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Selling Online: Marketplaces Like Amazon & eBay vs. Website

20.08.2020, 8m

If you’re new to the online selling game, you might be asking yourself if you should start selling your products in a marketplace like Amazon or eBay or start your own online shop.

Even if you’ve been profiting from marketplaces for a while, you might be considering creating your own shop now. Both options come with advantages as well as challenges, so which one should you use? Today, we’ll break things down and help you decide what the best choice is for your business.

Building your brand image

When it comes to building your brand, there’s no question that creating your own website gives you more control of your brand image. As anyone who’s visited Amazon or eBay knows, there are very few options for controlling how your product pages look.

Colors, fonts, and layouts are pretty much standardized in these marketplaces, though eBay does give you more options than Amazon once the user scrolls down the product pages a bit. However, no one can really claim that any of these pages are very dynamic.

Trusted Tips: Get our free whitepaper on using marketplaces to benefit your  shop!

Naturally, there are some things you can do to differentiate yourself.

As far as the product page is concerned, creating great product images is crucial when selling online no matter if you sell in a marketplace or on your own website.

Creating unique product descriptions is also something you should be doing across the board. However, with these marketplaces, that’s basically it.

Having your own website lets you create the experience you want your customers to have. Your brand should have a personality. It should symbolize your target group’s lifestyle and this should be reflected in the design of your website.

Kobayashi website

Designer Mikiya Kobayashi is known for his passion of materials. Minimalistic images and close-ups of his products reflect that. (Source:

One of the biggest negatives for marketplaces is that you really need to be careful about how you market yourself. Amazon, for example, is very strict about this topic. They basically forbid you from mentioning your own company in any way.

That means you cannot even include your business card or print your website in the invoices included in the packaging. Why not?

Amazon knows that sharing company information is just good business practice, right? Well, that depends on who you ask. Amazon sees this action as an attempt by retailers to lure customers away from them; a strategy they’re not very fond of to say the least.

Other marketplaces, such as Etsy, have similar policies. However, Etsy at least lets you post links to your social media pages.

If it’s obvious that you’re pulling in a lot of customers through these marketplaces, make sure you have a memorable shop name that can easily be googled. Perhaps this way, customers will end up on your website through the search engines.

Whatever you do, just be sure to read through the terms and conditions of the marketplaces carefully. Your account might get suspended if you violate these conditions.  

Winner: Your own website… by a landslide.

Traffic & sales

You're shop is online, so you're probably aware that marketing is a huge element of running a successful business on the internet. And because the internet is vast, helping customers find your website cab be tough work. However, as a retailer, you might have both short-term goals and long-term goals.

If we’re talking about long-term goals, then building your brand is your aim. However, making sales is also important and promoting your products to make a quick sale is vital to your short-term goals.

If you have your own store, you can do a lot of things to drive traffic to your shop – optimise your website to rank highly in Google organic search results, run Google and Facebook ads, or create an Instagram campaign.

Then there’s Twitter, hashtags, and Pinterest. The list goes on and on. However, this can take lots of time and effort. And we all know that time = money.


The advantage of selling in a marketplace is that it will probably be easier for customers to find your products. Naturally, this will however depend on what you’re selling, how many competitors you have, and a few other factors.

According to bloomreach, shoppers start their product searches two times more often on Amazon than on Google. Let that soak in for a moment. It would be difficult for anyone to deny the benefits of having your products available on Amazon.

Though you can “advertise” on Amazon, you’re really just promoting your Amazon product and you’re basically paying Amazon to advertise a product that you’re selling on their website. And if you do sell it, a nice chunk of your sale's profits also goes to the marketplace.


Shutterstock/Jack Frog

With eBay, you can advertise external shops at the very bottom of search results, but ads on product pages aren't always closely related to the products searched. 

Winner: Marketplaces… especially for quick sales.

