World’s Top eBay Sellers: Cross-Border Trade

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In February I published a list of eBay’s top 1,000 sellers worldwide, ranked by the volume of positive feedback gained in the last six months.

It was the first new research into eBay’s highest-volume sellers since 2008, and it got a lot of people talking! The scale of cross-border trade, particularly direct selling from China, was a surprise to many.

Here are some of the most interesting reactions to the research, and some new analysis of the data on cross-border trade.

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The Fastest Growers

Matthew Ogborne

The one thing to note about every single business listed is that they all started from zero. That means anyone can achieve it – all that is different between you and them is time, experience and transactions. Don’t forget to make profit while you’re growing, that is the primary goal after all!
Matthew Ogborne, Co-founder, UnderstandingE.com

eBay’s top sellers have come a long way since they started at zero. And many of these businesses are still growing, some rapidly. The table below shows the top 25 growers in the list, ranked by the proportion of their six-month feedback that was gained in the most recent month of trading.

You would expect a seller to receive around 17% of their six-month feedback in each month, on average. The fastest grower below has received four times that amount in just one month. Feedback is a useful indicator of sales volume – if a seller receives twice as much feedback in one month, they probably made twice as many sales.

# Location Username Category Feedback (thousands)
Total 12 mo 6 mo 1 mo % in 1 mo
829 c.online Home & Garden 117 32 26 18 69%
535 lxj999888 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories 36 34 34 19 56%
755 estocks_usa Music 28 28 28 14 50%
881 italygioco13 Phones & Accessories 60 30 25 12 48%
835 dealex2011 Jewelry & Watches 49 37 26 12 46%
797 oig.buy Phones & Accessories 401 55 26 11 42%
79 easytrade2099 Clothing, Shoes & Accessories 128 113 92 38 41%
294 wxf785ad Clothing, Shoes & Accessories 64 59 49 18 37%
614 riesigesangebot Music 32 31 31 11 35%
641 onx-3 Phones & Accessories 365 65 31 11 35%
185 premier_seeds_direct Home & Garden 659 165 62 22 35%
816 111222qaz Home & Garden 157 26 26 9 35%
836 sanheshun Phones & Accessories 59 36 26 9 35%
133 excellbay Jewelry & Watches 268 107 74 25 34%
873 choiceroad Clothing, Shoes & Accessories 56 48 25 8 32%
160 unitednewfrog Jewelry & Watches 91 87 67 21 31%
36 hkpowerstore Phones & Accessories 284 165 135 42 31%
284 importcds-ca Music 51 51 49 15 31%
137 protectionfilms24 Phones & Accessories 308 126 73 22 30%
403 happy-shop09 Auto Parts 42 41 40 12 30%
766 mary-diy Jewelry & Watches 165 37 27 8 30%
508 wonderbooks Books 149 46 35 10 29%
742 seattle2003 Jewelry & Watches 80 38 28 8 29%
236 eddiestore2008 Home & Garden 137 82 53 15 28%
866 ddl2012 Phones & Accessories 112 37 25 7 28%

There are seventeen cross-border sellers from China and Hong Kong in the fastest 25 growers. Chinese sellers make up 28% of the top 1,000 eBay sellers worldwide but they make up 68% of the fastest growers.

There’s also a showing from three UK sellers including estock’s US account, two other European sellers in Spain and Germany, and three US-based sellers. If we count estocks_usa as a cross-border trader (they’re a UK company trading in the US) then a full 76% of the fastest growers are primarily trading cross-border.

Carlo Silva

Analyze what the top sellers are doing – it will give you ideas on how you can improve your store for the better. Don’t be discouraged by how large the companies are, because everybody had to start somewhere. To stay in business, companies need to keep innovating and be always the first one to market. If businesses stop innovating, even the mightiest of them will fall.
Carlo Silva, CEO, 2nd Office

Cross-Border Trade & Feedback

I recently took a look at how the marketplaces are using feedback and other data to assess seller performance. Feedback is as important as ever, and not just for buyers – the marketplaces use it to influence search placement, and to help determine whether sellers qualify for a number of other benefits.

