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How to start a business on eBay and Amazon

In 2016, worldwide, merchandise worth a total of $83bn was sold on eBay, which has more than 170m active buyers and 1.1bn listings. Meanwhile, Amazon has 285m active customer accounts worldwide and half of all sales on Amazon’s global sites are made by third-party businesses selling new and used products on Amazon Marketplace.

Why should I sell on eBay or Amazon?

Ebay and Amazon are two of the most popular marketplace websites, accounting for a huge number of total online sales. For anyone considering starting a business, they’re a good entry point as set up costs are usually low.  

eBay established its reputation early on as the leading marketplace website for selling used and second-hand items. In 2016, worldwide, merchandise worth a total of $83bn was sold on eBay, which has more than 170m active buyers and 1.1bn listings

Amazon originally started out as an online bookstore. Today it has over 285m active customer accounts and sells practically everything. Part of its evolution was to open up the platform to independent sellers. Today, half of all sales on Amazon’s global sites are made by third-party businesses selling new and used products on Amazon Marketplace. In 2017, Amazon helped UK businesses reap a record £2bn worth of sales. 

Some businesses sell only on eBay or Amazon, others use both, in many cases to supplement sales made via their own e-commerce websites. Selling on eBay or Amazon can be a good way to test the water and learn before investing in your own e-commerce website.

The major advantage of selling on marketplace sites is they already attract huge numbers of shoppers. But success isn’t guaranteed.

  • You must sell the right products at the right price.
  • You must list them in the right way if you’re to attract buyers. 
  • How you describe and present your products is crucial, with good imagery a must. Marketplace sites are an excellent way of setting up an online shop and you must display your goods in the best possible way.

What sells well on eBay and Amazon?

If you’re not sure what to sell on eBay and Amazon, it’s worthwhile doing some research into what sells well. Both companies release regular sales reports with useful insights for sellers. We’ve picked out some interesting facts to help you decide what you might want to sell. 

  • Car mechanic

    A car part is purchased every second in the UK via eBay and one makeup product is bought every three seconds (source: eBay).

  • Macbook

    In the UK an appliance is purchased every eight seconds via eBay – exactly the same frequency as a video game (source: eBay).

  • Dirty pans

    Via mobile phone alone in the UK, on average, a car is bought via eBay every two minutes. A cookware item is bought every five seconds and a pair of men’s shoes every 13 seconds.

  • Artisan soaps

    More than 250m unique products are available on – a massive increase of more than 100m in the 18 months to August 2017 (source: Amazon).

  • Acoustic guitar

    According to the 2017 Trends Report, Amazon’s bestsellers in 2017 included: ÷ Deluxe Album CD by Ed Sheeran; Waterwipes (super value box); (cookery book) 5 Ingredients – Quick and Easy Food by Jamie Oliver; the Oral-B Pro 2500 Black electric toothbrush; Tassimo Costa Americano Coffee Discs; Natural Teeth Whitening Powder by the Pro Teeth Whitening Co®; and Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. 

  • Coke bottle

    Bottled water was the most popular “pantry item’ bought via in 2017, with mineral waters making up four out of the top 10 products sold. Coca-Cola remains the most ordered drink in 2017, with Capri Sun the most popular non-carbonated drink (source: 2017 Trends Report).

  • Knitting bits

    Handmade at Amazon “enables local artisans to sell their unique, handcrafted goods to hundreds of millions of customers worldwide”.

How do I start selling on eBay and Amazon?


Selling on eBay

You can quickly register online to start selling on eBay. You’ll be asked for your registered business name, business email address, telephone number and a password. You can change your site preferences to suit your needs. You specify the payment method you accept from buyers when you list items for sale, and you can link a PayPal account to your eBay account. You can save time by adding your preferred postage, payment and returns options to business policies that you can apply to your listings.

eBay provides a handy guide for sellers on how to get started. It also explains “how to create the perfect listing”, “take you listings to a new level” and manage your sales. Postage, payments and returns are also covered, and you can find out how to build trust with customers and grow your business.


