How I increased my P&P DSR by 2 points

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It’s been over a year since DSRs raised their head on the eBay landscape, and I have to admit to start with I treated them with pretty much the healthy contempt I treated feedback with.

I never used to look at my feedback, and remember with horror the morning I woke up to a message on the PowerSeller board saying “Sorry to see you got negged”. It wasn’t so much that I’d got a neg that caught me off guard (and yes it was undeserved 😛 ), it was more the fact that someone else noticed before I did.

There really wasn’t much cause to look at feedback in those days, so I never did. Taking the attitude that if I gave customers great service feedback would look after itself it was one of the least referenced pages of my eBay real estate.

DSRs didn’t make much difference either. Sure eBay were banging on about how they would become relevant in the future but mine were ok, or so I thought.

Then one day eBay introduced seller discounts and the possibility that competitors could be advantaged in search compared to me. Overnight DSRs and feedback had became very important.

My DSRs weren’t that bad though, but what gave me a jolt was that my Postage and Packing DSR was 4.6, any lower and I wouldn’t qualify for seller discounts.

I immediately set about examining how I worked, with the sole aim of improving my P&P DSR without impacting any of the others which have consistently been in the 4.8-4.9 range.

The big question is “Was I one of the fee avoiding postage gouging baddies”, and in truth I have to admit that I was. Certainly I’d never considered myself in that light, and to this day my postage costs are higher than many competitors due to two factors: Everything I ship goes on a priority tracked service and that costs, and I’m VAT registered so have to charge VAT in addition to the basic packing and shipping costs.

That aside I always rounded postage up to the nearest £1 for Royal Mail items, and for courier items the heavier the item the more I charged, even though I was invoiced a flat rate up to 30kg. I figured that buyers would be more than willing to pay a higher price to have a 25kg printer delivered than they would a 2kg docking station. Plus in truth on a lot of items I simply guesstimated the cost with a healthy margin of error – pure laziness on my part.

Ruthlessly I went about cutting postage, on the heaviest items by as much as 25% and it’s paid dividends. Some items I have switched to cost effective Royal Mail, instead of shipping via more expensive couriers, but that’s been a slow process as next day delivery is not guaranteed – Protecting my dispatch DSR was a priority and buyers don’t rate sellers on how quickly they ship, simply on how long it takes the parcel to arrive.

As a result of the changes my P&P DSR has risen from 4.6 to 4.8 with my other three ratings all remaining at 4.9. One of the most useful tools has been the Seller Dashboard (even though it was the lite version), as it enabled me to monitor changes over a short period of time. A change in postage prices could be seen in DSR ratings within about two weeks of making the change.

So what does this mean for me, and what does it mean to eBay? Well in truth I have to say that DSRs have made me a better seller, or at least have made me act like a better seller. Whilst profits are down very slightly it’s not much, I’ve simply lumped the difference onto the selling price and the difference in fees is more than covered by Seller Discounts.

My aim now will be to further increase my P&P DSR from 4.8 to 4.9, again without impacting my other DSRs. Whilst there may not be any immediate benefit, when Best Match fully rolls out in the UK those with the highest DSR scores will benefit most.

37 Responses

  1. we have tweaked our postage costs down too ,

    much the same as chris it was not by design or greed, but ease of effort we used to guesstimate and round up,
    we now just take that little extra time to get the postage right,
    though recently we have changed to a franking account rather than ppi
    and things are being delivered much quicker

  2. Chris,

    My first thought after reading your article was that you must work for eBay in the propaganda department. So, the end result is that your items are more expensive than they were before. Your competitors will be happy. eBay will be happy (with more FVF). It even sounds as though you’re happy. Are you feeling OK?

  3. Hi Jamie Jimbo, I for sure don’t work for eBay, but in this case they’ve forced me to align my goals much more closely with theirs than has been in the past. I’m happy all the time I’m winning, and winning in my case means making money through eBay.

    Personally as with North I was a mixture of laziness and not passing on postage savings, when I got them, to customers. Now I’m just more competitive on costs than in the past.

