Make the Most of International Trading on eBay

Ryan Miller, President of MerchantRun, discusses how to expand your business by listing directly on international eBay sites

Tags: Selling, International Trading

It is increasingly difficult for sellers to maintain a competitive edge on eBay. With sales on international eBay sites surpassing those on the US site, one of the best ways for eBay sellers to remain competitive is to expand their listings into foreign markets.

Many sellers assume they are listing their items internationally when foreign buyers purchase their products. But there is a big difference between offering your products to international buyers on the eBay US site ( and listing directly on international eBay sites.

Many sellers assume they are listing their items internationally when foreign buyers purchase their products Ryan Miller

The Opportunity

Selling items on international eBay sites is beneficial for both large and small volume sellers.

This is why:

  • Sales on international eBay sites have surpassed those on the US site, with 55% of total gross merchandise volume ("GMV") and 58% of total listings on international eBay sites.
  • With eBay's new Best Match policy, identical items appear only once in search results regardless of the number of listings. However, the Best Match policy only covers search results on an individual site.
  • Items which are abundant and inexpensive in your home market, can be scarce and expensive in foreign markets. For example, a US seller listing an iPhone will likely receive a higher price on a foreign eBay site than on the US eBay site.
  • Sellers of unique items reach a wider audience by selling on foreign eBay sites, often resulting in higher average selling prices ("ASPs").

It is not uncommon for sellers to double or triple their sales of existing items simply by adding more eBay markets.

The Obstacles

Why isn't everyone listing items on international eBay sites? The answer is that creating and maintaining listings across multiple eBay sites can be challenging.

Although eBay seller accounts will work on all eBay sites, each eBay site is localized according to its market's language, currency, payment and shipping methods. For example, an English-speaking seller listing on eBay Germany will have to:

  • Have a working knowledge of German to navigate the site.
  • Convert all product and shipping prices into Euros.
  • Consider time differences when scheduling items (which can be tedious and confusing).
  • Replicate every listing on every site, because eBay's interface does not allow sellers to create multi-site listings for a single product.

There are third-party tools available to help sellers overcome these obstacles. Our product, MerchantRun GlobalLink, allows sellers to create and maintain listings across multiple eBay sites and seller accounts.

eBay is aware of the trend towards international selling and recently introduced the International Site Visibility (ISV) feature, which gives greater visibility to listings on foreign eBay sites. Unfortunately, ISV feature only applies to certain categories on the US and UK sites. Also, initial anecdotal evidence is that the Best Match search favors items listed directly to the international site over listings with ISV enabled. With ISV, fees are as much as $0.40 per listing — it often makes more sense to create a separate fixed price listing for $0.35.

Optimization for International Selling

The opportunities exist and the obstacles can be overcome, but how does a seller optimize listings for sale on foreign sites?

Different eBay sites have widely different fee structures, so the first step is to become familiar with each site's rates. Consider an auction listing for a mobile phone with a $50 start price (or an equivalent amount in the local currency). On the US site, sellers pay a $2.00 insertion fee, on the UK site, £0.50 ($0.92), on the Australian site, AU$1.50 (US$1.25), and on the Singapore site, no fees.

This tool offers a quick way to review the fee structure of each eBay site:

With more than 20 available international eBay sites, it is important to research the historical average selling price ("ASP") of an item on different eBay sites. Terapeak (link below) allows sellers to research ASPs across 6 different eBay sites. A quick 7-day historical search on the US site, using the phrase "Unlocked iPhone 8GB," reveals an ASP of $407.11, while the same search on the Australian site indicates an ASP of $527.34 - a difference of $120!

When listing items on international eBay sites, it is important to identify and make use of regional variations of related keywords. For example, users in the US may enter the search query "cell phone," while users in Australia may use the phrase "mobile phone". The free Google AdWords Keywords Tool (link below) is useful for finding related keywords and is configurable by language and country.

Advanced eBay sellers can take advantage of low fee eBay sites by cross promoting their own listings from higher traffic eBay sites. For example, a seller can list an iPhone on the US site with an identical listing cross promoted on the free eBay Singapore site. The seller could offer the product on the Singapore site for a slightly lower price, to encourage buyers to purchase there.

Selling internationally requires some research and planning, but the rewards are well worth the effort. The most important things to consider when selling internationally are:

Look for eBay sites with low fees, high traffic and high ASPs Ryan Miller
  1. Become familiar with each eBay site's fee structure
  2. Research the product's ASP on different sites
  3. Choose relevant keywords
  4. Closely monitor your sales performance across sites

Ultimately, a seller should allocate listings according to performance, and look for eBay sites with low fees, high traffic and high ASPs.

With research and experimentation, sellers can quickly expand to foreign eBay sites and give their business an edge over the competition.

More Information

Free eBay Fee Calculators


Google AdWords Keywords Tool

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About the Author

Ryan Miller is the President and Co-Founder of MerchantRun, a leading provider of eBay Cross-Border-Trade ("CBT") Solutions with headquarters in Shanghai.

Founded in 2004, MerchantRun was among the largest CBT sellers in Asia before becoming a CBT software provider. MerchantRun's web-based CBT software simplifies the task of listing products and managing sales across foreign online marketplaces.

Article Added: 29 September 2008
Last Updated: 29 September 2008

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Seller Dynamics