So, I thought it would be interesting to compare the feedback and DSRs (Detailed Seller Ratings) of top sellers who primarily trade cross-border, and those who primarily trade within their own country. Here are the averages:

CBT Sellers Non-CBT Sellers
Feedback % positive 99.03 99.52
Item as described 4.88 4.91
Communication 4.91 4.95
Shipping time 4.78 4.88
Shipping charges 4.98 4.95

There’s not much between the two types of sellers. On the whole, both types provide a good service and have a good reputation – they would have to, to be able to sell the kind of volume to get them in the top 1,000.

On the other hand, feedback and DSRs are always skewed to the top end of the range. This is a big data set, with over 265 million DSRs submitted for 1,000 sellers, so I think it’s valid to pick out a few differences.

Local sellers have a higher average positive feedback percentage of 99.5% versus cross-border sellers with 99%. The next significant difference is (not surprisingly) shipping time where local sellers score 4.88 on the DSR versus 4.78 for international sellers. Finally they fare better – but only a little – on communication, with a DSR of 4.95 against 4.91 for cross-border sellers.

Counter-intuitively, cross-border traders have a higher average DSR of 4.98 for shipping and handling charges, compared to 4.95 for local sellers. You might think that higher international shipping costs would cause a lower average DSR, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

International Site Visibility

eBay has been pushing sellers to sell internationally, and helps them get started with features like International Site Visibility (ISV) and the Global Shipping Program. While ISV makes it easy for sellers to get their listings onto eBay sites abroad, it doesn’t put them on a level-pegging with local sellers.

Sam Goodman

“Over 31% are serious cross-border traders” – this statistic astounded me. At present, the majority of cross-border traders are still migrating from offering International Site Visibility, to becoming advanced international sellers and localising their listings.
Sam Goodman, Product Sales Specialist, Linnworks

International Site Visibility is as simple as ticking a box, but is only supported by the US, UK, and Canada eBay sites. And listings with ISV appear exactly the same to buyers on all sites, so there’s no way to customise the description to the local audience. It’s a great way to experiment with cross-border trade, but unlikely to be as effective as localised site-specific listings.

Currency Exchange

Both eBay and Amazon make it easy to convert cross-border sales revenue back into your home currency, so why is currency exchange an issue? Well, for those starting out with cross-border trade, it isn’t – it makes complete sense to use the standard processes provided by Amazon and PayPal.

But for those selling large volumes internationally, significant savings can be made by using a third-party currency exchange service. Many sellers are already using them.

Deepak Goyal

Cross-border trade is being pushed heavily by eBay and Amazon in 2014, and China is certainly a hot topic. We’ve had an increase in Chinese etailers from 2% up to 12% within a year. Interestingly, our non-Chinese etailers are sending 40% fewer payments to China. It seems as if the West is putting up a strong fight: Germany, France and the US have become the most popular locations amongst our etailers for international sourcing of products.
Deepak Goyal, Head of e-tailing, Currencies Direct

There are specialist providers of currency exchange services for online retailers in the Web Retailer directory.

Shipping Cross-Border

One surprise from the original research was the high number of Chinese businesses selling direct to Australia. There are almost five times more Chinese traders selling direct to Australia than the UK, than you would expect given their relative population sizes.

Kim Gilmour

Australians would love to support local eBay businesses, but postage can often cost more than the value of the goods themselves. The statistics show how many consumers are taking advantage of an attractive exchange rate, along with free shipping and competitive prices offered by Asia-based operators. Import duty and sales taxes only kick in over $1,000 so that doesn’t put buyers off!
Kim Gilmour, Author of Starting and Running an Online Business For Dummies

But how can Chinese sellers offer cheaper shipping than local sellers?

The answer is in services like USPS ePacket, set up by the US Postal Service, eBay China and the Hong Kong Post Office. Sellers in China and Hong Kong really can get rates that are cheaper than or comparable to those available to local sellers. Understandably, some sellers think the playing field should be levelled.

