What should an eBay shopping cart look like?

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PayPal’s new fee structure has led a number of commenters to observe that if eBay had a shopping cart, the chances of multiple payments for a single order, each with a 30c fee, would be reduced. eBay users have, of course, been asking for a shopping cart for years – and there are signs that our long wait may be over in the not too distant future.

Scot Wingo (who probably ought to know) quotes Dinesh Lathi’s response to a seller’s question on carts:

Q: We see a lot of adoption from Amazon, but not as much from eBay – do you think that the cart on Amazon is helping them. Will eBay have a cart.
A: eBay is working with ChannelAdvisor on a cart that users are asking for – they will partner folks to deliver in a way that’s great for buyers sellers.

There’s been a rumour floating around for at least a couple of years saying “2011 for a shopping cart” – so maybe that’s not too far off. Amazon and Etsy both manage to offer carts that allow buyers to purchase from multiple merchants: eBay could certainly do a lot worse than emulate these two sites.

But though some sellers – and most buyers – are very much in favour of eBay introducing a shopping cart, every time this topic comes up, some sellers raise some legitimate concerns about problems it could bring. I wanted to take a look at how eBay could avoid the obvious pitfalls.

1. My competitors, or my buyers, could tie up stock un-paid for, by leaving it in their basket.

This is a pretty simple one to fix: the stock isn’t sold until it’s paid for. Put it in your basket and another shopper can still buy it if they pay first. Bonus result: no more unpaid BINs.

A slightly more buyer-friendly version would be that putting the item in your basket reserves it for five minutes. Pay in that time and it’s yours. Don’t pay, and the stock becomes available to everyone else again. This would be a little more difficult to implement (would My eBay/SMP need a section for “stuff that’s in people’s shopping baskets”).

Amazon and Etsy both say, it’s not yours until it’s paid for.

2. I’d be forced to charge more for shipping because I couldn’t figure out the cheapest way to ship a particular combination of goods until it was bought.

There is no change here from the existing Checkout situation. Your listings could still say “ask me for a total”: buyers could still be offered that facility. It’s not ideal, and if this is you, consider how many buyers you’re putting off by not figuring out a line of best fit with your shipping. Plenty of couriers offer “one price up to xx kg” deals now: see if that kind of flat shipping might not work for you.

3. eBay would push flat shipping fees.

With the implementation of a shopping cart, there is no reason that eBay couldn’t allow sellers to continue with their current variable shipping charges: Etsy manages this just fine. Amazon offers an extra page where buyers can choose from the specific shipping options offered by each seller, so if you want to upgrade to super-speedy shipping and the seller offers this, you can.

Alternative view: eBay are already pushing flat shipping fees and I expect them to do more of this. That isn’t necessarily about shopping carts, whatever Auctiva say. eBay’s maximum P&P amounts are more about stopping people overcharging than about any kind of cart integration.

4. Buyers wouldn’t realise they were buying from different sellers. I’d get blamed for other sellers not delivering.

Only if eBay implemented it like that. Amazon and Etsy both make it crystal clear who you’re buying from; I don’t see why eBay wouldn’t do that.

Alternative view: cross-promotions on eBay now are so confusing that buyers already don’t realise when they’re buying from different sellers. So this would be no change 👿

5. eBay could offer an in-Store cart to eBay Store/Shop owners…

They could. I really hope they don’t, because this doesn’t necessarily take into account the way that buyers use the site. Some buyers find a thing they want, and then check the seller’s store for other items: other buyers go back to search. If you could have half a dozen different carts on the go, all from different sellers, that would become spectacularly confusing very quickly. Better to emulate the Etsy model and have one cart, with different sellers clearly indicated.

Done right, introducing a shopping cart would make shopping much, much easier for buyers. And for sellers, it could spell the end of unpaid item disputes for BINs, and increase sales exponentially. Done wrong… I shudder to think.

6. What about auctions?

I don’t see any reason why auctions couldn’t be included in a shopping cart. One result of eBay’s format mixture is that buyers can compare auctions with BINs – often, the chance of a bargain from an auction versus the immediate gratification of a BIN. There’s no reason why auction listings couldn’t be “carried around” by a cart until the buyer was done shopping, and have “bid on these auctions” as part of the finalisation process alongside “pay for these BINs”.

What do you think? Do you have worries, or are you in favour of a cart? Leave us a comment.