Selling at

On Marketplace you can sell new, used, collectable and refurbished items alongside new ones offered by Amazon. It’s not an auction; rather, you set prices for items you offer.

First, you must register a Seller Account. To complete registration, you’ll need your business credit card; phone number; company registration details; business address; primary contact person information (ie the Amazon account holder); beneficial owner information (ie details of who owns or controls the business); and your business bank account details.

Once registered, after you list an item, it’s displayed to buyers when they click on the “New and Used” link. When it’s sold, Amazon sends you an email to let you know that the buyer’s payment method has been verified. You must send the item to the buyer within two days of receiving this email.

Money is deposited into your Seller Account and funds are transferred to your bank account regularly. If you sell more than 30 items a month, it can be worth becoming a Pro-Merchant seller, which costs £25.00 a month (ex VAT) and can bring many additional benefits.

What fees will I pay when selling on eBay and Amazon?


How much does it cost to sell on eBay?

  • You can list up to 20 items a month for free, after which each item you list costs £0.35 (excludes classified ads listings and items listed in the cars, motorcycles & vehicles category).
  • When your item sells you pay 10% of the final transaction value, including postage.
  • Many sellers pay to “enhance their listings to make their items more attractive to buyers”. For example, you can add a “buy it now” price for £0.50. Visit the eBay Seller Centre for a full list of listing upgrade prices.

Having an eBay shop can prove more cost-effective if you sell in volume.

Source: Ebay


How much does it cost to sell on Amazon?

Amazon offers two ways to sell on Amazon – “Basic (sell a little)” and “Pro (sell a lot)”.

Amazon prices

Source: Amazon

How should I present my products on eBay or Amazon?

Always use high-quality, colour images when trying to sell online, ones that help to sell your products. Good quality images are vital because buyers cannot pick up and touch products they’re thinking of buying online. Where possible, include a selection of images.

When selling on eBay, think carefully and take time to create the right listing, using the right title and keywords, so your products show up in searches. Your descriptions should engage potential buyers and tell them everything they need to know about what you are offering.

Here’s a useful blog on the anatomy of the perfect eBay listing

Why customer service matters when selling on eBay or Amazon

Your reputation as a seller is extremely important on marketplace sites such as eBay and Amazon. 

Excellent customer service underpins this, of course, so if you want to establish a good reputation and protect it, you should offer excellent customer service to your customers throughout their buying journey (which includes post-sale enquiries).

If your customer service falls short, for example, if you respond late or fail to respond at all, it can irreparably damage your reputation. Not only can you lose their custom, but negative feedback and reviews on your marketplace website or on social media can put off others.

Aim to deliver your products to customers as quickly as possible. Allow them to pay to receive their goods sooner should they wish. Create robust, reliable processes; exceed customer expectations where possible, and respond to customer service enquiries quickly. Don’t let your customers down. If a customer has a complaint, deal with it quickly and professionally. Customer satisfaction should be high on your list of priorities. Offer your customers a fair and legal returns policy.

Some key dos and don’ts when selling on eBay and Amazon



Make good use of images as a way to help sell your products.

Use images unless you have the rights to do so

Keep your prices competitive, it’s crucial when selling on marketplace sites such as eBay and Amazon.

Try to sell too many products. Better to sell a select range of products really well than do a bad job of trying to sell too many.

Offer exceptional customer service. It really matters when selling on eBay and Amazon.

Delay when it comes to dispatching your products to customers. Also respond to customer enquiries quickly.

Use good packaging to ensure goods aren’t damaged while on their way to your customers.

Leave out important information when describing products. Tell potential customers everything they need to know. Be accurate and truthful.

Use the right keywords and titles when writing your listings. It will help your products to show up in searches.

Expect to make a high volume of sales straight away. Reaching customers and building a good reputation takes time and effort.

Invite customer feedback and reviews. Customers tend to avoid sellers that have little or no feedback.

Ignore negative customer feedback. Where valid, learn from it and use it to improve.

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