|Sun Dec 22 2013 14:19:27|
How eBay Extends the Holiday Shopping Season
By: Ina Steiner
When you're an online-only marketplace and must rely primarily on shipping carriers to deliver your goods, the holiday shopping season ends earlier compared to retail stores, which can stay open on Christmas Eve to attract last-minute holiday shoppers. So how do you extend the shopping season? It's a good question now that there are only three shopping days left before Christmas, including today.
Amazon has its Prime membership shipping program, and today, you'll see on the top of the Amazon.com home page, "Last day to get FREE shipping for Christmas with Amazon Prime." It's also promoting free 2-day shipping on select versions of its ebook reader, the Kindle. And it is promoting Amazon gift cards: "It's Not Too Late! Holiday Gift Cards with Instant Delivery: Email, Print at Home, Facebook."
Amazon's home page is also promoting free one-day shipping on certain items - one ad is for jewelry and watches, another for "Top Gift Ideas."
But eBay doesn't have a membership shipping program or an ebook reader or other device of its own. And while it does have its own gift cards available here (they are no longer available in stores on the gift-card racks, as I reported in October), eBay isn't promoting its gift cards anywhere on its home page. Nor is it promoting the Gift Card Mall on eBay where shoppers can purchase gift cards from major retailers. A missed opportunity to help desperate, last-minute shoppers?
Etsy, on the other hand, has its gift card front-and-center on its homepage: "Give One-of-a-Kind" Send an Etsy Gift Card. You can "Email to a friend" or "Print at home" on the Etsy Gift Card page.
eBay has tried in recent years to extend the holiday shopping season by calling attention to listings that offer quick delivery methods. In 2011, eBay introduced the eBay Fast 'N Free badge with a truck icon, and it gave sellers with good performance ratings a boost in Best Match for fixed price listings if they offered an expedited or one-day shipping service, 1-day handling, and a 14-day or longer return policy. In addition, eBay gave sellers 20% off Final Value fees for transactions that offered a free expedited shipping service with 1-day handling between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas that year.
So while eBay itself couldn't provide shoppers with free, fast shipping before Christmas, it offered its sellers incentives to do so.
Fast forward to 2013. eBay still has its Fast 'N Free badges - in a holiday-selling workshop attended by AuctionBytes Blog editor Julia Wilkinson, eBay said Fast 'N Free listings get an 11% boost in sales (see this page for details). (clarified 12/22/13)
eBay is also working on its same-day delivery program called eBay Now offered in conjunction with retail stores. eBay explains it, "eBay Now is a local shopping service from eBay. eBay Now can deliver thousands of local products from hundreds of local retailers in San Francisco and the Peninsula, San Jose, parts of New York City, Chicago, and Dallas, usually in about an hour!"
During the holiday shopping season, eBay is offering free delivery for all eBay Now orders through December 24th.
A bigger addition to eBay's strategy this year is its In-Store Pickup service, which it announced in October. Part of the program allows retailers to offer "same-day pickup" - they'll hold an in-stock item for an eBay buyer to pickup at their local store.
eBay is promoting this new service on its home page - a banner that rotates on its homepage slider reads, "Introducing FREE IN-STORE PICKUP. Click to buy it. Come and get it. Pick up from local stores for the holidays. eBay. SHOP NOW."
It initially launched with Best Buy and Toys R Us, but eBay is now promoting the in-store pickup option with Best Buy and AutoZone.
Some readers were skeptical about the service when it launched:
"As a shopper, I just don't get it. If you go directly to Best Buy or Toys R Us, can't you actually do the same thing? I just don't understand WHY anyone would do this through eBay with their wacky search engine and PayPal only. Dumb."
"You can already go to Best Buys site and order anything to pick up directly from the store immediately (or just have it sent to you). Easy peasy. Why in the world would anyone care about logging into eBay to do it?"
I cheched today - while some items were offered for less on eBay, others were offered for the same price as the retail store's website.
But to really take advantage of the program's potential to extend the holiday season as late as possible, eBay will be offering a special deal: eBay will provide a coupon for $10 off of a $50 purchase of in-store pick up items from Best Buy and AutoZone, valid only on December 23rd.
The biggest risk for eBay is the possibility its retail partners will be unable to fulfill orders, which a reader pointed out:
"Wait until Xmas when buyers reserve the "hot toy" on eBay then go to the B&M and are told its sold out..."
As sellers, what strategies do you employ to extend the holiday shopping season, on and off of marketplaces like eBay and Amazon? And how good a job are marketplaces doing to extend shopping for procrastinators?