Disclosure: ChannelAdvisor advertise with TameBay. They haven’t given us any insider info on the shopping cart story… yet.

22 Responses

  1. Shopping cart is idealy suited to deep inventory.

    Quite apart from auctions, many BINs on eBay are just one offs.

    With the ‘watch’ facility (I have never understood why any serious BUYER would watch a one off) eBay would need to consider adapting this feature to comply.

    Possibly related, I have noticed a change in PayPal payments from German buyers. The payment mentions:
    ‘PayPal Express Checkout Payment Received’ and ‘Shopping Cart Contents’.
    Further, the interface with SMP screws up the postage method/rate and requires a manual overide.

    Something defo going on.

  2. An eBay shopping cart is definitely coming…It’s just a question of when and how. EBay India (ebay.in) already has one. it’s how it will be implemented that’s scary.

  3. Reply to JD: There are several good reasons to watch a one-off. Maybe you’ve got something similar and want to see if this one sells, and if so, for how much (especially if there’s a Best Offer option). Or maybe you haven’t quite decided yet, in which case maybe you wouldn’t be considered a serious buyer but just a seriously potential buyer. If it’s an auction, you might be waiting to bid until closer to the end. Or maybe you’re just curious. There’s lots of reasons why people like to watch! 🙂

  4. eBay should keep a shopping cart as simple as possible, but will probably make it a complicated mess as they do with everything else they allegedly fix.

    Cart should be nothing more than an accumulation of the buyers eBay purchases for the given session, showing the sellers ID and the total for each purchase.

    Buyer should be able to complete payment for purchases from multiple sellers with a single payment.

    If eBay does anything other than keep it simple stupid, they will have succeeded in creating yet another in a long line of useless overweight eBay features that will annoy buyers and sellers alike.

  5. “Increasing the number of accepted safer payment methods will help eBay develop an enhanced checkout experience in line with industry best practice”.

  6. There should be a floating bar that appears at the top of the screen when you purchase something that expands downwards like a roller blind when you move your cursor on it showing what is in your basket. It rolls back up again when you move the cursor off the bar.

    This would not interupt your shopping experience and keep the main eBay windowe open.

    There has to be an option of buying more from this seller. You should be offered a link next to the purchase that takes you to the sellers store. This link is only offered if a seller has an eBay store.

    As you add goods to the basket the shipping updates automatically with each sellers total shipping cost shown seperately.

    At the bottom of the floating basket the total purchase cost of all the combined purchases is shown together with the number of sellers you are buying from.

    You have the option of deleting goods from the basket or adding to the quantities in the basket.

    A reminder is given to the buyer that you are buying from “X” number of sellers and that each seller will be offering different shipping arrangements, shipping each package seperately, and seperate feedback will be required for each package received.

    When the buyer is ready they check out and select a payment method. If an instant payment is made stock is updated at this stage. The buyer receives seperate payment confirmation messages from each of the sellers whose goods are in the basket.

    If a paper type payment is selected that is to be mailed to each of the seperate sellers then the buyer is given a reminder that “X” number of payments will need to be sent. When the buyer hits the “confirm paper payment” button then the stock is updated at this stage. The buyer receives seperate autogenerated messages from each of the sellers providing payment information.

  7. Ebay would also need to consider how a cart would affect Immediate Payment Only by Paypal items. Now sellers are able to charge shipping fees on media items again, to offer discounted shipping on purchases is now a possibility, however that is not currently possible under immediate payment, as you have to pay for each item separately. If Ebay could sort this problem out it could radically change the way some sellers operate.

  8. is the tail wagging the dog is it not time channel advisor started working with ebay
    every now and then someone with channel advisor checkout slips under our radar when we buy, and the more we use it the more we dont like it

  9. Im not sure if we process the largest number of items through CA in the UK but we must be close (we process 6th highest number of transactions on EBAY in UK)..

    The checkout that CA uses is a doddle. It does ask for extra info BUT that helps prevent items going to wrong addresses.. allows for special instructions to be input (better than putting unread messages into paypal payments!),

    Since we introduced it we have also noticed a fall in unpaids since more people pay up in the long run. Reminders are sent automatically and unpaid items are returned into stock without any manual intervention.

    It also prevents buyers overpaying postage as there is no combining to do which saves us 2 hours per day.

    Its true that CA are talking to EBAY about checkout.. well they were last November…

    The sooner EBAY moves into the real world the better



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