David Brackin is the managing director of Stuff U Sell, the leading eBay trading assistant in the UK and a regular Tamebay contributor. Today, David looks at recent eBay and Amazon purchases and concludes that eBay has better price, better selection and indeed eBay sellers can provide great service. The problem appears to eBay that eBay don’t brag about seller service and highlight that eBay’s sellers can beat Amazon.
One of the ways I like to keep fit is by training on the rowing machine and I use a heart-rate monitor to fine-tune my effort. However, the straps on these are constantly breaking or leaving themselves at home and I am always in need of a spare or two. So I hopped online the other day to buy a couple more as an experiment. I bought one each on Amazon and eBay and the experience highlighted the difference between the two marketplaces.
A search for “heart-rate chest strap” brought up a mixed bag on both marketplaces. The eBay page had a moving advert that took a while to load and both had listings with the monitor included and sponsored listings cluttering the results. But scrolling down brought up a couple of options on each.
The two options on Amazon come in at 8.99 and 7.99, both on Prime, both with good reviews. On closer inspection they both have the same description and same seller using FBA. Examining the reviews shows that it is just a hijacked listing – one of the joys of catalogue-based shopping. I bought the 7.99 one and opted for No-Rush Delivery with £1 credit off my next Kindle book, expecting delivery in 3-5 days. I could also have selected next day or two-day delivery free of charge.
On eBay I had two options at 4.75 and 4.76. Both with businesses addresses in China but proudly with logos on the gallery image showing that the stock was in the UK. Free Economy postage or pay £1.78 for Economy postage. That’s a little odd, but closer inspection reveals that the upgrade is going from 3-5 day courier to Royal Mail Tracked 48, which for unfathomable reasons is listed on eBay as a 2-3 day Economy service. Royal Mail Tracked 48 pretty much defines Standard shipping for small items. I bought the 4.76 strap with free shipping, expecting delivery in 4-6 days.
Both packages arrived within hours of each other on Friday (3 days) – the eBay package was slightly ahead because my postman is in the morning and the Amazon courier doesn’t get to us until the afternoon. Both chest straps are excellent, virtually identical and exactly what was required. And both had had quite a journey.
The Amazon one had left their service centre in Italy the day after I ordered. It had made its way to the distribution hub in Dunstable and then down to me. The eBay one was in a grey mailer with the Chinese details on it, which was then inside another grey mailer sent Royal Mail 48 from a freight-forwarder based in Leicestershire, presumably the landing spot for container loads of the devices awaiting onward shipment.
On the face of this experience, eBay should be winning business. A similar search experience yielding a wide selection of products being offered much cheaper (4.76 vs 6.99 is 32% off) and with identical delivery. But as Chris wrote on Friday, eBay spends too much time holding its sellers up to so-called “retail standards” and not enough time advertising how good its sellers really are. The delivery time I was promised was far too long, meaning I had no idea how good it was going to be – but on Amazon I had the choice of next day delivery and could search for it (what if I had a race in two days?). On eBay sellers can’t even adjust their handling time to allow Express Shipping to be sold as next-day.
As for buyer confidence, I can’t recall whether either eBay item had the Premium Seller badge on it – it’s not prominent to the buyer in the cluttered landscape of the eBay page and is mostly targeted at sellers instead of being a buyer aid. As a feature it’s been poorly implemented with bug fixes since the new criteria went live earlier this year as eBay’s tech has struggled to cope. By contrast I recall that both Amazon items were PRIME – it’s presented right next to the price.
Were the Chinese sellers the problem that Chris highlighted in his article? In fact no – the stock was already in the UK and ready to forward to me and was done so promptly and efficiently. I feel sure that if eBay allowed them to showcase it, the seller would have offered a next-day service as well and charged me for it. Finally, whenever I buy something, I find the purchase and checkout experience on eBay is always a slow and painful one, compared with Amazon.
eBay is already sitting on the competitive advantage it needs to beat Amazon: its army of sellers are already better at sourcing, pricing and serving customers. eBay needs to nurture this group and focus on fixing its own technical failings to unleash the power of the true offerings of its sellers into the marketplace. At the moment die-hard bargain-hunters will tolerate the eBay buying experience but it’s time that eBay took its powerful seller offering mainstream.