SELLERS' SPOT: An In-Depth Look at eCrater: The Minimalist, Archaic, Under-the-Radar Marketplace That No One's Ever Heard Of

 eCrater logo

In many online lists of favorite marketplaces, eCrater always seems to end up in the middle of the pack, if they even make the list at all. It’s a very under-the-radar kind of place that many seem to either hate or like, with no middle ground. Its claim to fame are its fees, which range anywhere from 0% to 12.9%, though a mere 2.9% is all that’s required to get your items into Google Shopping.


Well, we got a long one ahead, so buckle yourselves in and let’s get started, shall we?

SITE SETUP & NAVIGATION

This is the main page?! Oh Jesus...

The design of the site, honestly, is pretty lackluster in appearance and super-straightforward. I’ve been selling there off and on since around 2008 and I don’t recall any site overhauls, either major or minor, during that time. This can be a turnoff for some, as the antiquated seller dashboard no doubt will be, which offer very little in the way of modern amenities (an example: eCrater just starting offering support for very basic promo codes in June, 2018, despite many suggestions and requests for it over the years). But the trade-off for this is in the fees, which we will get to more in-depth a little later on. 

On the buying side, it keeps its minimalist structuring intact, with a front page that shows absolutely nothing, save for a search bar...there aren't even any ads! Searches will pull up any results matching that search, from any seller on the site, based on relevance. This makes it nice on the seller's side, too, as there isn't a "Buyer's Box" to fight for, or promoted items to worry about; it's just the most relevant item based on the user's search term. It's sad that having an even shot of selling an item as someone else offering the same thing is a rare positive these days, but that's where we're at.

On the seller’s front, storefronts all look the same, with the simple changing of colors offered, as well as the ability to add your own logo to the main page. There are some “premium” store options that look way more modern and eye-popping, but those are going to set you back a rather surprising $10/month, billed annually. That seems a little excessive, but they do look a lot more striking and really stand out from the crowd. I’ve never used one, though, so this review will pertain to using the standard, free templates.

Examples of premium templates, which cost $10/month. Image courtesy of eCrater.

Adding products is easy, with an “Add Product” page on the main products dashboard. The seller’s dashboard also allows you to access everything seller-related all in one place, making it very easy to update your logo, or check up on your orders, or add descriptive text to any number of pages, or even to change your accepted forms of payment—basically, anything you can do is accessible from that main page. And since eCrater is a lot smaller than some of the larger selling sites, the options aren’t all jumbled within submenus…they’re pretty much all right where you expect to find them.

The most notable frustration from listing an item comes when you go to add pictures: the ancient form only allows you to upload one image at a time. That might not sound like a big deal (and maybe for some, it's not), but having to sit there and wait while your image uploads, just so you can add another one, is a rather--odd thing to still experience in 2019. It's not that uploading an image takes all that long (probably around 3-5 seconds, on average), but over the span of hundreds of items, it adds up. Surely there must be a way to just change the picture form without having to overhaul the rest of the system?

As alluded to before, amenities are lacking, so there is no way to export your inventory elsewhere (which sucks), though earlier in 2018 they did add the ability to export orders to outside sites. Hopefully an inventory export feature is in the works for the future. You can, however, import items from eBay and any number of other sites using a CSV file, but keep in mind that once uploaded, those files are manually approved by eCrater staff and can take a while, depending on how many items you are trying to bring over.

Uh...negative feedback? Yep, that's a thing here. 

Another drawback is the feedback system, which is very, very different from other sites in that it takes the dollar amounts from each rated sale into consideration. As the support forum explains (and I still don't fully understand), say you sell an item for $50, which the buyer rates a positive, and a sale for $100, which the buyer rates a negative. In this scenario, your feedback would be -66.67%. That's right, you can have negatives, and it's largely based on dollars.

Even in the positives, the ratings aren't "weighted" the way they are on eBay, where pretty much everyone has at least a 98%; on eCrater, scores in the 80s and low 90s are common for popular sellers, which can look like a black eye for potential buyers unaware of this rating system. To be fair, eCrater does at least utilize a star system, which makes for an appealing visual and partial explanation (where feedback scores from 80-100 = 5 stars, 60-80 = 4.5 stars, etc. keeping in mind that negatives are possible), but I'm still not really a fan of it. I think a much more streamlined, easily explainable system would be beneficial to all. I mean, would you really want to place an order from someone who has a 65.81% rating, even though they have 4.5 stars?

Also, keep in mind these ratings are calculated based on rated transactions, which further has the capabilities of skewering numbers in a big way. As an example, I have about 105 total transactions to date, and of those, maybe ten of them were rated (and I think that's still an exaggeration). If one of those ratings were negative, even before taking the dollars into consideration, I would only be at a 90%, because it would see it as 9/10, making the other 85 unrated transactions basically useless.

TRAFFIC


Traffic snapshot for eCrater for the month of November, 2018.