    Biggles – care to show more about your strategy and how it’s played out?

  4. I slashed my P&P by 46% and it has changed my p&p dsr from 4.6 to 4.7. Not really worth it. If it has gone to 4.8 then I would have been happier.

  5. Yep, included with the item is a note explaining the charges, how I calculate it and why the postage on the parcel is always less than the amount they pay. ( I use smart stamp, so the price is always displayed on the label ).

    I also charge vat, and I break down the vat on the postage and the item, something I have always done before DSR, but buyers seem to like the extra note – or maybe its a case of them actually reading it. So putting it on the invoice isnt the best place, people dont really look at the invoice. – basing this on my behaviour when I get parcels!

    Also, in line with other sellers ( there is a thread on the forum somehwere) , I also ask how my service could be improved if they feel they cant leave 5 stars. I havent had one email back yet, but my DSRs have gone UP.

    Regarding P&P charges, my single items are mostly spot on. My problem comes with combining stuff. I sometimes get it wrong, and I always refund excessive postage paid.

    One thing I do, and always have from the outset, is I pack my stuff really well. Packaging material is cheap, and my time at 1am is even cheaper when I am going the extra couple of minutes per package. Fortunately I am low volume (high profit 😀 ), so I have the time to send emails with first names and of course, answer incoming emails promptly.

    It’s all down to buyer expectations, and if you cant meet them then communicate with your buyers, they dont bite!

  6. Also some of the stuff I sell is fairly unique, some buyers are so ecstatic when they receive their carefully packed ( often expensive) item, I think they leave glowing feedback while in some kind of euphoric daze.

  7. North,

    Surprised at you moving away from ppi. We use first class ppi and 99% arrives within 2 days of posting and combining weights saves us a fortune. (Today a 1.75kg item went out for £1.52 as we had lots of 350g items to mix with it).

    Can you do that with franking?

  8. times money
    franking machines are time saving on the ppi process, for us ,
    as we have many individual sizes ,weights ,and destinations, and the new minimum charge, can cost
    I also wonder if there is any big saving with ppi other than your contract price,
    a 1000kg is still a 1000kg regardless of how its made up or divided

  9. or put another way your not really saving on the 1.75kg item your paying a little extra on all the 350g items to compensate

  10. North, we definitely save using PPI.
    We don’t pay fixed cost per package as some do but average weight pr parcel as I suspect Swan is too. And I’m not sure how franking saves you time? We stick all our packages into a bag and at the end of the day weigh the bag and divide by how many items we have. So with the 100-250g and 250-500g spreads for each price point the 350g cost for 1750g item would work like this:
    9 x 350g = 3150 + 1750 = 4900g / 10 packages = 490g which is charged at the same price as a 350g or indeed a 251g package so having the 9 at 350g brings the cost of the 1750g package down to that of a 251-500g package. Sorry, I know that’s too long to explain something that simple and I hope it makes sense!
    Also, the minimum charge is only £5 if you use Online Business Account.

  11. nothing against ppi we used,
    it for years, franking just suits us and our methods better

  12. and however you work the ppi sums out it costs much the same to send a certain amount ,royal mail usually charge by weight and depending on the service and contract an added cost per item

    plus we negotiated a wonderful deal with pitney bowes

  13. in fact when we looked at our ppi charges it was much cheaper to send small packets to europe using stamps from the local post office ,smart stamp, or paypal,than it was using our ppi contract

  14. We never use PPI for sending mail outside the UK.
    The ridiculous thing is it is often cheaper to send a package to Europe than within the UK with the sizing ranges. For example a 59g package costs 94p to Europe and 95p second class within the UK!

  15. I’m with Jamie Jimbo on this, that first post is straight out of ebay’s PR Dept. Either that or Richard wrote it for them.

  16. what ever your politics or gripe with ebay

    the facts are the title post by Chris is sound and sensible profitable advice if you intend to use ebay

  17. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm !

