Selling Internationally on… eBay

Welcome to the first in our bi weekly series “Selling Internationally on…” where we will cover the basic how to of selling on the major international marketplaces. From the US to China and Latin America to Singapore. In this first article we start with eBay, a marketplace which as international as core to it’s strategy and ethos. 

eBay was founded in 1995 from San Jose, the capital of California’s Silicon Valley.  While it started life as mainly a Consumer 2 Consumer (C2C) marketplace of used goods, today, more than 90% of eBay’s transactions, by value, come from professional business sellers and new products.

eBay has operations in 32 countries serving 190 markets. In the second quarter of 2020 they reported more than 27 billion USD of gross merchandise volume and a revenue of 2.7 billion USD. The most important numbers for international retailers are the fact that 62% of the revenue come from outside of the US and the reported 182 million active buyers shopping on the platform; that’s a huge number of shoppers actively looking to buy in one place who you can directly target.

In response there are sellers on eBay from all over the world, with 28% of eBay’s sellers in the US, that leaves 7 million more who are not in America.  Furthermore, of the top 1000 sellers 275 make most of their money cross borders, i.e. in markets where they are not based.

Ensuring you have access to this pool of international buyers means listing on eBay and making your products available to their global, product hungry buyers.

Making sure international customers can buy YOUR products

So how do you go about listing internationally on eBay?  I’m going to assume here that you already have an eBay account and available domestic listings.  If you’re first starting out with eBay, get set up domestically first then come back here.  eBay provides a useful guide to getting set up and their customer services people can help. See here: https://pages.ebay.com/seller-center/get-started/selling-basics.html  for the US guides. These guides are also available in languages where eBay has a listing site.

There are two ways to make your products available internationally. In eBay terminology the first is known as Passive Listing and the second as Active Listing.

Passive International Listings on eBay

In order to surface your product listings internationally on eBay you simply need to set shipping to those locations you want to sell. eBay will then automatically display your items to buyers in those countries.  In order to do this you have to have at least 10 feedback points as a seller, have made your first sale more than 90 days ago and have signed the International Selling Agreement on eBay. (If you haven’t eBay will ask you to when you try to set shipping).

It is better to enter shipping for individual countries where possible as eBay often gives these items better visibility.

You can add shipping either item-by-item or by using rules, e.g. adding whole countries or regions you don’t want to ship into.

To add shipping you need to select the “Show International Services and Options” link from your product pages.

That’s really it. It’s very important to offer good shipping rates to a country or region if you want to sell anything. There’s no point putting a flat 50 dollar fee, few will buy it. We’ve talked about this more in another article you can find here.

Active International Listings on eBay

Listing Actively on eBay’s international sites is by far the best way to get traction.  It is, though, much more involved.  Essentially Active means listing directly on eBay’s international sites in their language, currency and measures.  It’s more complicated because eBay doesn’t provide the functionality and it has to be carried out outside of the eBay infrastructure.

The complexities involved include, but are not limited to, synchronizing stock and price changes,  converting price and measure, adding new and taking down old products, localizing the language, ensuring you are allowed to list the item in country, mapping categories.  It goes on, but it’s not easy.

There are partners out there who can help with all or part of these activities to make it easier.

You also need to ensure you buy a shop subscription so eBay doesn’t charge you for every international listing. In Europe you get free international listings but in America, not so much.

So, with all this hassle, why bother?  It’s a balance of course and it needs to be profitable for you both in terms of cost and time.  Find the right technology to help you, they are available. Listing on eBay’s international sites gives you the same visibility as local sellers.  Buyers searching for items will also search in their own language, meaning your products will be found more easily when translated. On top of this, conversion is higher because your listings are in the language and currency  of the buyer.  Studies show that this can lead to a near 100% increase in sales conversion.

This all means potentially significant increases in traffic and sales from eBay’s international sites, over and above what you achieve passively.

Programs to make international listing easier on eBay

With all these complexities you can imagine that eBay has been trying to solve them.  It is eBay’s way to work with partners and the area  of selling internationally is no different. 

The two major programs try to solve the two major issues; Shipping and Listing Localisation.

Global Shipping Program (GSP)

Retailers in the USA and in the UK have access to eBay’s Global Shipping Program.  This is a parcel forwarding technology and partner where retailers in those countries are invited to or choose to join the GPS program. GSP adds shipping on the sellers items and shows the products passively in countries where GSP ships to.  When sellers get a sale they are asked to send the sold products to eBay’s local domestic hub and eBay (via their partner) then take care of the shipping.  It’s a great program where eBay covers the risks involved once the item has been received by the hub, meaning buyers can’t blame the seller for late shipping or lost parcels.

International Sales Booster

Many regions have the International Sales Booster program.  This is run by a third party who collect your items, localize and list them internationally on eBay’s sites.  As always, full exposure, I also work for this company! So I won’t say too much more about it other than it works to solve the issues of Active listing and there are 10s of thousands of sellers using it across the world. See here for the US and here for the latest updates in the EU. In Europe you can join the program by either purchasing a feature (or above) store or by being invited directly by eBay.

eBay is one of the few marketplaces where you can access many international buyers who are actively looking for products and it’s a great place to get started on your international journey.

For more info around how to plan for your international journey take a look at our free eBook in the resource section and feel free to ask questions/leave comments down below.

About Mark Ellis

Mark is the VP for Growth and Partnerships at Webinterpret, a leading Cross Border Technology company. Before that Mark was leading the operations for eBay's European cross border program. He has over 20 years of eCommerce industry experience, guiding and delivering strategic change in retailers, working with companies such as Dyson, Regatta, Boots and Arcadia Group, leading multi-million dollar programs for industry giants like Dunnhumby and working with small businesses delivering innovative retail solutions.

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