The idea here, as any of the longtime forum members will tell you ad nauseum if you complain about it in the forums, is that you are to bring your own traffic; that sounds like an ominous sign that there isn’t really any “foot traffic” at all, and that the only way you’re going to make a sale is by begging your friends, family members, and acquaintances to purchase from your eCrater store. In all honesty, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

I run the risk of jinxing myself, but I've had at least one sale every month here since I've been selling, with the only exception being October, 2016 (I started selling in August of that same year). And this is with NO outside promotion of any kind, save for the occasional post to eCrater's forums (which I don't think really make much of a difference, in all honesty). How is this possible? As long as you pay the minimum 2.9% in fees from every sale on eCrater, they submit your items to Google Shopping. This increases the visibility of your products tenfold. Lately, I have started making a more concentrated effort to bring people in to the site by linking my Facebook Page to my eCrater site, but it hasn't lead to any direct sales yet. This means virtually all of the sales I've gotten have either been from people searching for it in eCrater, or people coming to it via a Google search. Either way, a sale is a sale, so I'm satisfied, though higher volume sellers might be a little disappointed at the prospect of having to drive their own traffic.

One thing that does help is that eCrater is one of the few marketplaces where buyers are not required to sign up to purchase an item. I think that can be a hugely motivating factor for potential buyers who are on the fence about buying something here for the first time, knowing that they don’t have to create another profile for a site they probably will never visit again. The flipside to this is that there is even less of an incentive for buyers to rate you for positive transactions, because there is no way for the buyers themselves to be rated (thankfully, eCrater did implement the option of responding to negative buyer feedback earlier this year, as well). However, I'm not as interested in getting positive feedback, as I am in generating sales.

APP

As can probably be expected from such a barebones venture, eCrater does not have a dedicated mobile app. Furthermore, they don't seem to be integrated with very many online services, either, meaning most of the work you do on your store will have to be on your computer, right from the eCrater site.

If you want to add items from your mobile device, your best bet is through the Android-only app Classadlister, which offers posting support to nearly 20 top marketplaces (eCrater, of course, being one), but it is not endorsed by the site itself.

FEES

As divided as people seem to be about selling here, this is the category where I think eCrater gains the most amount of traction: the fees. They are among the lowest in the industry, and certainly help to offset many of the missing features and general headaches one may get while selling on eCrater.

I know what you’re probably thinking: “Wait, this place claims it’s a free marketplace, so why are we talking about fees at all?” The truth of the matter is yes, it can be as free a marketplace as you want it to be. But you’d have to be a na├»ve fool (or just an inexperienced newbie) to think that they are going to submit your items to Google Shopping without you paying a single cent; this would be impossible, considering marketplaces have to pay money to get your results there.

Aside from a few optional “upgrades” (such as a domain name, or more professional selling templates) that are available for a monthly charge, a vast majority of eCrater’s fees are percentages that you pay to them once you make a sale; there are no fees for listing or maintaining listings. On the low end is 2.9%, which is the bare minimum required to get your item posted to Google Shopping. From there, you can select 5.9%, 8.9%, or 12.9%, each increase supposedly boosting your results even higher in the Google Shopping results (they also state they submit your products to Bing and Yahoo, but I never use those sites and haven't verified this). I have always kept mine at 2.9%, just because the general consensus from users in their community forums is that upping the percentage did not seem to noticeably affect sales at all, making the added fees seem like little more than a waste of money.

You can adjust your advertising level from the "Options" menu.

Compare these fees to other marketplaces, which tend to take upwards of 10% per sale, and it doesn't take long to realize just how quickly the difference can add up. As a basic example, say that you make a sale for $100. On eBay, they would take $10 out of that sale, while eCrater would only charge you $2.90...a difference of $7.10! Who wouldn't want an extra seven bucks in their pockets for every $100 in sales? Of course, this is just an overly-simplified calculation: it would be virtually impossible for a top-rated, high-volume seller on eBay to make the same volume of sales on eCrater, but the point is, eCrater makes, at the very least,a great supplemental venue to post your items to. Even if a small percentage of your annual sales come from here, the difference in fees, paired up with no upfront costs, can really make a noticeable difference to your bottom line at year end.

Also, the 2.9% fee they charge are under the assumption that someone came from Google Shopping, or stumbled on your site via a search on the eCrater site. If someone clicks on your product directly, such as from a bookmark, social media post, link in a blog, etc., then you pay ZERO in fees to eCrater. Zilch. If that isn't a motivating factor to bring in your own traffic, then I don't know what is!

The other cool thing about eCrater is how laid-back they are about almost everything: paying your monthly percentage fees is completely optional. Now, obviously there is a consequence to this—they stop submitting your items to Google/Yahoo/Bing which can greatly reduce your traffic—but other than that you are still free to post items and use the site as you normally would. This is a refreshing change from other sites, who wouldn't hesitate to shut your account down, or take similarly harsh consequences, for those that refuse to pay what they feel is due to them.

GETTING PAID

Payments are accepted via Stripe and Paypal, so two of the biggest payment processors are accepted. (It’s a curious thing to me that Bonanza, which just recently starting accepting Stripe, requires a paid account for you to use them, when eCrater offers them as a standard, free option.) Cash on delivery, money orders, cashier’s checks, and personal checks are also accepted, but are very infrequently used these days, and aren't recommended.