    A similar topic was discussed in the US a while ago – the conclusion was that the gain on eBay fee discounts was less than the overall reduction in postage costs, so financialy, there was no point on lowering P&P in an effort to get a higher P&P DSR score to ensure FVF discounts.

    Listing placement ‘enhancement’ gained by excellent DSR scores is a different issue of course – will the better listing placement gain sufficient additioanl sales (read margins) to offset the revenue loss from a lower P&P ?

  18. @18 Eddie I totally agree – the discount doesn’t cover the loss in postage charges. However setting auctions aside and looking at fixed price only (which is what most larger seller use anyway), if you add whatever you knock off your postage price onto the product cost the net result is you take the same money from the customer. Downside is it costs you more in fees, but then if you qualify for a discount that MORE than offsets the fee increase.

    Search placement I’m still waiting to see – Best Match hasn’t fully rolled in the UK but for sure when it does sellers with the best DSRs will benefit most.

  19. and with the current ebay seller cull under way,
    losing a few pence here and there to postage,
    to up your DSRs and keep a buyers face straight ,could save untold expense
    and even with auctions who knows how many extra bids you will get because your bidder likes your postage cost

  20. …..yes Chris, by switching the ‘amount’ from P&P to item price resolves that, except where that increased item price takes you into the next set of listing fees, taking into account the STR also, its a complex maths issue IF it pays to do it or not ?

  21. I wish it were as simple as lumping the two together.

    I sell a lot of items of a particular product type for £19.95 + £4.95 delivery. Quite frankly I’m not that bothered whether they are that price or £24.90 + free postage – sorry how is that free postage, I mean postage included in the price.

    The fact is, they don’t sell in anything like the numbers when they are marketed at the latter price. That is just one example, there are many more at different price breaks.

  22. @21 That’s a good point re the fee tranches – fortunately in my case most of the major cuts were on items within the £30-£99.99 range with plenty of room to increase the price without jumping into the next rate. It’s early days but I’m not seeing a significant change in sell through rate, I suspect the number of listings I run (2-300) is too small a sample to reveal a meaningful result.

    @22 My difference was more along the lines of £35.00 + £15.00 P&P changed to £40.00 + £10.00 P&P. I’m still charging reasonable postage, although I may edge it down a little more again.

  23. I make a selling point of charging the exact postage, buyers really do appreciate it when they get a delivery with the same postage on the label as they have being charged.

    A lot of my competitors charge more, but I buy jiffy bags by the thousand, i can afford to comp the buyer the 8p+ it costs me and thats reflected in my 4.9 DSR for postage. I really can’t understand why anyone charges more than cost for postage given the bad feeling it generates.

  24. ….as some of you may know user ID AuctionPax was ‘founded’ on an inclusive of P&P model, and some 60K plus feedbacks later still does to some extent, other items use a ‘subsidised’ postage cost – giving the ‘impression’ that P&P charged is less than actual postage cost based on RM’s prices – that is one advantage of PPI – the buyer doesn’t know how much you actually paid for postage !

    Auctionpax visible DSR for P&P is 4.80 with 4470 ratings in to date.

    Though to some extent that may well be the ‘nature of the beast’ as many/most sales go to other sellers – who realise the importance of DSR scores ?

  25. Hiya Chris,

    Good on you getting your DSR’s up 2 points. I think you will struggle heavily to move up to 4.9 though as even sellers with free p&p have difficulty with that. One PS seller was of the opinion that p&p gets the lowest marks due to it being the last DSR on the list and people are less inclined to leave a perfect score of 5’s

    Looking at his evidence I think he is right, after all it’s human nature to mark down on something and once they get to the last one and realise they have given top marks across the board so far they are more inclined to throw a lower mark into the mix.

    eBay’s average over 12 months progressively drops around 5 points the further down you go which is strong evidence.

    I certainly wouldn’t worry too much over that one point margin, it could drive you crazy.

