Why convenience shoppers aren’t buying on eBay

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eBay is becoming an increasingly difficult marketplace to buy on when you want an item delivered promptly. It’s no surprise that Amazon (even with their more than one-day delivery for many Prime items) is winning as it’s the default choice for consumers when they want fast shipping with their item delivered tomorrow or in some cases today.

eBay talk a lot about ‘Retail Standards’. They use retail standards to justify why sellers should do things like offer 30 day returns, have great images and offer free postage but you’ll never hear eBay talk about retail standards and next day delivery. Today’s retail standards for delivery is that you can get your item tomorrow, either as default or as an upgrade. Some retailers, like Next, will allow you to order up until midnight and still deliver tomorrow.

There’s no kind way to say this, but eBay do not meet retail standards for delivery speed and that is part of the reason that buyers aren’t loyal to eBay. Certainly for many products buyers aren’t in a hurry and are willing to wait to receive their purchase, but for other products they simply don’t shop on eBay and go to places that do offer retail standards on delivery speed. When buyers want convenience they go to Amazon.

What’s really sad about this is that many of the merchants offering fast shipping on Amazon and winning sales also sell on eBay and tear their hair out wondering why eBay sales drop whilst Amazon sales accelerate.

So what’s gone wrong with eBay? There are many problems which can be traced back over a decade and today seller behaviour driven by decisions made years ago is still exacerbating the situation.

Fast & Free is not fast shipping

eBay highlight Fast & Free on listings but this is a program that was rolled out in 2012 when the world was a very different place. If you offer delivery in three working days or less and ship for free then your listings qualify for the badge.

Three working day delivery may be free but there is no way that in 2018 that this can be considered as fast shipping. With the proliferation of next day courier services tailored for ecommerce and Royal Mail 24 and Royal Mail Tracked 24 services, not to forget good old 1st Class post, there is no reason that sellers can’t get items delivered tomorrow. eBay introduced cut off times to assist sellers who can ship later in the day for next day delivery to highlight their service, but when fast delivery is mixed up with ‘Fast & Free’ three working day services the badge is entirely devalued and frankly should be a bit of an embarrassment to eBay.

Free postage = Economy Delivery

In the early 2000’s, eBay started to insist that sellers offer free postage in many categories. Their reasoning was that buyers love the convenience of free post and, to give eBay their credit, many buyers do and the mandates changed the face of postage on eBay forever – when the behaviour was mandated sellers were forced to offer free postage and in later years when the mandate was relaxed many sellers continued to do so.

However mandating free postage came with a problem. It lowered the service that sellers offered across just about every category on eBay. No seller was going to offer a next day delivery service for free when they could offer economy postage for free and so economy became the new norm. Some sellers continued to offer additional postage choices for express delivery but few buyers take up the option as it’s too difficult to find.

Mandating free postage turned eBay into a 2nd Class economy shopping destination and that still hasn’t changed today. If you shop on eBay expect slow shipping as the norm with fast shipping being the exception.

Trying to find Express Delivery on eBay

When you search eBay, definitely want to make your purchase on eBay, and search to find an item with express delivery, you really do have to work hard. There is no search option to display items which even offer an express delivery option and your only real option is to view items with the Fast & Free badge and we already know that’s a Slow & Free three day service.

There’s no point sellers offering express delivery and fast shipping if buyers can’t see it and the only way for a consumer to find items on eBay with express delivery is to click into each and every search result until they find a product that can be delivered tomorrow. Is it any wonder that consumers shop on Amazon, click the Prime search option and look forward to receiving their purchase the following morning rather than shop on eBay?

Doubtless eBay look at their metrics (as do sellers) and decide that there’s no point offering express delivery because buyers never choose it. Well think about it, buyers never choose your express delivery option if you offer it, not because they don’t want the service, but because they can’t find it. Buyers who want express delivery don’t even bother starting their search on eBay, they simply start their search on Amazon.

Chinese Sellers

eBay have encouraged cross border trade and nowhere in the world more so than in countries such as China and Hong Kong. International trade supports sellers in China with ultra low postage rates into the UK and sellers from the East have flooded eBay with cheap products.

