eBay are surveying North American users to gauge interest in a fulfillment service. A seller would ship their inventory to a third party who would then pick and pack orders on their behalf.
eBay is exploring the potential idea of offering fulfillment services to its sellers. This service will allow sellers to send all or part of their eBay inventory directly to fulfillment centers associated with eBay where their products will be organized, stored, packaged and shipped directly to the buyer upon sale.
The main benefits of the service are:
– Hassle free: sellers can focus on sourcing/merchandising/marketing rather than order operations
– Potential cost saving: processing/storage costs as well as shipping charges can be cheaper, because this solution consolidates sellers’ items into one
– Improved service quality: faster shipping time and more consistent operational components (such as product descriptions), resulting in higher buyer satisfaction and DSR.
Amazon of course already have Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) so it would be interesting to see how eBay’s service (FBE?) stacked up against it. In fact users of FBA in the US can already have their products to fulfill non-Amazon orders so potentially could already be using the service to satisfy eBay orders.
Fulfillment services are best suited for multiple quantity identical items that are already boxed or bagged preferably with bar codes. It’s not so suitable for individual items or large, heavy or awkwardly shaped products that require specialist packaging – cost will be considerably more.
The big question is how many sellers would choose to put a third party in control of their feedback? Sure a fulfillment center should be able to ship promptly (although I’d argue no quicker than I do myself), but who takes the blame for mis-picks, item not received, broken in transit and returns? No doubt a contract will cover the legalities, but that’ll be small comfort for a seller who receives negative feedback or 1-star DSRs.
(I’m also curious as to how the service can improve product descriptions…. will the fulfillment center be listing the items as well?)
A fulfillment service sounds like a utopian dream. Sure for most sellers the picking, packing and despatch is the most arduous part of an eBay operation, but it’s also the part where quality control can be enforced. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve substituted a product because it wasn’t in A1 condition. A damaged box, a scratched item – would the fulfillment center show the same care and attention to detail as you?
What about branded packaging, enclosing flyers, business cards and website discounts? The parcel is probably the best opportunity you have to market to a buyer and turn them into a regular customer. You are likely to lose this impact with a fulfillment service.
Would you pay to have your shipping and packing outsourced? Would it mean laying off staff or closing a warehouse? Perhaps most important of all would you entrust your feedback to a minimum wage warehouse picker/packer who’s only interest is how many more hours there are before they can go home?