Amazon alternatives? Etsy alternatives? eBay alternatives?

Annoyed with Amazon?  Fed up with Etsy? Exasperated with eBay? Which alternatives are worth your time?

There are hundreds of other marketplaces out there all trying to get a piece of the pie from the big three. Some, like Bonanza and Addoway, offer one click import from eBay or Amazon in an effort to woo sellers. ArtFire and Big Cartel are standout Etsy competitors for artists and crafters with a monthly fee instead of individual listing fees and others, like eBid, offer a one time lifetime seller fee instead of per item charges. Some marketplaces limit themselves to just one niche like Ruby Lane for antiques and vintage items and uBid for electronics. Fiverr is an often wacky marketplace where most products and services are priced at $5 with optional upgrades. Everyone from Barnes and Noble to Walmart wants to be Amazon (and both BN and Walmart have opportunities for third party sellers like you to list on their sites similar to Amazon Marketplace). It seems like every week a new site appears claiming to be “The Next eBay/Amazon/Etsy.”

Are any of these worth your time? I firmly believe in giving every new marketplace a try and have put my inventory on the digital shelves of many marketplaces over the years. Big and small, buzzed about and no one’s heard of, I’ve tried as many as possible. I’ve watched more platforms come and go than years I’ve been at this and, while a few had some great innovations and features, in the end, I always left because of the same reasons.

  • They don’t have enough built-in buyers. Most of these marketplaces are newer then 5 years old and don’t have anywhere near the following that eBay, Amazon or Etsy have. This means more work and higher costs for you because you’ll need to do more external marketing to get buyers to your items. These sites may attract sellers but they have a long way to go to be a go to retail destination for buyers. I tracked my own selling over a year on several marketplaces using the same exact items, listings and prices and the difference was dramatic. Even with heavy marketing, we sold less than 5 items a year on all the other marketplaces combined while we sold at least that many a week through eBay and Amazon. Could these marketplaces eventually grow and form their own built-in buyer population? Sure! But are you willing to sit around and waste earning time waiting to see if that happens? Especially since…
  • They almost all charge fees. The big three above all charge fees but they also bring buyers to your items and that cuts back on the amount of marketing you need to do. In a way, their fees cover that marketing cost and the benefits of their brand and platform. If you need to do all the work of marketing your items on these newer sites, what are you paying the marketplace for? Considering the wealth of free selling tools we’ll be covering in the next section, I cannot see any justification for paying fees to a marketplace that isn’t shouldering part of the marketing burden. Not to mention that…
  • You’re still shackling yourself to someone else’s marketplace that could change policies or fold at any time. Just like with Amazon, Etsy and eBay, you’re still at their mercy when it comes to the policy changes, outages, and restrictions of these new marketplaces. You could take the time to build a business there only to have the site go out of business or change a policy out from under you that would damage how you are able to sell your items. And unlike the big three, there is less of a guarantee that this new marketplace will be around a year from now in its present form.
  • Your sales will always being secondary to their brand. The very nature of a marketplace is that it presents itself as a retail destination with many items side by side. Any platform with that goal in mind is always going to focus on your item being one of many alongside the items of other sellers and the name of the marketplace itself being the primary brand. This is detrimental to you and your future sales because the platform is always simultaneously promoting competing items. You might put up with this from one of the big three because they bring in so many buyers but from a small marketplace that’s billing you for less exposure? It just doesn’t make sense.

Harsh? Maybe. But I’ve been burned too many times by the newest, shiniest marketplace to not go into any new marketplace with my eyes firmly open and yours should be too.

It’s easy to get excited by a marketplace that has that magical feature you’ve always dreamed and longed for but make sure they have more than just that one thing to offer you. One great feature cannot make a marketplace just as one big flaw cannot break one. Also, any marketplace where the biggest selling point is doing the opposite of what one of the big three are doing should raise some major red flags because that means something else is going to suffer in exchange.

Moving all your inventory and setting up on a new platform takes time and time, as they say, is money. While I think it’s an excellent idea to keep experimenting and trying everything that’s out there, monitor how much time you spend on new marketplaces versus how much you make from them. At a certain point, it just doesn’t make financial sense. If you’re doing all the legwork, why wouldn’t you be directing buyers to your own space instead of theirs?

In the end, any marketplace is just your little items on their big platform and that doesn’t leave you much better off than you were with one of the big three. Why trade your current situation for another only slightly different situation? To me, if you feel the need to be part of a marketplace, you’re getting much more for your buck (which means both money and time spent) with one of the big three then playing in a smaller pond.