There’s nothing wrong with Chinese sellers selling on eBay, any more than UK sellers listing on other overseas eBay sites. The problem is that many Chinese sellers claim that their items are located in the UK when in reality they are not. They may claim to be in Liverpool or Hounslow and even have a UK returns address but, when a consumer makes a purchase, the goods are flown over to the UK in bulk. Often they are pre-labelled in China ready to be delivered by Royal Mail or a UK courier but delivery is always slow.

eBay is riddled with Chinese sellers masquerading as UK based with UK shipping and they get away with it most of the time. If a buyer leaves a negative feedback comment then they offer to buy them off with a partial or full refund.

The big issue here is that even buyers who are aware of Chinese sellers and specifically want to buy from the UK so that they get fast shipping can’t eliminate Chinese sellers from search results. Selecting the item location “UK Only” will display a raft of search results, many of which today will be from Chinese sellers claiming to be in the UK who will in reality ship from China with abortionately slow delivery.

eBay seem to ignore sellers with a business address in China, claiming to have their stock located in the UK, who offer 3 day despatch followed by a ‘five day economy courier’ service. Think about it, name me one courier within the UK who offers a five day service – even myHermes deliveries take place within three days and there simply isn’t a five day service available. These sellers are misleading buyers with their item location to manipulate search and eBay aren’t clamping down on them.

Some sellers lie.
eBay turn a blind eye.
Buyers are disappointed with a slow service or don’t buy.
Amazon wins.

39 Responses

  1. The only thing I have to say is the Chinese sellers becomes a bigger problem year on year. Every hurdle that’s placed in there way they work around.

    Example VAT
    They now have Vat numbers, once the VAT man get to grips with them. Account is closed and within a week or so the Adverts appear on another account.

    Customer Service
    Each account has at least 10% of negatives and Neatrols. If I run my account like that my account would simply be closed down

    Item Location
    You nailed that one, many buyers in my office will only shop on Amazon because of this.
    Ebay should allow you to filter out Chinese sellers, if you want untra low prices and slwo shipping then you include them but by default no.

  2. Well done Tamebay! Cracking article that I am sure many sellers can relate to. We have been selling on eBay and Amazon for over 10 years. Back then eBay sales represented approx 70% of our turnover. Now its barely 30%. eBay really need to address the underlying issues on site and lift seller standards to the 21st century.

  3. Mr Dawson this has to be your most spot on article about ebay is ages… my faith restored!
    I get far too many buyers ask me if i can send next day… when it is actually an option on the listing. By the tiem i get to see their message and reply and then wait for them to pruchase its usually past my cut off… at which point they buy anyway as buyer rarely look at the estimated delivery time… or worse still they buy as economy delivery, then ask for an upgrade and we have to flip flop about trying to get them to pay via a paypal invoice without ebay closing us down for off site purchasing!
    It’s a shameful shambles.
    As for chinese sellers…. well ebay doesn’t care. I report many every week… nothing changed. Almsot bought something yesterday, listed as uk city… yet postage is 8 days and 7 days via royal mail special delivery!!! They are of course based in china and the feedback shows it. Yet ebay just ignores this and any complaint.
    I now find myself nearly always selecting uk only just to filter out hundreds of pages of cheap 20 days delivery items…. so atleats im only left with several pages of them claiming to be in the uk. Who knows how this affects international sales generally when you have to exclude half the world as a min just to make it worth while looking.
    The other day i searchs for an item and i kid you not I have 11 pages of chinese tat first… all for the same item, but a different letter or combination of a few added to the end of the title to avoid being classed as a duplicate. I reported a few and stated this on my reason… but nothing will happen. God help me though if i list even one duplicate!
    To be honest ebay have eiother lost the plot or simply dont care. They claim to want to be the place to go, but really they are just swiftly looking like a cut price, back street jumble sale….. Buyers don’t trust them. Sellers don’t trust them… the talk about them is bad…. yet they seem to think they are doing great!
    Fraudbay, scambay, shitebay, chinabay…. all names that get bantered about alot. That is bad, very very bad.

  4. Great article. One of the best I have seen on Tamebay and absolutely spot on.

    I would love to think eBay can come out of this but I find it quite hard to believe. It is where people go for cheap, not quality.

    I do not see how it can survive long-term with the way it is now.

    They enforce nothing. Watermarks have to be removed by such and such a date. Ok. The site still looks like a bargain basement with icons and watermarks over every image.

  5. This article reiterates issues identified years ago and in particular the damage being done by Chinese sellers and the lack of any positive action being taken to protect UK sellers from unfair competition. The latest news regarding the introduction of automatic return authorisation is just another policy mistake which will surely add another nail in eBays’ coffin. We have traded on ebay for the last 5 years but following a takeover the company has decided to shut up shop on a £1m + turnover through this marketplace.