  26. Like Chris when the DSRs came in I was ok
    12 months ago they were

    I have worked by butt off since Jan when I realised that they actually meant something;

    My 30 day averages are

    And I have had it up to 5

    How :
    Communication, full stop.
    Parcels paid for after 9am go next day, why – else I am packing on and off all day and doing nowt else, I now inform buyers of this with a quick note when they pay
    I tell my buyers their tracking number on feedback
    I enclose a A4 note in with purchases.

    The biggest shift for me has been attitude, you can see my ratings from 12 months ago and my feedback, to now,

    I am just hoping its enough to stop me becomming a dolphin from mistakes made nearly a year ago – we will see

    Oh – and yes, I go give free UK P&P and cost Internationally, everything goes Special or First Class recorded and P&P is at 4.88 for 30 days

    Go figure – as I can not work it out

    Have asked PAM to consider free posting to be an automatic 5 – as really it shouldnt be anything else

    Still awake? Ive finished!

    Waves to all
    Suz xxx

  27. Supermax,

    I don’t know how many packages you send out a week or if you employ someone to do the packing for you. I’m guessing you do it yourself.

    We send out hundreds of packages a week and our costs are way more than an envelope. Staff wages, tape, labels, void fill, business collection, VAT, all have to be taken into consideration. The real cost of p&p is far higher than an envelope and a stamp.

    If we purchased a stamp for £1 face value we would still have to charge the customer £1.18 to send it at cost due to VAT element for a start.

  28. I don’t know how many packages you send out a week or if you employ someone to do the packing for you…..

    I don’t employ packers, but I do pay myself. Quite honestly packaging is my biggest single expenditure of time and “paying” myself includes “paying” for time invested. However in general my “pay” comes out of general profits, and packaging time counts as an overhead as does warehouse rent, telephone/Internet, computers, vehicle and every other business operating expense.

    I can see the arguement for including all associated costs in with the actual post cost, but choose to split it as an overhead, and yes I hate getting copped for VAT as well 🙁

  29. I’ve between 4000-4500 item listed in last one year. I offer FREE shipping on all the items. My S & H (P & P) DSR is 4.6 compared to 4.7 everything else. Do I have to offer to pay my buyer to get better P & P DSR. Life sucks at eBay.

  30. Extreemly, something to keep in mind is that everyone knows there is no such thing as free shipping – it is built into your item price.

    So if the buyer considers that you are charging more for your FS item, than someone else might be charging for item + postage, you will still be DSR’d lower than you would like.

  31. One other thing to bear in mind – you don’t say what shipping method you offer for free. I’m convinced that people are willing to pay slightly more for a priority services even when offered a free slower delivery. For sure if you’re not giving priority shipping your communications need to be top notch to set buyer expectations and let them know when to expect their item.

    Having said that I do feel that for free shipping eBay should give an automatic 5 star rating, unless the buyer opts to pay for an alternative more costly method in which case they should be free to rate the cost according to the service received

  32. Chris, I feel all the feedback stars should automatically start at 5 and the buyer has to actively drag them down if desired.

  33. Last month I was 4.7 on P&P and I included 50p for packaging ( new jiffy, labels etc). I dropped the 50p. Now i’m on 4.6.

    I don’t sell enough to be a PS & don’t qualify for discounts. Best match is not important because I’m the only UK seller of a niche product on Ebay. So I’m thinking of putting the 50p back on.

  34. Keith,

    I would if I were you. An extra point on your DSR’s doesn’t pay the bills. I think we can all get too focused on eBay’s stats. Bear in mind that anything less than a perfect 5 eBay consider to be poor.

    When you consider how skewed that outlook is it just isn’t worth the worry. As long as you are the right side of the tracks to get your discount that’s all that matters.

  35. Thanks for a very helpful article. I feel stuck between a rock & a hard place tbh – due to our couriers’ rates, I’m surfing a 4.5/4.6 postage costs DSR but our experience with Royal Snail in the past was entire sackfuls of parcels containing mobile phones disappearing from the depot. We were assured that the issue was being investigated but never got any sort of resolution.

    I will experiment with Royal Mail on lower ticket items but I’m certainly NOT sending valuable items via RM any more, at all ever.


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