as Olga, the professional e-sellers help now other e-auctions to develop

  • Jayne2209

    I am THRILLED to have some alternatives to ebay.  Selling my products from home is my full time income so unfortunately I can’t jump completely out of the boat until I slowly get established elsewhere but I am certainly getting my feet wet and am so relieved to see hope on the horizon.  As far as my buying.  I am already gone from ebay!!  And I buy EVERYTHING online except bread & milk…lol so while I may not be able to break eBay all on my own I feel great they are not getting a dime from me anymore! (Shopping wise anyway)  I sure hope everyone else will follow suite.  Nothing would make me happier than to see eBay have to beg for their good sellers to come back one day.  Far off I am sure but we can hope!!

  • Goldi

    I’m surprised Onlineauction, or OLA was not mentioned.. This is a great site and affordable. I have been there for 4 years and more than happy there..

  • Yz250chick

    I have been an ebay user since 2000. I am SO tired of the corporate greed there! They OWN paypal and yet they still rake the sellers over the coals and charge outrageous fees. I can’t make a buck there anymore. I am very happy with Ioffer and Bonanzle. Listia is good if you like to deal with trading points and bartering. Thank you for this article. I’m a lurker and first time commenter and appreciate the options of the new auction sites for selling my goods.

  • freecoug

    I have been with eBay since the beginning, and while I do not sell a ton (a few hundred over time) I do buy a lot there, etc.  When I do sell it’s very hard now with the fees to make a good profit.  I was turned onto Webstore by a friend so I gave it a try.  At first I didn’t see much attention to my items, but then again I had the same items on eBay and they weren’t selling either.  I listed a printer and it actually sold on Webstore before eBay, which saved me about $20.  eBay has a HUGE head start on all of these sites, millions of visitors compared to thousands, but as sites like Webstore build their traffic and market to potential buyers, I am hopeful things will pick up.  The economy we’re in right now also poses a challenge as not all items sell that well anywhere.  IMO eBay got too greedy and that is why these startups are doing well because people are looking to try something different to keep more of THEIR money in THEIR pockets!

  • ebay wants to be amazon

    i’ve been selling on ebay since it started……..fact is there is no better place not even one that is close. i also sell on webstore, ebid, craigslist, amazon. i sell 50 items per day on ebay and a hand full per month on the others. i do this for a living and it’s either ebay or amazon. deal with the fees and move on. it will take many years for someone to compete with ebay and actually be competitive. i tell people all the time sell on amazon. you always list the items for free and they have better customers than ebay. many people don’t trust ebay but they trust amazon…….little do they know that other than amazon itself most of the sellers are on both. you can get more for your product on amazon……even a used item. their after sales fees are actually a little higher that ebays. if you sell items that take time to sell use amazon if you sell items that sell quickly, like i do, use ebay. everyone wants the old ebay back with the sellers being able to leave neg feedback………………aint going to happen. they have evolved and even though we all hate it i personally don’t have a choice i just go on making less $$ everytime they make changes. another better thing about amazon is no one(buyers) cares about the feedback. there is a great website for anyone looking for items to sell. it is fbafinds.com. i joined and have been making steady money checking the site everyday. the site finds items that you can buy cheap and resell on amazon for a profit. there is no other website that does all the research for you and even give you the links to the products.

  • Bryanb1

    TRUSTYSELL.com – TRUSTYSELL.com – Visit Today! 

  • Al Boark

    I always get a laugh when people complain about “outrageous” fees – whether it’s eBay and their nickle-and-dime-you-to-death (totaling less than 10%), or the 10% of Tophatter, which “can cut deeply into profits”. Try selling in a brick and mortar store, as I did until a couple of years ago when my outlet closed. The best deal – and it was a *great* deal for me – was no monthly rent, just 25% of my sales. Compare that to other places I had sold: anywhere from $90 to $175 a month *rent* for my space, *plus* 10% of my sales (or work two full days a month, including a weekend day). I haven’t found an online sales site yet that “eats into my profits” the way a “real store” does. I have no complaints with fees – except with eBay, and that’s only over their constant changes, not the bottom line. People – get out and sell in the traditional world – you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven when you go back to online!

  • Alexandra F

    You’re missing the best one… Auctionopia! No selling or listing fees, at all, ever, for real. Not to mention their uploading system makes eBay’s look like a joke.

  • Anonymous

    Not a bad article, didn’t know about outbid. But please recommend websites on the back of personal experience and not ratings on ‘TopTenReviews’. Prior to reading your article, I went though the whole registering and listing process on ebid only to find NOONE SHOPS THERE. Just don’t want anyone else wasting their time. 

  • mark

    I am a top rated seller on ebay and I sold with them for about a year. I too had a few instances of ebay removing my auctions and telling me I had to change this or that as they were removing my listings even though I was following ebay policies to the letter. I also had a dishonest buyer who opened a dispute on a brand new item I sold after messaging me trying to get out of the transaction because of buyers remorse. The item in question (which I don’t manufacture and mail completely sealed from the factory) was said to be flawed even though I know for a fact it wasn’t anything but a quality item and they sided with him even though I provided them with the messages showing he had buyers remorse from the beginning. All he did was never answer any of my ebay messages then escalated the dispute and he won. ebay doesn’t care about sellers only buyers (and they really don’t care about buyers either). That’s why they took our ability to leave negative feedback to bad buyers. I no longer sell on ebay because they don’t care about anything but catering to their policies (especially when they can hide behind them), raising the fees structure and protecting their own collective butts.

    I decided to take what I’ve learned and experienced with ebay and start my own website. The fees structure is a fraction of ebays and everything ebay offers I offer that plus some. The feedback structure is just and reasonable and always will be. We will never choose money over our members and we will always do the fair and just thing for all involved no matter if they are a buyer, a seller, new or a veteran member. If your tired of robotic responses to your questions or being treated like just another number then come see us at http://www.boshbid.com and see what we have to offer for an ebay alternative.

  • disqus_myersFm0FQ

    Webstore sucks my first purchase was my last and $1,030.00 swindled out of my pocket with no help from the people who operate there. What a joke taking the money and not sending my anything