  6. I buy absolutely everything for my family on eBay. Furniture, Bedding, Household goods, Kids Uniform Shoes & kits, Decor, everything. I have always been pleased with the fast and free delivery, and most of the time boxes turn up within 2-3 days. I always compare prices with Amazon, and eBay’s prices always win & no prime subscription to pay.

  7. Really good article however you failed to look at the problem of Royal Mail and getting post out for next day delivery against some of the other delivery services.
    Royal Mail cut off time for getting post for next day delivery is between about 3pm and 5.00pm. The collections from the post office finish about 5pm.
    You are then into the next day to get the post into the system.
    Its about time Royal mail started to look at later collection times and letting sellers compete with Amazon delivery times.

  8. Ebay will never be able to match Amazon on next day delivery, as they don’t have their own stock or FBA services from a 24/7 warehouse, but they can do better than they are.

    Adding same day shipping with cut-off point and express delivery to the search filters would be a start and simple to do. It could be on the site tomorrow.

    That said, do buyers really want next day delivery that strongly? Ebay and Amazon both offer a range of delivery options, from free economy to pay for it express. There’s not much difference really once you have the info, in fact, a good ebay seller’s economy option via Royal Mail can be faster than Amazon own stock via Amazon economy delivery. I rarely see buyers on either site paying extra for faster delivery, even though it is not a lot extra. If I was to estimate, I’d say it’s less than 5% that do, at least for our products anyway. I’m sure the figure will be different elsewhere, but even double or quadruple, still a minority of buyers.

  9. Cracking article Chris

    Its a question of how do we get Ebay to take stock and start acting on their policies. Are people having any luck when reporting sellers?

    The biggest problem that hasnt helped is the market that Amazon has bred, people want everything for nothing expect free retruns and free next day delivery. Educating the customer about the costs would be nice (but I know this will never happen).

    Toby 2

  10. I sell on eBay only.
    My prices are much cheaper than those on Amazon.
    I offer free 2nd Class or paid for 1st Class and Special Delivery.
    Even if buyers paid for 1st Class, my prices would still be cheaper than Amazon.
    Over the last 2000 sales, I have had just one buyer upgrade to Special Delivery – so where is the demand?
    I used to offer same day free 1st Class, but Royal Mail let me down so often that my “late delivery” rate got very close to getting me kicked off the Top Rated Seller Status.
    So, in answer to this, I dropped to free 2nd Class, next day dispatch, to give me a greater chance of maintaining TRS.
    This worked well, but now eBay have turned the screw to force quicker delivery, so I am back to same day shipping, but 2nd Class (as 1st Class would get me in trouble again.
    We are between a rock and a hard place.
    On top of all this, fees have risen exponentially.
    I wonder if it is worth all the stress….

  11. To mislead about the item location and delivery dates is the act of a bad seller. Ebay for some reason don’t see this in the same way. Ebay allow buyers to leave negative comments against Chinese seller accounts saying how unhappy they are about being mislead on the item location and delivery but then ignore this valuable information.

    I agree that the true UK sellers should be able to be seen on the filters but I doubt that will happen. The Chinese lie about the item location and pay a sponsorship fee so their items always appear at the top of the first page in the area I used to sell in.

    You are labelled a bad seller by eBay if you have 3 return request in a month in my category but telling lies about the location is ok for some reason.

    I closed my eBay shop at the end of August due to the concern about the 58% increase with the returns penalty charge. I despatched the same day Monday to Friday for orders placed by 3pm, all free shipping and 70% of the items free 1st class shipping. 1st class and special delivery were available on all my products and buyer praised me for it. I left due to ebays greed. They are only interested in getting as much out of sellers as possible. It is short sighted as issues like this article highlight will drive business away.

  12. Great article that will really resonate with lots of sellers. Unfortunately given eBay’s track record recently and the fact that they have lost sight of reality they will no doubt try to shoehorn a next day free delivery service in to keep Top Rated Seller Status as opposed to making shipping options much clearer. Everybody knows the delivery dates supplied by eBay are optimistic to say the least.

  13. eBay have seduced Chinese sellers for years, appearing to bend over backwards in the process. Turning a blind eye to their transgressions, with item locations a prime example, it is it is not surprising buyers find it hard to trust eBay.

