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eBay Raises Bar for Sellers for Meeting Delivery Estimates

eBay is making changes to delivery estimates that has some sellers scratching their heads. The change impacts a seller-performance metric that will take on new importance in the New Year and is one of several changes around shipping that eBay announced on Monday.

First, some good news for some sellers: eBay is adding support for regional shipping carrier OnTrack. “Simply upload your shipment’s OnTrac tracking information as you would for your USPS, UPS, or FedEx services – your buyers will receive it via automated email and can check it through My eBay anytime.”

And, eBay has added “flat-rate freight” to the list of available shipping options and said it has made it easy for sellers to specify those costs up front – “Now, buyers can see all shipping costs right in your listing – and won’t need a new invoice before completing their purchase.”

The marketplace also reiterated it was working with the USPS to try and secure volume discounts for sellers when postage rates for shipping services increase in January. (See, Experts Tell Sellers to Get Ready for USPS Rate Hike.

As for changes to delivery estimates, here’s what eBay had to say:

“To improve buyer satisfaction, eBay adds an extension to estimated delivery dates for sellers who consistently miss their handling times. Currently, this extended delivery date is also used to determine a seller’s on-time shipping rate (an important part of our more objective seller standards).

“To be fair to all sellers, starting January 1, eBay will no longer extend the estimated delivery dates for those who miss their stated handling times.

“Please note: Until affected sellers improve their handling-time performance, we will continue to display the extended date to buyers. In the days to come, we will contact sellers who are affected by this change with more information.

“Of course, it’s always important to get packages to buyers on time – and never more so than during the holidays, when everyone wants their items as quickly as possible. So be sure to meet the handling times you’ve communicated in your listings – and upload tracking as often as you can to meet your on-time shipping metric.”

This means eBay is raising the bar for sellers, and those discussing the announcement on the eBay discussion boards tried to interpret what it would mean for them (scroll down to message 30).

“I may be confused, but to me this makes same-day acceptance scans even more vital for sellers who want to retain their TRS+ discounts and who ship via USPS,” wrote one seller. “Right now, if I don’t get a same-day acceptance scan, eBay is apparently extending the “estimated delivery time”, and eBay uses that extended estimated delivery time for their on-time metric.”

“I’m reading things the same way you are,” another seller responded, “and it does not make any sense to me at all. Does this mean that if you are sending your packages on time eBay is not offering you the same extensions? That entire blurb makes no sense whatsoever.”

“eBay is apparently twisting itself into a pretzel shape as it tries to deal with this metric they have created,” wrote yet another seller.

A reader told EcommerceBytes he had not been aware that eBay had extended delivery times for sellers who missed their handling time frames, saying that “as once again, eBay imposed a process without informing sellers.”

He described his practice to help him meet his stated handling time frame – any time he is away for the day, he places his Store on vacation and proactively hides his listings, not wishing to rely on eBay’s vacation feature to warn shoppers of vacation-related delays.

Meeting estimated shipping estimates are so important to sellers because eBay uses shipping time to measure their performance and provide or withhold benefits such as exposure in search and fee discounts. That’s true even with the changes eBay is making in the New Year to how it measures seller performance, which makes on-time shipping even more critically important.

But because eBay does not keep a record of estimated delivery dates that sellers can refer to, this makes it difficult for sellers to determine if they have met the dates eBay set for their estimates, as EcommerceBytes pointed out in September. You can read more about the controversial delivery estimates in this September AuctionBytes Blog post.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.