Internet marketplace: 4 out of 5 sell privately online

February 19, 2024

  • Three quarters use classified ad platforms for their sales
  • Clothing, books and furniture in particular are sold online
  • 38 per cent of online sellers are annoyed by cheeky requests

Children have outgrown their clothes, the new games console has replaced the old one, or the antique wooden table no longer appeals – 80 per cent of internet users have already sold products privately online. 20 per cent even sell online frequently, 40 per cent occasionally and 20 per cent only rarely. This is the result of a representative survey of 1,013 internet users in Germany aged 16 and over commissioned by the digital association Bitkom. “Selling used, discarded or mis-purchased items is good for the environment and can also fill your wallet,” says Nastassja Hofmann, Digital Transformation Officer at Bitkom. “Apps and websites bring together a large number of potential buyers in an uncomplicated way and, if necessary, across regions, and the search is more targeted and easier than at a local flea market.”

Private online sellers have a relatively clear favourite when it comes to the platforms used for selling: Three quarters (76 per cent) sell via websites or apps from classified ad platforms such as Kleinanzeigen or Vinted. Websites or apps from online marketplaces such as ebay or follow in second place with 55 per cent. 30 per cent sold via online buyers of used items such as momox or rebuy, and 21 per cent via marketplaces in social networks. Groups in messenger apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram were used by 12 per cent.

According to the survey, most people use the services to sell clothing, shoes and accessories for adults (48 per cent), followed by books (47 per cent) and furniture or furnishings (36 per cent). This is followed by children’s toys (30 per cent) and clothing, shoes and accessories for children (29 per cent). Smartphones or mobile phones are sold online by 29 per cent of private online sellers, electronic household appliances by 28 per cent. Exactly a quarter (25 per cent) have sold household items such as plates, vases or cutlery online. In each case, 24 per cent have sold films on Blu-ray or DVD, games and puzzles as well as decorative items.

A fifth (21 per cent) have sold consumer electronics, such as televisions or music systems, music on CD or vinyl (21 per cent) or computers (20 per cent) online. The figure for hobby and craft supplies is 14 per cent, sports equipment and gear has been sold by 13 per cent, event tickets, DIY supplies and defective appliances by 12 per cent each. A tenth (10 per cent) of online sellers have put cosmetics, perfume and care products up for sale online. The figure is 9 per cent for software and 7 per cent each for audio books, plants and flowers. Art and antiques were sold by 6 per cent.

So while many use the opportunity to sell unused or old items online, some of the private online sellers have also had negative experiences: 38 per cent have received brazen requests from buyers who, for example, wanted to push the price extremely low. In a quarter of cases (25 per cent), the buyer did not turn up for the agreed collection date or annoyed them with too many questions. 24 per cent considered the income from the sale to be too low in relation to the effort involved. 15 per cent did not pay at all or paid less than agreed.

8 per cent have been harassed or insulted in the course of their own online sale, and one in twenty (5 per cent) have been victims of data misuse, with private data being published without consent. “Firstly, when selling privately online, your own contact and account details should not be publicly accessible in your profile or advert, but should only be shared with the respective buyer if absolutely necessary for collection or shipping. In the case of a collection, it is also advisable not to do this at home, but simply on the next street corner to protect the address,” says Hofmann. “If you are sending goods for sale instead, you should consider whether insured shipping is worthwhile, especially for higher values, in order to create certainty on both sides that the parcel has actually been sent and received.”

Methodological note: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. It surveyed 1,013 internet users in Germany aged 16 and over, including 810 people who had ever sold something privately online themselves. The survey took place in the period from week 1 to week 2 2024. The overall survey is representative. The questions were: “Have you already sold or are you currently selling products online? By this we do not mean the commercial sale of products, but the private sale of e.g. clothing, electronics or furniture?”, “What have you already sold online?” and “Which platforms and online marketplaces have you used to sell your products?” as well as “Have you ever had negative experiences selling products online, and if so, which ones?”.

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