    With many American companies still driven by quarterly results, their shortsightedness means they chase the next dollar, with little or no thought to the next quarter’s impact, or the one after that. Amazon are forging ahead, while eBay are falling behind. Their ambition may be to match or surpass Amazon, but I expect eBay will instead be surpassed by one or more of the many Chinese marketplaces who are far better placed.

    How ironic that the country eBay seduces, is likely to be the country that will see its demise.

  14. It is really sad that UK sellers can offer next day free delivery on eBay and a lot do already. Ebay should be highlighting these sellers as they offer what the customer wants.

    It is so difficult on eBay at the moment for uk sellers they pay vat and duty some overseas sellers avoid. They display valid vat numbers that overseas sellers make up just to populate the box on the listing and get away with it.

    Royal Mail then add additional favours to China. Chinese sellers have special postal rates that Royal Mail have agreed paying as little as 78p a kilo. Not to mention the subsidiaries the Universal postal union give China. Royal Mail even process containers every day from China and add Royal Mail stickers on the Chinese mail to allow the mail to get distributed quickly.

    Soon with the help of EBay and Royal Mail the Chinese will take up the lions share of the business on eBay.

  15. Chris, thank goodness you aren’t quoting Chairman Wenig’s Little eBay Book today.

    Although I applaud your recognition of eBay’s reluctance to deal with item location fraud, I do take issue with your analysis of F&F. But maybe they should have called it Fast or Free? I don’t use Amazon at all so I cannot comment. But eBay is not Amazon, eBay’s USP has always been individuals and small, even micro businesses. I realise that that has changed, but it doesn’t mean eBay just has to map the Amazon model onto itself. What is the point of that? Amazon exists already.

    Firstly, micro and very small businesses cannot get the bulk postage rates the big boys can. To try to make them pretend to offer free postage is just silly. They have to include the postage in the price of the item which has a knock-on effect of reducing multiple purchases from the same seller. Obviously sellers want to increase multibuys as much as possible. However, it would appear that eBay do not. After all, if you’re not encouraged to buy from the same seller, you’ll be paying more in postage, either hidden or explicit in the long run. Who benefits from that? Not the buyer or seller, but the courier and eBay though their commission on postage, hidden or explicit. There have also been long running issues with the basket not working and the forums have plenty of stories about this being reported to eBay and sellers being told there isn’t a problem, but buyers tell us there is. Then there’s promotional offers not being displayed until too late and the hijacking of a sellers page to insert adverts from competitors.

    It all looks like a ruse to get more revenue from the same pot.

    Why is there a problem with sellers offering a range of shipping solutions? Why is it wrong for sellers to offer the slowest service for free, with priority paid for? This seems like common sense. I know the trend in retail is for giants to push themselves to breaking point in the hope that others fall first (don’t tell me I’m wrong, I’ve just done 4 years with a retailer who openly admitted this, behind closed doors of course). But eBay is not Amazon, it had a USP and it’s loosing it. Have you thought that this is what is driving customers away? If eBay is becoming Amazon, go to Amazon because they do it better?

    Come on Chris, get your investigative journalist head on and start digging around and uncover something we don’t already know.

  16. Why oh why do ebay hide postage costs in another tab to open? it makes no sense at all and makes buying experience worse!. Postage rates should be displayed at top of listing description for all to see.
    They could easily display all postage options offered by sellers in search results next to item price fast n free etc. This way buyers can clearly see item price and addition delivery prices without having to open a listing click on p&p tab and see postage rates.

  17. Ebay seem to think that price is the deciding factor. They are always trying to drive prices down. The Chinese win hands down on so many items and they encourage that. I presume the new catalogue will filter on location and price so the lies on location will continue.

    It seems simple to me just change the icons so you see at a glance which sellers offer same day despatch and special delivery postal options.

    They could add that to the filters so you can select uk and express delivery.

  18. As ever those sellers who offer excellent customer service suffer in the end. Amazing really seeing that eBay on the contrary offer next to no customer service at all.

  19. I have been selling second hand items on ebay for about 15 years. Old timers might recall that this was the original objective of ebay, a gentle collectors market which was small enough not to damage the High street and big enough to care(!) Then the capitalists started sniffing around and the torrent of micromanagement, which is in direct proportion to the liberal use of American MIT business psychobabble, clouded the waters and increased the fees and the complexity of trying to make a living.

