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.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 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”
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.”
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.