eBay vs. Amazon: How Are They Different?

The electronic commerce (e-commerce) movement is bigger than ever and only shows signs of becoming bigger. Under the purview of e-commerce companies, both eBay (EBAY) and Amazon (AMZN) stand out as longstanding, major players in the marketplace. Both eBay and Amazon operate as online shopping sites, providing visitors the ability the browse through available products listed for sale or auction through each company's online storefront. While eBay and Amazon have each evolved over the last few years to meet the needs of today's consumers, there are distinct differences between the two companies. EBay and Amazon differ in terms of business models and pricing, services for sellers and ancillary services for buyers.

Business Models and Pricing Strategies

The greatest difference between eBay and Amazon is the business model under which each company operates. EBay is an auction house, and the company simply facilitates the sale of goods between third-party buyers and sellers. Buyers visit the site to search for products they want to buy from a vast array of individual sellers and then bid on items through individual auctions. Conversely, Amazon is a direct provider of goods, and customers visiting its site view products that Amazon maintains as inventory in its large network of warehouses. For some products, Amazon allows third-party sellers to offer purchase options to buyers, but the company keeps the majority of its products in-house.

Within an auction model, eBay employs a wholesale pricing strategy. In most cases, interested buyers must bid on items for sale on eBay Sellers list auction items for a three-, five-, seven- or 10-day period, and the buyer willing to pay the highest amount wins the product at the end of that time frame. Some items listed on eBay feature a "buy it now" option, which allows a buyer to purchase the product immediately, albeit at a premium. Amazon operates as a retail outlet, providing customers with fixed prices on all products. While various sellers may list the same product, there is no need for a customer to place bids or win an auction before purchasing.

Seller Services: Is eBay Cheaper Than Amazon?

EBay and Amazon differ greatly in terms of how each company works to facilitate sales. Because eBay needs sellers to list products on its site to generate revenue, the company is far more seller-oriented than Amazon. EBay actively invites sellers to participate in its auction marketplace, and the company provides platforms for sellers to offer products to buyers within an eBay store or through the auction site's classified section. Amazon is more buyer-oriented, actively inviting buyers to visit the site and browse through and subsequently purchase its own inventory. While some third party sellers use Amazon to distribute products, the company is more focused on attracting buyers to the site.

Amazon Seller Fees

Third-party Amazon sellers can sell with either a professional account or an individual account.

Amazon Professional Account

  • Selling more than 40 items per month
  • $39.99 per month + selling fees (varies based on category)
  • Access to Amazon Sponsored Products Ads

Amazon Individual Account

  • Selling less than 40 items per month
  • $0.99 per sale + selling fees (varies based on category)
  • No access to Amazon Sponsored Product Ads

Here's how Amazon calculates end revenue for an item sold by a third-party seller on the platform:

  • Take item price, and...
  • Add shipping charges paid by the buyer
  • Add gift wrap charges paid by the buyer (if any)
  • Subtract referral fee (calculated on the item price and any gift wrap charges paid by the buyer)
  • Subtract closing fee
  • Subtract $0.99 per item fee (waived for sellers who pay a subscription fee)
  • Remainder equals total deposited to seller account

eBay Seller Fees

  • Insertion fee: When a seller lists item on eBay, they may be charged a listing (or insertion) fee. If applicable, it's one insertion fee per listing, per category, regardless of the quantity of items. A seller will receive one insertion fee credit for each auction-style listing for which they paid an insertion fee, if that listed item sells (exclusions apply). All sellers get free-insertion-fee listings per month (restrictions and exclusions apply).
  • Final value fee: If the item sells, the seller is charged a final value fee. Final value fees are calculated based on the total amount of the sale and are charged per item. The total amount of the sale is the final price of the item, shipping charges, and any other amounts the seller may charge the buyer. Sales tax is not included. Restrictions and exclusions apply.
  • Advanced listing upgrade fees: If a seller adds advanced listing upgrades to their listing, fees apply. Not all listing upgrades are available with every listing tool.
  • Supplemental service fees: If the seller uses supplemental services, related charges may be included on your seller invoice as fees.

    Additional Services for Buyers

    Another vast difference between eBay and Amazon is the ancillary services available to buyers. Since 2010, Amazon has rapidly expanded its additional services, most notably through its rollout of Amazon Prime. The membership program requires users to pay an annual fee but grants them exclusive access to expedited two-day shipping at no additional cost; digital media, such as movies, music and Kindle e-books; and unlimited photo storage through the cloud.

    For more on Amazon's operations, read 10 Facts You Didn't Know About Amazon.