christmas ship

I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning.

And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?
And what was in those ships all three,
On Christmas Day in the morning?

The Amazon Ship

Amazon and eBay released their 3rd quarter earnings this week and as expected,  Amazon continued its tear on the ecommerce charts:

With sales up 28% year over year, a 23% growth rate  in North America,  98 million active buyers (up 17% from last year!) – and 31% of all units sold sold by third party sellers (that’s you and me!) there’s no doubt that Amazon has hit upon the business model that resonates with today’s online shopper.

Amazon’s ship is clearly coming in this Christmas.

The eBay Ship

While eBay’s ship didn’t exactly stall in the water – it did sail through Q3 at a much slower pace than Amazon. There was some positive wind in eBay’s overall sales in the 3rd quarter of 2009.  And eBay’s active user base was only up 2% year over year.

But for  sellers, one thing is for sure when it comes to reading the eBay numbers.  Profitability on eBay all depends on what you sell and what category you sell in…

Your Ship

So what does this mean for your ‘Christmas Ship’?

Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether Amazon is doing great or eBay is dead in the water – what matters is what’s happening in your business.

Amazon can be up 28%, but if you’re not selling there, those numbers don’t impact your income.

eBay can be down 1% but if you’re niche market on eBay  is up 12%, these are the numbers that matter to YOU.

On any given day, I’ll talk to 10 sellers and get 10 different responses as to whether eBay is slow and Amazon is hot.  It usually runs about 50/50.

50% of the people who list on eBay are doing well.  50% are not.

50% of the people who sell on Amazon are doing great.  50% haven’t started selling there yet.

Last week I sold an item on eBay within 3 days. Another item I thought for sure would sell is still listed. Amazon sent me two emails telling me that I product I used to sell there (but am now out of stock on) has buyer interest. Unfortunately I can’t get the item back in stock right now.

So does that mean that eBay is great for me and Amazon is not?  No.  It just means that this week I made more money on eBay than Amazon.

Next week could be different.

And that’s exactly what it means for your business too.

Until the day that YOUR eBay sales slow to the point of no return despite your best marketing efforts – if you are making money on eBay in your category, it doesn’t matter what the other categories are doing.  Now I’m not saying you should stick your head in the sand and ignore market trends. Or traffic trends. Or consumer sentiment towards a marketplace. Or eBay fees etc.

But if you’re making money on eBay and “Bob” is not, don’t let Bob color your viewpoint about your businesses’ potential on eBay. Conversely, if you’re not making any money on eBay and it is because your market is not there anymore, then you either need to find a new market/product that IS strong on eBay OR find another marketplace where there’s a demand for your product.

In 2004 when I started  mentoring online sellers at we were 100% focused on eBay.  Today we have customers who sell  in 11 different countries  and in more than 1700 niche markets across dozens of different venues (including from their own website).

If I had continued to focus solely on selling on eBay – I’d be in a very different place right now.

Amazon is doing great yes – but I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met who haven’t started selling there yet!  People who had been planning to sell there this holiday season and never got around to setting up shop there. People who won’t benefit from Amazon’s bountiful Christmas sales.

For those people, they won’t make money from Amazon’s 28% sales increase.

So you must ask yourself…

What’s happening with my ship this holiday season?  Because whether or not your ship comes in is up to you.  It’s steered and powered by your choices and your actions.

People have been asking me all week – “Do you think eBay will do well this holiday season?  Do you think Amazon will do well.”

My answer to them is…

I can give you an analysis on the marketplaces, but what I’d really like to talk to you about is what’s going on in your business.”