Customer Experience

When a user visits Amazon for example, the customer experience is more directly associated with the marketplace than with the seller. In essence, that means that when a customer has a good experience buying your product on Amazon, it’s simply "another great Amazon purchase". Although the product was bought "from you", the experience of buying that product is credited to the marketplace.

Similarly to branding, the customer experience is much more in your hands when you run your own shop. When a customer buys from your shop, their customer journey from start to finish is yours to control and customize. From the ad they clicked on, to the homepage to the follow-up email requesting a review, it's all up to you. It may be more work, but it’s yours to own and yours to master!

Winner: Your own shop  

Recommended blog: Starting an Online Shop: A Beginner's Guide

Expanding your clientele

When selling on a marketplace, generally we think of buyers as the end-users.

With the exception of Alibaba, most of these marketplaces are targeting single consumers for single purchases. Normal marketplaces will therefore give prices on single products. Alibaba, on the other hand, will often provide the prices for purchasing large quantities of a product.

If you’re a (B2B) shop targeting other smaller retailers (i.e. brick-and-mortar shops), then selling on Amazon or Etsy is definitely not ideal.

If you sell small products like USB cables, then offering them at discounted prices if someone purchases 100 items is a no-brainer.

Winner: Your own shop

dystopian man surrounded by cables
Nothing feels more powerful than buying USB cables in bulk at a great price!
(Shutterstock/Tithi Luadthong)

What can you learn from marketplaces like Amazon?

As you can see, there are plenty of advantages to selling on marketplaces like Amazon. That also means that there are plenty of lessons to take from these e-commerce giants as well. 

Marketplace shops rely heavily on social proof and trust

This point is particularly true with Amazon. Shoppers can search a seller's reviews to get an idea of their service. Perhaps more importantly, product reviews (and ratings) are available right on the product page as well.

This gives users a greater peace of mind before completing their purchase. This point, in my opinion, may be one of the greatest factors of Amazon's success as Jeff Bezos made the decision to publish all reviews (even negative reviews) for the benefit of the shoppers.

Building your own website means you've got to win over customer trust. Check out our free checklist below!

Download 9 ways to win customer trust checklist

The bottom line here is that trust is a major issue here and an advantage that Amazon has worked hard to get.

Even if a customer visits your website and likes what they see, they may still choose to shop in a marketplace because of their previous experiences. And that’s why social proof is so important.

Besides reviews, having a trustmark displayed on your page can be a big trust builder for your online store. The Trusted Shops Trustmark, for example, offers consumers a 30-day Buyer Protection. As the most recognised e-commerce trustmark in Europe, it can help eliminate any doubts your potential customers may have about buying from an unknown shop. 


Companies like Amazon make it easy for shop owners to (re)market products to shoppers who browsed their pages. This doesn't surprise anyone anymore, but it's important to note that this is still a very effective marketing strategy.

Aiming for users who have interacted with your pages before makes sense. Either they were interested in your products or have purchased from you before. In both situations, these users are more likely to convert than lots of other targeting strategies. 

Recommended items

One great feature that Amazon has on its product pages (and once a product is added to the basket) is a recommendation of complementary products. This is commonly referred to as cross-selling.

By recommending another product that goes together with the original product, you can inspire your customers to purchase more from you before checking out

It can also be seen as a service to your customers. If they end up buying something like a new DSLR camera, buying a second battery might not be the first thing on their mind, but may quickly realise that they will need that item as well.

Recommended items list at the bottom of Amazon product page

Source: Amazon


Though we would always encourage sellers to create their own websites, it can’t hurt trying out some marketplaces to complement your online shop’s sales.

Though these marketplaces may have strict rules, they have also built up a great reputation for themselves and can get your business some great exposure. 

All in all, it’s best to spread out and sell your products across different channels, but ignoring your own website and only focusing on marketplace sales would be a mistake and can stunt your shop's growth.

If you’re still pretty new to e-commerce and are (or thinking about being)  active on popular marketplaces, download our free whitepaper. It’s got some  great tips on using marketplaces to help your brand grow.