Prabhat Shah

The research emphasises how cost of shipping is affecting online traders. Chinese sellers on eBay are able to post things cheaper than UK sellers within the country. This is one of those things that amaze me! Personally I like to buy from UK sellers just for peace of mind even though I am put off by higher delivery charges. Royal Mail price changes from the end of this month will affect UK sellers adversely – I wish eBay would lobby Royal Mail to discount postage based on “Seller Status”.
Prabhat Shah, Founder, DayToDayeBay

Europe on the Rise?

The strength of Chinese cross-border sellers can’t be ignored, but there are encouraging signs for business in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Chinese sellers may dominate cross-border trade on eBay, but they don’t outweigh high-volume local sellers. The UK has 29% of the top 1,000 sellers worldwide, and they are increasingly turning to export.

Gemma Price

Month on month we are seeing an increase in the amount of businesses and individuals from the United Kingdom trading internationally via ecommerce platforms and marketplaces. Take a look at the UK’s top eBay sellers and you will see higher gross turnover than some of the UK’s largest midsized businesses. Traditional large scale commercial export is being eclipsed by a new generation.
Gemma Price, Editor, Export-Expert.co.uk

The last large study of eBay sellers was the Nortica eBay 500, last updated in August 2008.

Back then the US had 55% of the list, now it has less than half of that at 22%. Germany was the next major force in 2008, with 30% of sellers, now halved to 15%. But since 2008 the UK’s presence in the top 1,000 eBay sellers has grown nearly four-fold from 8% to 29%. Online retail moves fast, and in nearly six years the entire landscape has changed. What’s coming next?

Andrew Mulvenna

European marketplaces are hotting up! In 2008 only one of the top ten sellers was outside the US. Now six out of ten sellers are European, illustrating the growth in eBay’s popularity with European shoppers and sellers. We should expect to see this number grow, as new tools enable sellers to expand cross-borders to reach under-served markets such as France, Italy and Spain.
Andrew Mulvenna, Co-founder & VP Partnerships, Brightpearl

In Closing

The scale of cross-border trade was the big surprise from researching eBay’s top sellers – it’s already huge.

China is the dominant player, but that shouldn’t really be a shock. They have long been the largest source of global manufacturing, so businesses within the country have the lowest cost of inventory in many product categories. Add in favourable shipping programs, and it’s natural that Chinese businesses take the opportunity to sell direct.

Feedback data shows that Chinese sellers don’t have all the advantages, however, and there are signs that European businesses are increasingly looking cross-border. What do you think the future will look like for cross-border trading?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

9 comments on “World’s Top eBay Sellers: Cross-Border Trade

  1. Canada is another place where shipping costs are out of control and still rising. I lose business AFTER the sale sometimes, due to postage costs. You’ve got me thinking about opening a store in UK though, maybe if I ship in bulk??

  2. I opened my first eBay store in year 2008. At the beginning, my business went well and sales always went up. All out of sudden, my sales plunged and no body visit my store any more. I found that Chinese seller began to sell similar items on eBay with much lower price at which we could not even compete. After struggle 4 years, I also started with our shipping directly from China. Our sales went up again. But this did not continue. Last year, eBay give more spot to auction than fixed price listing in Best Match. A lot of Chinese sellers started 0.01 usd plus free shipping. Of course, the items they sell are low quality. You will wonder where eBay is going to stand in next 5 year. Right now, eBay is only caring about their share (30cents plus 13% for my items). Currently, eBay is facing the biggest competition from aliexpress which is still small but growing much faster than eBay in customers. Also, aliexpress charges much less than eBay. I have talked with eBay development team numerous time but nothing they can do about it. With alibaba launched ipo successfully in New York, aliexpress will gain more momentum.

    As for the shipping charge from China, you really have to blame Post Union. Until the treaty being revised, you really can not do anything about it.

  3. thanks for the information. We are a group sourcing site for smaller ebay retailers to purchase at manufacturer direct price. With a group deal model, we aggregates the smaller orders & bargaining with the manufacturer for the lowest price.

    Think these top 1000 stores may purchase in rather big lots 🙂

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