    We started with a small shop and graduated up but have seen fees & charges rise from around 12% to nigh on 25%. i am currently dismantling the shop and going elsewhere but I wanted to make a point about postage which ebay have become progressively more obsessed with . I sell a postcard to a man in Durham or Dover. ‘Oh joy’ he says, ‘been searching for this for ages’. Postage is not important to this man and many others in the ‘vintage’ market. He has waited many many years so a couple of days more makes little difference. That was, dear reader, how it used to be. Of course there were a few robbers and charlatans and sadly they were the cases which would feature in the pages of the Daily Vitriol so ebay ‘upped its game’ but , as the wise comments above suggest, have failed to properly clear out the stable.

  20. I think that list could be extended well above Sellers from China and Express Post.
    For 10 years we have offered same day RMG 24 only in the last 6 months have we started to use RMG 48, there is no incentive for us on eBay.
    Most our rivals send eco delivery and we are lumped in with them anyway so why bother, the platform is overpriced to sell on now, and all these sponsored listings are being overpriced just to get coverage, another retail marketplace we were on in the UK just ended 3rd party marketplace sellers due to overpriced items as it damages their brand.
    Also I would get rid of multi variation listings myself, just searching for something the other day these are the first things I am brought to and then i have to go into THAT only to find an overpriced version, turn off straight away…..
    The site is a big old bug mess right now, sometimes they should just leave things alone. For every 2 sales on eBay we are selling 6 on niche markets right now.

  21. I bought items regularly in eBay US and Amazon, postage seems to be quiet similar in speed even I use Amazon Prime. My only issue with eBay as there are these issues of some sellers do not understand what’s brand new and what’s not brand new is – in some cases have to deal with returning items or most of the time to just accept it for partial refund instead. Amazon sellers on the other hand seems to very strict to state an eBay’s brand new to be new and any other condition is not new anymore.

  22. And the counterfeit items from China I buy computer components, and the graphics card and processors can be bogus its a jungle now

  23. I wanted to buy a specific item on Ebay last night. I wanted to buy from a UK seller not one from China. It was a nightmare, even with the UK only filter selected almost every single items had a Chinese business address. Which meant I didn’t buy it on Ebay and looking further ahead, it looks like all the UK sellers of that product have moved on.

  24. We offer free economy postage on ebay. If there was a search feature customers could tick for 1 day delivery then I’d happily change it to free first class shipping. Or if ebay offered a small discount on FVF for offering free 1st class, this would also suffice.

  25. I agree we are all freely going to Amazon due to how sellers are treated on eBay.

    A prime example is the return metric penalty charge, it is so negative, who wants to be on a market place when you are blamed and charged penalties for things that haven’t happened. The return request may not lead to a return because you step in and through excellent customer service resolve the issue but greedy old eBay will use that and any other SNADS regardless of the outcome of the case to squeeze more money from you. Then telling you, that you are a bad seller, your so called peers who ever they are, are perfect and you are underperforming on returns.

    They try to run your business for you automatically accepting returns, giving out return labels, even though the postal labels are not insured. And all the label charges are billed to the seller of course.

    Sellers on eBay are treated as commodities and buyers who scam us are allowed to carry on doing so by eBay.

    Just through chatting generally to friends and family Amazon is held in higher regard for most buyers than eBay.

  26. It is getting tougher to replace the sellers that eBay loose. It is an expensive market to sell on, and over the last year margins are at an all time low. If I am going to box shift and penny chase I can do that on Amazon without the logistics issues.
    All eBay managed to do it charge us more for a lesser service, they don’t seem to ever evolve. Plus we are getting swamped with counterfeit goods from China, and UK sellers wrapping up pre-owned and reselling as new on eBay.
    We actually stopped selling on Amazon start of the year, but due to the decline in eBay sales mid-summer we had to go running back, am not set up to go back all guns blazing yet, kinda planned my peak in the UK around eBay it has always been my preferred market but it is in decline.
    However the time we spend with self-fulfilment could be spent better elsewhere. We have 2 very successful EU markets also, that are the only thing that keeps us just putting all UK stock now into Amazon, which we are probably going to do start of 2019, and drop eBay for the 1st time ever (unless we have bumper peak) and trust me I don’t actually want to do this but common sense must prevail, and I can make a lot more money now not being here.

    The traffic is simply going to Amazon now, I do not like it but that is what the Brits seem to have bought into…

    As far as eBay doing above shows they are getting desperate.


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