eBay – The Small Business Incubator To Start Selling Online
eBay is a brand that is known just about to anyone. The company continually makes the highly coveted Top 100 Best Global Brands list by Interbrand, one of the leading global brand consultancies.
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And while some people still think of eBay as a digital fleamarket, the online marketplace has significantly changed since it was founded in 1995 as AuctionWeb by Pierre Omidyar.
The first item sold on the platform was a broken laser pointer, setting in motion for the fledgling auction site to become one of the top online marketplaces in the world.
While the original concept was an auction-focused site for people to sell items out of their closets or garage, eBay’s business model has shifted significantly since then to become a go-to eCommerce platform for small businesses.
Similarweb, which measures website traffic, ranked eBay.com as the 14th most visited website in the US and the second most visited site in eCommerce, only behind Amazon (September 2022 data).
Even on a global scale, Similarweb traffic data shows eBay.com is frequently in the top 50 of most visited sites, regardless of category.
While eBay’s business philosophy has changed over the past 27 years a few times — not always for the better and almost always corresponding to a change CEO — today, eBay has left some of the old bad ideas behind, focusing on being one of the top destinations for sellers and buyers.
Since Jamie Iannone took over the CEO role in 2020, the company has updated many of its backend technology and increased its focus on enthusiasts buyers, which make up about 80% of the company’s Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV).
In addition, the company has invested in hot categories such as sneakers, watches, handbags and collectibles through its eBay Authenticity Program.
eBay also refocused on car and truck parts/accessories (P&A) — a category it once dominated online — and has spearheaded a push towards recommerce, which is the reselling of previously owned or refurbished items.
Ironically, some may say that recommerce is bringing eBay back to its roots of pre-owned items, but unlike the very early days, today, this is evolving into a growing business opportunity.
Especially Gen Zers are leading the resurgence of purchasing used products (or “Pre-Loved” in eBay slang), becoming the driving force towards reducing waste in landfills.
While some legacy sellers grumble that eBay has changed too much, claiming the online marketplace is not the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago, the reality may be more rooted in these sellers not adopting how eCommerce has changed and keeps changing.
It is true that since Iannone took over, the number of global sellers and buyers has continued to drop — even after a spike during the pandemic — the company explains this is due to its changing focus to higher spending sellers.
“90% of our buyers who churned in Q3  were low-value buyers. Enthusiast buyers accounted for approximately 17 million of our active buyers in Q3 ,” said Steve Priest, SVP, Chief Financial Officer during the company’s last earnings call.
Priest further said that average spending per enthusiast buyer is $3,000+ per year, “up double digits versus 2019.”
As of September, eBay reported it has 135 million active buyers and an estimated 17 million active sellers in more than 190 markets worldwide on its core platform.
With about 1.7 billion listings online and a yearly GMV of around $80 billion, the marketplace is a significant force in eCommerce and a business opportunity for anyone that wants to start or expand their current business.
eBay – The Side Hustle, The Small Business Opportunity
Millions of micro and small businesses thrive on eBay. Some professional sellers launched on eBay with a business plan, while others accidentally became a business after selling personal items.
This makes eBay somewhat unique as the marketplace’s global scale enables anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit to grow a business from a side hustle to a profitable full-time business.
And in contrast to launching on some other major online marketplaces, eBay sellers do not compete with the company and do not have to invest tens of thousands of dollars to get started and be competitive.
eBay Small Business Report 2022
Let’s take a look at data from eBay’s first-ever Small Business Report the company commissioned — based on a survey of 2,607 sellers in the US, UK, Canada and Australia — to see how sellers started their businesses on the marketplace and how they believe the platform supports their success.
71% of eBay sellers said that eBay helped them start their business, and 79% said the marketplace helped them grow their business.
Furthermore, 31% of sellers said their business would not be able to exist without eBay, and another 40% rely a lot on eBay for their sales.
eBay’s survey also found that 15% of surveyed sellers self-identified as having a disability, highlighting the economic opportunity the platform offers.
The global reach of eBay is important to sellers as well. Of those selling beyond their own country, 64% sold to 3 or more countries in the past 12 months.
And while some people may think that selling on eBay is easier when living in a city or suburb, 39% of those surveyed sell from a small town or a rural area.
Passion is often a driving factor in growing a business. People work harder and smarter (also have more fun) when they are fully engaged, and enjoy what they are doing.
eBay sellers are no exception, with 83% of those surveyed saying they have turned their passion into a business.
And being able to turn a passion into a business is enabled by eBay’s wide range of product categories.
85% of eBay sellers consider the diversity of products that can be sold on the marketplace as essential or very important to their success.
As recommerce heads to the forefront to expand the circular economy and grow sustainability, more than three-quarters of sellers surveyed said they use eBay to sell pre-owned items.
And finally, to highlight how so many sellers on eBay turn from selling personal items to running a business, 45% said they identified themselves as accidental entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurship is Alive and Well
Here at eSeller365, we believe in small businesses. No online marketplace is perfect, but eBay has offered entrepreneurs for over 25 years the ability to start an online business as a side hustle.
While some people quit their regular job and invest all their savings into a new business, many often fail.
eBay offers a unique economic proposition for starting a business on a budget and limited time. Nothing is guaranteed, and it still takes work, effort, and passion to grow any business to replace a full-time income.
Maybe it never will, but if the business is fun, why not?
“Our sellers dream big and work hard to realize their personal goals. What they do is truly inspirational. We’re proud to partner with them along their journey, helping to propel their success and creating economic opportunity for all,” said Jamie Iannone, President & CEO of eBay.
eBay’s inaugural Small Business Report showcases data that should be encouraging to those that have been thinking about selling on eBay.
There can be frustrations, just like in any business or job. But eBay offers many tools and a community to help sellers get started, including a free training program and the eBay Academy.
In that way, it’s like a business incubator enabling entrepreneurs to grow their business worldwide.
And on Facebook, there are also many eBay-specific groups where new and veteran sellers can ask questions or get inspiration, including our own here.
Connect with us: Head over to our Facebook Group for Small Business Sellers and interact with other small business owners.
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Richard is co-founder of eSeller365. He has over 17 years of experience on eBay which includes tens of thousands of sales to buyers in over 100 countries and even has experience with eBay’s VeRO program enforcing intellectual property rights for a former employer. And for about two years Richard sold products on Amazon using Amazon FBA in the US.
To “relax” from the daily business grind, for a few weekends a year, he also works for IMSA as a professional race official.