Since the payments are handled by a third-party, and not by eCrater themselves, then getting paid comes down to how those services handle your money: For Paypal, they hold it in your account until you decide to transfer it or spend it, while Stripe automatically transfers the money (less fees) to your bank account within 3-5 days of the sale. Both services also take the same extra chunk of your cash out: 2.9% + $.30 of the total sale price, so it's nice that you don't have to perform separate calculations based on what service the customer used to pay.

One thing to watch out for, however, is that accepting payment via Stripe is very different from Paypal. Since they only process credit card payments, as a seller, you have an extra responsibility to make sure that the order is not fraudulent. This can be done by clicking on the "Orders" section from the eCrater dashboard, and selecting the order in question. At the bottom of the specific order, you will see something like this:

It's a good idea to look for potential fraud on all orders processed through Stripe.

If the CVC, Zip, and Address checks are all "pass", then chances are good that the order was intentionally placed by the cardholder. If any of them are a "fail", or if you have a bad feeling for whatever reason, you can always contact the buyer to verify that it was indeed them that placed the order. Back when I started reselling here in 2016, eCrater put a lot of Stripe's security features on the seller, pretty much allowing all orders by default, then forcing the seller to check how strict they wanted the approval process to be. This means even if a buyer failed all three checks--almost a certain sign of fraud--it would still go through, and the seller would have to either take a huge chance on shipping the item, contact the buyer to verify purchase, or just refund the buyer outright. Now, it seems that only purchases that pass Stripe's algorithm's make it through, though that doesn't mean there's no risk involved.

This isn't meant to make you paranoid, but just as an extra precaution: should the buyer claim the payment was fraudulent, and it's proven to be, you will be on the hook for the chargeback amount, which is the cost of the item, plus $15. And you don't get the item back. This is a rare occurrence (I've had one disputed payment out of dozens of Stripe transactions), but one that you most likely haven't experienced at all with Paypal, so it's best to err on the side of caution should you be skeptical about a transaction.

SUPPORT/COMMUNITY

eCrater Community Forum. Helpful, if old-fashioned and annoying.

eCrater is run by a bare bones staff, so my understanding is that support can take a little while to get back to requests. I’ve only used them once, after a customer gave me what I perceived to be an unfair negative (she complained about the smell of the item, which was actually just the way it smelled after manufacturing, without ever contacting me beforehand), and even though I was prepared to wait a while, received a response that the negative was removed within 72 hours of my initial message; apparently that’s outside the norm.

If you want an order quicker, eCrater also has a message board, where you can post your questions (or suggestions) and generally get a response within a couple of hours. Not to sound ageist, but it is worth noting that the main regulars on the board seem to be around 100 years old…this is not at all a knock against them for their age, but just as a warning that they can be very set in their ways, and can sometimes come off as condescending; I suppose you can only answer the same questions over and over before you’re bound to get a little cranky.

But mainly, it’s a warning that most are opposed (and maybe even partially offended) at the mere suggestion of using modernized apps and programs to list items, and will be glad to explain to you in great detail their entire business history on a whim, without ever being asked. Oh, and a couple seem to feel the need to answer every single question that gets posted, whether or not they actually know anything about it, or have anything of value to add to the discussion.

I’ve probably made it sound like a miserable place, but it’s really not: Overall, everyone is helpful—or at least acts under the notion that they are being helpful—and they do mean well. It’s an overall friendly board that also has a section for promoting your store, so you can go in there and do that as much as you want (though you are limited to one post that you just keep updating as often as you need to), and it provides a great opportunity to get answers to questions quicker than you would by contacting eCrater support.

OVERALL


CONS (-)

-Antiquated, minimalist interface and amenities won't appeal to most "hardcore" sellers.
-Lack of a dedicated mobile app further rules out potential sellers.
-Traffic not on level of more well-known sites.
-Email only support that can take a little while to get back to you.
-When adding images, only one can be added at a time.
-No shipping support from within eCrater; items must be shipped on your own outside of the site.
-Setting up weight scale for shipping can be a confusing, time-consuming process.
-Feedback system is pretty junk.

PROS (+)

+Buyers not required to sign up before making a purchase.
+Low fees ranging from 0% (for self-brought traffic) to 2.9% (minimum for inclusion in Google Shopping results) with higher percentages for even higher placement in shopping results.
+Store is completely free upfront, with no required monthly fees whatsoever.
+Buying community is reliable; scamming doesn't seem to be as widespread as other sites.
+Minimalist design leads to simple, straightforward navigation.
+No ads, and no input from eCrater on how to run your store (as long as you adhere to the community guidelines, of course).

Although the list of negatives is much longer, the low fees and ease of use outweigh many of them. Despite its problems and old-timey setup (it doesn't look like the interface has been changed since 2000), this is my favorite place to sell. There are no ads, or "buy boxes", or weighted search results, so sellers are all on equal footing, where quality of listings matter over paid placements. If you're not willing to promote your own products, don't expect to sell in large volumes, but at the very least, it makes a great secondary marketplace to help get some additional exposure for your items.

OVERALL: 7.5/10

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